The Aid and Attendance benefit is a monetary benefit that helps eligible veterans and their surviving spouses (widows/widowers) to pay for the assistance they need in everyday functioning (eating, bathing, dressing, and medication management).
To qualify for Aid and Attendance, the veteran must be at least 65 years old or have a permanent and total disability and meet the service, asset, income and medical requirements. The surviving spouse of an eligible veteran can also receive the benefit if he or she needs care.
Service Requirement: The veteran must have had at least 90 consecutive days of service, with at least one day of active service during these times of war:
WWII: Dec. 7, 1941, to Dec. 31, 1946
Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950, to Jan. 31, 1955
Vietnam War era: August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975
Gulf War: August 2, 1990, until the present
For a list of full requirements go to the Eligibility for Veterans Pension page at VA.gov. The veteran doesn't need to have retired from the military but can't have a dishonorable discharge.
Asset Requirements: The VA changed the asset calculation a few years ago to make it simpler to apply. In 2021, the veteran (and spouse, if married) must have less than $130,773 in assets, including bank accounts, investment accounts, IRAs, other retirement accounts, and the cash value of life insurance, excluding the veteran's home. This asset level is adjusted for the cost of living each December.
Income Requirements: The income criteria is complicated. A veteran’s and their spouse’s joint, countable income must be less than the pension amount for which they are eligible. For example, a married veteran in 2021 is eligible for $27,549 in annual A&A benefits; if their countable income is $10,000, then they are eligible to receive an additional $17,549/year in benefits.
However, because the VA allows applicants to deduct certain expenses and forms of income from their “countable income”, the applicants’ actual income can be considerably higher than their countable income.. A detailed explanation of how the VA calculates income is available here.
Medical Requirements: A doctor usually must certify that you need help with activities of daily living such as bathing, eating and getting dressed. Nursing home patients need to provide extra paperwork from the facility about the costs and type of care they receive. The need for that help does not have to be related to their military service.
Restrictions: There are no restrictions on how A & A pension benefits can be used provided it is for the benefit of the veteran or their surviving spouse. It can be applied towards skilled nursing, assisted living, in-home care, adult day care services, or to fund home modifications to accommodate for a disability.
Paying Family as Caregivers: VA Pensions can be used to pay a family member who is the caregiver of a veteran or survivor (with the exception of spouses). Care expenses can be deducted from a Veteran or surviving spouse’s income, including payments made to family members, such as children or grandchildren. Beneficiaries can then receive an increased pension benefit equal to the amount they have paid to their family member for care.
Unfortunately, this method does not work for the veteran’s spouse since joint income is calculated as household income. Therefore, any salary the spouse received would be included as part of their household income, and would not be considered a deductible care expense.
The experienced Elder Law attorneys at Fiffik Law Group are available to assess your family situation and suggest Asset Protection Strategies that are right for you. Contact us today to begin the conversation.