Considering the size and availability of the program, it is amazing me how many Veterans are still unaware of the Aid & Attendance benefit offered by the Veterans Administration. The benefit is designed to help pay health care expenses, and can be critical to those aging Vets and their widows who are trying to find a way to pay for the ever-rising cost of health care while maintaining a decent standard of living.
The Veterans Administration, by its own admission, has done very little to let Veterans know about the program. World War II and Korea War Vets are dying in large numbers without every knowing they could have been receiving a monthly check to help with heath care costs. The same is true of their widows, who are often the hardest hit. According the VA’s own estimate, only one in seven widows of war Veterans who could qualify for this pension actually receive any VA money.
So what is VA Aid & Attendance and what are the requirements to qualify for the benefit?
Aid & Attendance is a disability pension available to Veterans and their widows to help them pay their monthly, unreimbursed medical expenses. These expenses may include out-of-pocket costs of medications, in-home care, medical supplies, and assisted living or nursing home expenses.
In order to qualify, the Veteran must:
- have served a total of 90 consecutive days in active duty at least one day of which was during a wartime period
- have earned a discharge that is not dishonorable
- be 65 years or older
- be in need the aid and attendance of another person to perform at least two Activities of Daily Living (also often referred to as ADLs), such as dressing, bathing, or walking
A widow, in order to qualify must:
- have been married to the Veteran at the time of his death
- not have remarried
- have been married at least twelve months unless they had a child together
- need the attendance of another person with at least two of ADLs
There are also income and net worth limitations. A married couple or Veteran with one dependant cannot have more than $80,000 in household assets. A single Vet (or widow) is allowed no more than $50,000. The VA does not count the Veteran or Widow’s residence, vehicle, or small life insurance policies as assets.
These limitations should not discourage those Vets or their widows who have assets in excess of these limitations. There are many planning avenues available to adjust income, medical expenses, and net worth so that a Veteran or widow qualifies. Anyone interested in applying should consult an attorney who is accredited by the VA and knowledgeable about this pension and VA rules and regulations.
The benefit can make a big difference to a Veteran or widow and the family who are looking at large monthly health care expenses. In 2012, a Veteran or widow qualifying receives:
- $2,019 a month to a married Veteran or Veteran with one dependant
- $1,703 to a single Veteran
- $1,094 to a widow(er)
For those with medical expenses coming in above monthly income, this benefit can make the difference between necessary daily care and little or no care at all.
So what’s the catch?
To some, this benefit seems to good to be true. Especially since they’ve probably never heard of it until now.
The only real problems with the benefit seem to be in dealing with the VA itself. When contacted directly, VA representatives have a history of giving out incorrect advice 40% of the time. That alone is reason enough to seek out an accredited attorney to help.
The VA is staffed with good, dedicated people but it is not known for being the most efficient government agency. The VA cannot and does not provide any timeframe within which they process claims for the Aid & Attendance benefit (from time of application to time of approval/denial). However, benefit payments will be retroactive to the month following the date of filing for the benefit. So, as is so often the case when dealing with a government agency, persistence is important and patience very often pays off.
If you know of a Veteran or widow who might qualify, please tell him or her about Aid & Attendance. This is a benefit they’ve earned through service to our country and, armed with this knowledge, you just may be the hero they’ve been looking for.