Aid and Attendance Eligibility for Veterans 101
Paying for the care of your loved one often comes with an expensive price tag. Most people over 65 years old are likely to receive a monthly Social Security check, but this check alone is typically not enough to pay for in-home care, assisted living or nursing home care. For veterans, however, additional money may be available if they meet eligibility requirements.
Veterans and surviving spouses most commonly receive aid from the Department of Veterans Affairs in the form of a Veterans Pension or Surviving Spouses Pension. After meeting eligibility requirements for these pensions, veterans or surviving spouses may qualify for an additional increased monthly pension called Aid and Attendance. This supplemental pension may be available for those who need assistance paying for care. Below are the basics of what it takes for a veteran to qualify for Aid and Attendance.
Before considering eligibility for Aid and Attendance, you should first check to make sure your loved one is eligible for the VA pension. Eligibility for this pension requires that a veteran was enlisted in at least 90 days of active duty, including one day during a wartime period.
The veteran must also meet one of the following criteria:
- Age 65 or older with limited or no income
- Totally and permanently disabled
- A patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care
- Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance
- Receiving Supplemental Security Income
Veterans who were dishonorably discharged are not eligible for the VA pension.
When your loved one applies for Aid and Attendance, the VA must check to make sure that he or she truly requires the assistance of another person. This is the case if your loved one meets one of the following requirements:
- Your loved one requires the help of another person to perform at least two activities of daily living—bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, adjusting prosthetic devices, protection from hazards of daily environment, etc.
- Your loved one’s disability/disabilities require him or her to remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment (i.e. your loved one is bedridden).
- Your loved one is a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity.
- Your loved one’s eyesight is limited to a corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less in both eyes; or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.
To prove to the VA that your loved one meets these requirements, you will need your physician to complete an “Examination for Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance Form.” This form should be submitted with the Aid and Attendance application.
The VA will also look at countable income for Aid and Attendance eligibility. If your loved one makes more than the VA’s stated income limit, he or she may not qualify for Aid and Attendance. For 2017, the current Maximum Annual Pension Rate (Income Limit) for a veteran requiring Aid and Attendance is $21,531. This amount is determined by deducting your loved one’s unreimbursed, recurring health care expenses from his/her total income.
Currently, the VA uses a certain amount of personal judgment when determining if your loved one meets the income requirement. Ultimately, they want to see if it appears that the veteran may outlive his or her assets. If so, he or she is likely eligible. If the veteran is making more than the annual income limit, there may still be certain circumstances where he or she can qualify for Aid and Attendance. Typically, a VA accredited attorney would be helpful in that type of situation.
Net worth is one of the VA’s methods for determining if your loved one truly needs an Aid and Attendance supplement. The VA calculates allowable net worth based on assets. Assets are things such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, and property (your current residence along with a “reasonable lot area” is excluded from net worth calculations). Based on these calculations, the VA will determine whether your loved one has enough assets to live off of for a reasonable period of time.
There has been recent discussion of the VA implementing changes to Aid and Attendance eligibility criteria in 2017. Although no changes have officially been implemented, the qualifications listed above are subject to change. This article will be updated as changes are made. If you have additional questions, Cariloop’s Healthcare Coaches stay up-to-date with the latest changes and are happy to speak with you.
If you would like more information about the VA Aid and Attendance benefit, please visit the VA benefits website at: http://benefits.va.gov/pension/aid_attendance_housebound.asp
For free assistance with your application, contact your local Veteran’s Service Office: http://nvf.org/veteran-service-officers/
By Chrissy Schuster, LMSW, CCM