Veterans Benefits

by: Thomas D. Begley, Jr.

Certain Veterans are entitled to a cash grant from the Federal Veterans Administration to assist in paying their cost of long-term care.  The principal program is called “Aid and Attendance.”  Veterans, widowed spouses, and dependent or disabled children of a Veteran may be eligible.  The rules are as follows:

  • Veterans must have served at least ninety days active duty with one of the ninety days during a qualified war period (ninety days must generally be consecutive, with some exceptions)
  • Veteran must have had other than an “dishonorable” discharge
  • Claimant’s physician must declare him/her as housebound and in need of assistance from another individual, which may include services offered by assisted living
  • Claimant should have less than $80,000 in household assets; excluding primary home, care and personal belongings. (If assets are jointly owned by other than spouse, only the claimant’s share is generally countable.  In the case of a married Veteran, both individual’s assets are countable.  Although $80,000 is typically the asset cap, the VA may also consider the claimant’s life expectancy and demand lower total assets.  In the case of assets over $50,000, it may be best to consult an elder law attorney.)
  • Claimant’s household out-of-pocket yearly medical expenses must exceed or come close to his/her total yearly household gross income (total yearly cost of assisted living is typically considered a medical expense)
  • Widowed spouse must have been married to the veteran for at least one year, or have had children by the veteran if married less than one year, and never remarried (with possibly one very rare exception)
  • Widowed spouse must have been living with the veteran at the time of the veteran’s death, unless the separation was due to medical or military reasons (there may be some exceptions related to separations due to abuse)
  • Minor or disabled adult children may qualify for limited benefits on their own

2012 Maximum Pension Rates for Aid and Attendance

Single Veteran $1,703 per month or $20,446 per year
Married Veteran $2,019 per month or $24,238 per year
Widowed Spouse $1,094 per month or $13,136 per year
Veteran Married to Veteran (Both A&A) $2,674 per month or $32,102 per year

Once awarded Aid and Attendance or Housebound status, a veteran may obtain free medications, medical equipment, incontinence supplies, glasses, and hearing aids from the VA Hospital/Clinic via U.S. Mail without going to the VA Hospital/Clinic.  A separate application must be made through the health care system.