Many of the men and women who have served in our armed forces may be eligible for a needs-based pension program by way of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA). This benefit is called the Aid and Attendance pension benefit.
General Information & Eligibility Requirements
The VA operates a benefit called the “Pension” program to assist veterans who are in need. Because this is a needs-based program, there are requirements that the veteran or their surviving dependents must meet in order to be eligible.
A veteran is eligible for pension benefits if he or she was discharged under other than dishonorable conditions, served ninety (90) days or more of active duty with at least one (1) day of service during a period of war, have countable income AND net worth below the established thresholds, and are considered disabled. Veterans sixty-five (65) and older are presumed to be disabled. A surviving spouse or unmarried child of a deceased veteran are eligible for the program if they meet the income requirements and the veteran met the active duty and wartime service requirements.
Aid & Attendance Benefits
In order to qualify for Aid & Attendance Benefits, veterans must prove to the VA that they have the need for the “regular aid & attendance” of another person. A person must meet one of the following criteria to qualify for this program: 1. Require aid from another person to carry out ‘personal functions of everyday living’ such as eating, bathing and/or dressing, 2. Be considered legally blind, or 3. Reside in a nursing home.
Benefits derived from the Aid & Attendance program are unique in that the funds can be used to help pay for an individual’s care at home, in a skilled nursing facility, or even in an assisted living facility. Aid & Attendance benefits can help veterans or their dependents stay in an assisted living facility or in their home instead of paying the higher costs associated with residing in a skilled nursing facility. A veteran may receive up to $2,053 per month in VA benefits if they qualify for the Aid & Attendance program. As the costs of assisted living facilities can average $3,000 or more per month and costs of skilled nursing facilities can average about $8,000 per month in the state of Pennsylvania, this extra income for veterans in need is significant.
In order to qualify for Aid & Attendance benefits, a veteran’s “countable income” must not exceed the limits set for them by the VA. The income limit depends upon the circumstances of the veteran; medical status and existence of a spouse or dependent child will increase the limit. As a general rule, all of the veteran’s household income is counted. Some types of income are specifically excluded from this calculation. If a veteran’s income is above the limit, they may qualify through income deductions if they have unreimbursed medical expenses. Countable income can be reduced by unreimbursed medical expenses.
Countable Assets and Gifting
As a general rule, a married veteran can qualify for the Aid & Attendance pension program as long as the veteran meets the asset limitation test. The veteran’s net worth includes the net worth of the veteran’s spouse. Certain assets, such as the home, personal property, and a vehicle are excluded from this calculation. There is no set dollar amount that has been established as the net worth threshold; however, $80,000 is generally used as a measuring stick for determining whether a particular veteran may be financially eligible for the program.
In contrast to Pennsylvania’s Medical Assistance program, there is currently no look-back period for the transfer of assets for the VA benefits program. Still, veterans considering gifting to reduce their countable assets should proceed with caution. Gifting may affect a veteran’s eligibility for other programs such as Medical Assistance. Before engaging in any significant gifting program, veterans should visit an elder law attorney to help the veteran understand their options and the consequences of gifting.
For a free consultation, contact the law firm of Marshall, Parker & Weber
Aid & Attendance Benefit & CareGivers America
CareGivers America and Care America in New York are proud to partner with Veterans Home Care to bring assistance to our veterans and their spouses who are in need of extra financial aid. With the partnership of this company, we can offer extra financial aid to our Non Medical clients who have served in the military and for their spouses (even if their veteran spouse has passed away).