However, only about 7.2 million veterans are enrolled with the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”), and only 5.5 million receive health care services and 3.4 million receive monetary benefits from the VA.
Many of our elderly clients who are veterans are unaware of the vast benefits available to them through the VA. Benefits through the VA can be a valuable substitute or addition to any long-term care plan that an elderly veteran should consider. Many have heard of Aid and Attendance as a possible option. However, Aid & Attendance is just a small part of the benefits that the VA can offer. The following article will provide a short overview of VA benefits and basic eligibility requirements for the Aid & Attendance program.
Veteran’s benefits are provided through the three administrations of the VA. First, the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) provides veterans and eligible family members with burial/cremation and funeral services. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is the largest health care system in our country and provides health care services to veterans or family members under certain circumstances. Lastly, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) provides benefits to veterans, their family and survivors including disability compensation, pension, education, home loans, and life insurance. Under the VBA, veterans may be eligible for “Compensation” which is a monthly income given to a veteran as a result of sustaining a service-related injury. Veterans without a service-related injury, or the surviving spouses of such veterans who have limited income and assets, may be eligible for “Pension” benefits. Pension benefits start with a basic pension, and for those who are eligible for “Housebound” or “Aid & Attendance”, an additional allowance may be granted. Aid & Attendance is a little known benefit that can provide significant income to frail veterans that require the aid and attendance of another person.
ELIGIBILITY FOR AID & ATTENDANCE
A. Must be a wartime veteran: The veteran must have served at least 90 days of continuous active duty service, one day of which must be during the following wartime periods:
- World War I: April 6, 1917, through November 11, 1918
- World War II: December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946
- Korean War: June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955
- Vietnam War: August 5, 1964 (February 28, 1961,
- for veterans who served “in country” before August 5, 1964), through May 7, 1975
- Persian Gulf War: August 2, 1990, through the present time. A Presidential Proclamation or a law will be required to set the end date for this wartime period.
B. Must have received a discharge that is other than dishonorable
C. Must be 65 years of age or older OR permanently and totally disabled:
The applicant (veteran or a surviving spouse) must be: 65 years of age or older, OR Is “permanently and totally disabled”
D. Must meet any one of the following conditions:
Aid of another: The applicant requires the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting himself/herself from the hazards of his/her daily environment, OR,
Bedridden: The applicant is bedridden, in that his/her disability or disabilities requires that he/she remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment, OR,
Living in a nursing home: The applicant is a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity, OR,
Blind: The applicant is blind, or so nearly blind as to have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.
E. Must have low income:
Veteran with no dependents – Maximum income of $20,447 per year ($1,703 per month)
Veteran with one dependent – Maximum income of $24,239 per year ($2,019 per month)
Widow(er) with no dependents – Maximum income of $13,138 per year ($1,094 per month)
Reduction of excess income: Most veterans have incomes that exceed the above income limits. A veteran can reduce his/her excess income by “unreimbursed medical expenses.” Unreimbursed medical expenses include assisted living expenses, home attendance services, doctor’s fees, dentist’s fees, prescription glasses, Medicare premium deductions and copayments, prescription medications, health insurance premiums, transportation to physician offices, and therapy. Costs for home care and assisted living facilities are usually high enough to reduce an applicant’s income altogether.
F. Must have limited assets:
There is no exact asset level that an applicant can have in order to qualify for Aid & Attendance. The VA looks at the “net worth” of an individual and does an “age analysis” to determine whether the applicant has “sufficient means” to pay for their own care. The rule of thumb figure that is widely used by regional offices is $80,000. However, based on the “net worth” determination, a 90 year old applicant may not be eligible with $80,000 in his name, but a 75 year old applicant may be.
Aid and Attendance is a valuable benefit that is often overlooked by veterans and their surviving spouses. We also strongly encourage veterans to discover the many other benefits they have earned by serving our country.
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE IS PRESENTED FOR INFORMATION AND EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN IS NOT DEEMED TO BE LEGAL ADVICE. THOSE INDIVIDUALS CONCERNED ABOUT THE LEGAL ISSUES ADDRESSED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE URGED TO SECURE LEGAL COUNSEL FROM A QUALIFIED ELDER LAW ATTORNEY ACCREDITED BY THE VA.
Ronald A. Fatoullah, Esq., CELA* is the principal of Ronald Fatoullah & Associates, a law firm that concentrates in elder law, estate planning, Medicaid planning, guardianships, estate administration, trusts and wills. The firm has offices in Long Island, Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, NY. Mr. Fatoullah has been named a “fellow” of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a former member of its Board of Directors. He also serves on the Executive Committee of the Elder Law Section of the New York State Bar Association. Mr. Fatoullah has been Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Mr. Fatoullah currently chairs the legal committee of the Alzheimer’s Association, LI Chapter.
The firm can be reached toll free at: 1-877-ELDER-LAW (1-877-353-3752) or 1-877-ESTATES (1-877-378-2837).
*Certified as an elder law attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation.