Assisted living services can be vital in preserving quality of life and dignity for an individual, but they can be costly. Fortunately, for the brave men and women who have served our country, they may be able to take advantage of a special Veteran's Benefit called the Aid and Attendance Benefit to help pay for their care. These Frequently Asked Questions should help you learn more about this valued benefit.
- What is the Aid and Attendance Benefit?
- How do I know if I qualify?
- Can Army Reserves and National Guard Apply?
- How long did a Veteran have to serve to be eligible?
- Can the Spouse (or Widowed Spouse) of a Veteran apply for the Aid and Attendance Benefit?
- Is a Divorced Spouse eligible?
- How Much could my benefit pay?
1. What is the Aid and Attendance Benefit?
The Aid and Attendance (A&A) Benefit is an Improved Pension benefit, meaning it is paid in addition to monthly pension. The A&A allows for Veterans and surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing, medication management, or taking care of the needs of nature to receive additional monetary benefits. It also includes individuals who are blind or a patient in a nursing home because of mental or physical incapacity. Assisted care in an Assisted Living community also qualifies.
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2. How do I know if I qualify?
To definitively know if you qualify, it's best to contact the Department of Veteran's Affairs at the VA's Health Benefits Service Center at (877) 222-VETS. Generally though, there are 3 important aspects that a Veteran must meet to qualify for the benefit; Service Requirements, Care Need Requirements, and Financial Requirements.
The Veteran was discharged from a branch of the United States Armed Forces under conditions that were NOT dishonorable.
The Veteran must have served at least 90 days of active service with at least one day of service during a wartime period:
- Mexican Border Period (May 9, 1916 – April 5, 1917 for Veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders, or adjacent waters)
- World War I (April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918)
- World War II (December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946)
- Korean conflict (June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955)
- Vietnam era (February 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975 for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period; otherwise August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975)
- Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – through a future date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation)
- See Complete List at VA.GOV
Care Need Requirements:
The applicant must need regular aid & attendance (Those who need assistance with dressing and undressing, bathing or feeding or have a physical or mental incapacity (like Dementia) that require assistance or simply maintaining a safe environment) A veteran living in Assisted Living or Personal Care home or receiving care services at home may qualify.
According to 38 CFR Part Three, the following criteria are used to determine the need for aid and attendance:
- Inability of Veteran to dress or undress himself (herself), or to keep himself (herself) ordinarily clean and presentable;
- Frequent need of adjustment of any special prosthetic or orthopedic appliances which by reason of the particular disability cannot be done without aid (this will not include the adjustment of appliances which normal persons would be unable to adjust without aid, such as supports, belts, lacing at the back, etc.);
- Inability of claimant to feed himself (herself) through loss of coordination of upper extremities or through extreme weakness;
- Inability to attend to the wants of nature;
- Incapacity, physical or mental, which requires care or assistance on a regular basis to protect the claimant from hazards or dangers incident to his or her daily environment
The Veteran's countable family income must be below a yearly limit set by law. Countable Income means income received by the Veteran and his or her dependents. It includes earnings, disability and retirement payments, interest and dividends, and net income from farming or business. A Veteran must report all income, but the VA will exclude any income that the law allows. Public assistance, like SSI, is not counted as part of countable income.
- Income can be reduced by out-of-pocket medical expenses. (Annual cost of assisted living/personal care is typically considered a medical expense)
- The primary home, car and personal belongings do not count as assets.
- The sale of your home after eligibility can result in the loss of benefits.
- If married, assets of both spouses are countable.
3. Can Army Reserves and National Guard Apply?
The Veteran would need to have been to 'called-up' to service to be eligible for benefits. The Army Reserves qualifies individuals if they served during an approved period of war and were actually 'called-up' to service. National Guard are eligible to receive benefits if they are activated for federal service during a period of war or domestic emergency. Contact the VA's Health Benefits Service Center at (877) 222-VETS to learn more.
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4. How long did a Veteran have to Serve to be Eligible?
The Veteran must have served at least 90 days of active service with at least one day of service during a wartime period, and have been honorably discharged from their service.
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5. Can the Spouse (or Widowed Spouse) of a Veteran apply for the Aid and Attendance Benefit?Generally, Yes. A Veteran's spouse may be eligible for the A&A, but must also meet the same care and financial qualifications to be considered. And the service completed by the Veteran must meet required qualifications. Consult the VA directly for best current information.
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6. Is a Divorced Spouse eligible?
Generally the answer to this question is no. In rare cases where divorce occurred due to physical abuse or extreme mental cruelty, the VA has been known to consider these circumstances and consider the application. There would have to be documentation and unquestionable evidence supporting the claim of abuse in order for this to be applicable. Even if this is the case, the VA is not bound to consider the application. If you feel that your circumstances would qualify, you should speak with the VA or a Veteran's Service Officer in your area for additional information.
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7. How much could I be eligible for?
As of January 1, 2015, the maximum benefits are as follows:
- $1,788 for a single veteran
- $2,120 for a married veteran and their spouse
- $1,149 for a widowed spouse
- $2,837 for a veteran with a spouse needing care
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