While many people are unaware it exists, the Veterans Administration (VA) Aid & Attendance Special Pension provides monetary assistance to wartime veterans – and surviving spouses of deceased veterans – who need regular personal assistance. Qualifying aid or assistance can be provided at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home, and can be provided by friends, family members, or healthcare professionals.
Currently, the Aid & Attendance pension can provide up to $1,703 per month to an unmarried veteran, $1,094 per month to a surviving spouse, or $2,019 per month for a veteran who is married and $1,337 per month where the spouse of a married veteran needs care.
Best of all, if the veteran qualifies, Aid & Attendance funds are provided in addition to monthly pension and Social Security benefits.
If you or someone you love is a veteran and needs help with daily activities like cooking, cleaning, dressing, driving, mobility, or other assistance, the Aid & Attendance benefit can provide the funds needed to pay for that help. Many elderly veterans and surviving spouses whose incomes are above the congressionally-mandated legal limit for a VA pension may still be eligible for monthly Aid & Attendance benefits if they have high expenses for care, including nursing home expenses, that are not reimbursed by insurance or other sources. There are also some estate planning methods that can help increase your changes of qualifying for additional VA assistance.
Aid & Attendance benefits can make a real difference but, filing a claim can be complex and time-consuming. Like most entitlements, veterans benefits are not awarded automatically – to receive them, you have to apply.
QUALIFIYING FOR BENEFITS
Who is eligible for Aid & Attendance? First let’s look at the basics. For a qualifying wartime veteran or surviving spouse to qualify for this special monthly pension, the veteran must have:
· Served at least 90 days of active military service
· Served at least one day during a period of war (which includes Iraq and Afghanistan)
· Been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable
· Wartime veterans who entered active duty on or after September 8, 1980, (for officers, October 16, 1981) must have completed at least 24 continuous months of military service, or served the time period they were ordered to active duty.
Once those criteria are met, a veteran could qualify for standard Aid & Attendance benefits or for Housebound benefits. (Veterans cannot receive both Aid & Attendance and Housebound benefits at the same time.) According to VA standards, veterans may be eligible for Aid & Attendance benefits if their medical needs fall in any of the following categories:
· They require the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living.
· They are bedridden, and their disability or disabilities requires them to remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment.
· They are a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity
· They are 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.
Veterans who do not qualify for Aid & Attendance may still qualify for Housebound benefits when:
· They have a single permanent disability evaluated as 100 percent disabling and, due to such disability, they are permanently and substantially confined to their immediate premises; or
· They have a single permanent disability evaluated as 100 percent disabling and another disability or disabilities evaluated as 60 percent or more disabling.
Determinations of a need are based on medical reports and findings by physicians or from hospitals or nursing homes. If the veteran is a patient in a nursing home or is blind or nearly blind, qualifying for benefits is almost automatic. In other cases, all of the disabling conditions in the list above are not required. The evidence simply must establish the veteran or spouse needs regular, scheduled, and ongoing, aid and attendance from someone else. Care on a 24-hour basis is not a requirement.
But those are simply rough guidelines. The application process, the quality of your documentation, and ultimately the VA will determine whether you or a loved one qualifies for benefits.
This article has been divided into two parts. To read the second part of this article, click here.
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