Have you ever heard of the Veterans Aid and Attendance Improved Pension Benefit? If not, you're not alone: many people are unaware of this benefit, which provides a long-term care benefit for veterans and their spouses or widows who need the regular assistance of another person with activities of daily living. The Aid and Attendance Improved Pension is a supplement to the VA Improved Pension, and applicants must be eligible for the VA Improved Pension to receive Aid and Attendance. This is not a retirement plan. It is a non-service connected disability benefit.
Aid and Attendance Improved Pension is one of three categories of Improved Pension benefits for veterans. The other two are Low Income Pension, and Housebound Improved Pension.
In terms of military service, any veteran with 90 or more days of active duty, including at least one day during wartime, and an honorable discharge, is eligible to receive Aid and Attendance Improved Pension benefits. A widow or widower of a qualifying veteran is also eligible. In addition to eligibility based on service, the veteran or surviving spouse must also be medically and financially eligible for the benefit.
In order to be medically eligible for Aid and Attendance Improved Pension, an applicant must be under 65 and totally disabled, or 65 or older and need the attendance of another person for activities of daily living. These include bathing, toileting, dressing, and eating. This need must be certified by the applicant's primary care physician and the veteran (or veteran's widow) must receive an "aid and attendance" rating.
Applicants who are in an assisted living facility or nursing home with a mental or physical disability, or who are blind or bedridden, also qualify for Aid and Attendance Improved Pension. Veterans who do not qualify medically themselves, but who have an ill spouse, may also qualify.
Financial eligibility is established by a review of an applicant's income, assets, and life expectancy. A primary home and vehicle can be excluded. Eligibility also takes into account estimates of future income and need for care. Unlike Medicaid, there is not at present a "look-back" period to determine whether an applicant transferred assets in the years immediately prior to applying for benefits. Therefore, assets transferred to an irrevocable trust, properly designed, are not countable.
There is a difference between what the VA determines as "countable" income and one's actual income. If there is any concern that an applicant may not qualify financially for Aid and Attendance benefits, consult an experienced elder law attorney to maximize the likelihood of eligibility. An attorney can help plan to preserve family assets while removing them from "countable" assets.
Aid and Attendance benefits can be a real boon to elderly or severely disabled veterans. As of 2016, the maximum benefit for a single veteran is up to $1,788 per month; for a widow, the maximum benefit is up to $1,149 per month. A medically-qualifying veteran and spouse may receive up to $2,120 per month, and an independent veteran with an ill spouse may qualify for up to $1,406 per month. These amounts are likely to be adjusted upward in future years.
The help of an experienced elder law attorney is helpful in making sure you will qualify for benefits and in maximizing the benefit you will receive. If you have questions about Veterans' Aid and Attendance, contact Gudorf Law Group online or call 1-937-898-5583 today for a free consultation.