The Veterans Affairs Department has little-known and underutilized assistance funds that can help wartime veterans and their surviving spouses pay for a variety of long-term care costs, but only about five percent of these assistance funds are even applied for, because people simply do not know about the program.
It is called the Veterans Aid & Attendance Pension Benefit, or “A&A benefit. These assistance funds provide up to $1,794 per month to a veteran, $1,153 to a surviving spouse or $2,127 to a couple. This tax-free money can be applied to the costs of in-home care, an assisted living facility or a private-pay nursing home. Neither Medicare nor Medicaid pays for assisted living care, so this benefit can be a lifeline for veterans and their families.
Like many VA programs eligibility for the A&A benefit is complicated. In addition to financial requirements—a net worth under $123,600 not including the applicant’s automobile, personal effects and residence—there are these general eligibility guidelines:
- A veteran must have served on active duty for at least 90 consecutive days,
- He or she must have least one full day during a time of war, (service in a combat zone is not a requirement.)
- He or she must have had an honorary discharge.
- The veteran or spouse must need assistance with eating, bathing or dressing.
- Widowed spouses of eligible veterans may also qualify if they meet the clinical and income requirements and have not remarried.
In addition to the active duty and wartime service requirements, eligible veterans must also meet at least one of these criteria to qualify for the basic pension:
- Be 65 or older with no or limited income
- Have a permanent and total disability
- Receive Supplemental Security Income
- Receive Social Security Disability Insurance
- Reside in a nursing home
Ultimately, each case is decided by the VA. On average it takes six to eight months to get approved, but some applicants wait more than a year.