Veterans Aid & Attendance is not only a little-known benefit intended to help wartime veterans or their surviving spouse pay for care in independent living, assisted living, home health care, adult day care or skilled nursing, it’s also misunderstood. This is unfortunate on both counts because the monthly payments this benefit offers above the VA pension can give your budget a substantial boost in paying for these types of care. Here we’ll clear up some of the most common myths and help you learn more about the Veterans Aid & Attendance benefit.
Myth: To qualify for Aid & Attendance you must have served in a combat zone.
Reality: To qualify, the veteran must have served during an eligible wartime period. Except for the Vietnam wartime period of February 28, 1961 to August 4, 1964 there is no requirement that the veteran must have served in a combat zone. The service criteria are 90 days of active duty, with at least 1 day during an eligible wartime period and the veteran was other than dishonorably discharged. Or, your spouse at the time of their death met these criteria.
Myth: Veterans Aid & Attendance is only for service-related disabilities.
Reality: While there are benefits for service-related disabilities, Aid & Attendance is not one of them. Rather, the applicant must be eligible for the basic pension and must meet at least one of the medical requirements:
The medical rating is determined by the veteran’s medical situation if alive, or that of their surviving spouse. The applicant must meet at least one of these medical requirements:
- You need another person to help you perform daily activities, like bathing, feeding and dressing.
- You have to stay in bed – or spend a large portion of the day in bed – because of illness.
- You are a patient in a nursing home due to the loss of mental or physical abilities related to a disability.
- Your eyesight is limited (even with glasses or contact lenses you have only 5/200 or less in both eyes; or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less).
Myth: The surviving spouse must have been married to the veteran when he or she was enlisted to qualify for Aid & Attendance.
Reality: A surviving spouse is considered eligible for the Aid & Attendance benefit if he or she was married to the veteran at the time of their passing and has not remarried. The spouse must have been married to the veteran for 1 year prior to their death unless there was a baby and must have been living with the veteran the year before their death unless they were living separately for medical reasons.
Myth: A spouse can only receive Aid & Attendance if the veteran has passed away.
Reality: If a veteran is still married and his or her spouse needs care, they are considered a dependent spouse. A married veteran can be awarded a Basic Pension if he or she has a dependent spouse as long as eligibility requirements are met.
Myth: You should not apply for Aid & Attendance until your assets are below $80,000.
Reality: In 2018, the VA adjusted the maximum amount of assets an applicant, whether single or married, is allowed to have. It’s now equal to the Community Spouse Resource Allowance defined by Medicaid ($130,773 for 2021) which means more applicants will either qualify immediately or qualify earlier than they would have before (even without transferring assets). If you do have assets over the maximum amount, don’t rush to transfer them however. First, consider how long it will take for your assets to decline naturally and then determine if that time frame will be longer than the 3-year look-back period.
Myth: If you don’t qualify for Veterans Aid & Attendance when you apply, you never will.
Reality: If the reason a veteran or surviving spouse is ineligible is because you didn’t meet the medical and/or the financial requirement, keep in mind that medical conditions, income and assets change over time. This means that although you may be ineligible now, that may not be the case later. Aid & Attendance is not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ benefit, rather it’s an ‘if’ and ‘when’ benefit.
Myth: Your home always counts as an asset.
Reality: If you wish to rent your primary home, the VA will no longer count it as an asset. This allows you to maximize the earning potential of the home to pay for care while still retaining ownership.
Myth: You can’t receive a partial benefit for Aid & Attendance.
Reality: Aid & Attendance is not all or nothing, you can get a partial benefit. For example, if your income minus home care and facility costs leaves you with a positive number or “Income for VA Purposes,” but one less than the Maximum Pension Benefit, you can receive the approximate difference between the Maximum Pension and the calculated Income for VA Purposes.
Myth: Aid & Attendance is not a lifetime benefit.
Reality: Aid & Attendance is a lifetime benefit as long as the veteran or surviving spouse remains qualified. As such, you are obligated to inform the VA of any changes to income, assets or monthly unreimbursed medical expenses.
Myth: Veterans Aid & Attendance will not help pay for independent living.
Reality: In 2018, the VA changed its rule on custodial care expenses (non-medical care that helps individuals with activities of daily living and basic care needs). Although a medical professional typically recommends it, those providing custodial care are not necessarily medical professionals themselves. This paved the way for veterans or their surviving spouse to become eligible for Aid & Attendance from home care to independent living to assisted living to skilled care as long as they receive the basic VA pension and continue to meet medical criteria.
For more information, download our guide on How the Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefit Can Help You Afford Senior Living now.