By Ann H. Larkin

If you served during active duty during a wartime period (WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War or Persian Gulf War) or if you are the widow of someone who has, you may be eligible for a monthly payment from the Veterans Administration. This benefit, known as “VA Aid and Attendance,” can be used to defray the costs of in-home, assisted living or nursing home care.

In order to qualify you, or your deceased spouse, must have served in the U.S. military on active duty at least 90 days, with at least one day during wartime. No service-connected disability is needed to qualify (although a service connected disability may qualify the veteran for a different program, called “service connected compensation.”) Non-service connected disabilities such as memory issues and lack of mobility could qualify a veteran’s or surviving spouse if he or she requires the aid of another person to perform everyday tasks such as bathing, feeding, dressing, or toileting. The funds can be used to pay for care in an assisted living facility or for in-home care.

There is no specific asset limitation for qualification for Aid and Attendance benefits. The VA will look at the applicant’s overall assets and net worth (the applicant’s primary residence, personal property, and vehicles are not typically considered) and will decide, on a case by case basis, whether an applicant’s income and assets are substantial enough that the she could live off of them for a considerable amount of time. The VA takes in to account the applicant’s age, care expenses and life expectancy. To qualify, an applicant must typically have less than $80,000 in assets for a married couple or $50,000 for a single person, however, as mentioned above, these asset limitations are fluid and subjective, depending on the totality of the circumstances. Certain estate planning methods can be used to reduce the resource amount, including the creation of irrevocable asset protection trusts. In addition, certain income restrictions apply. In general, an applicant’s income will determine what, if anything, the VA will pay. To receive Aid and Attendance, the net monthly income of the applicant must be less than the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR). The MAPR for 2018 for the Aid and Attendance level of VA pension, depending on the applicant’s marital status are as follows:

  • Single veteran $21,962
  • Veteran with one dependent (spouse or child) $26,036
  • Single surviving spouse $14,133

For example, assume a surviving spouse is eligible for and receiving the maximum basic pension benefit: $8,656.00 per year. If her countable income is less than this amount, then she is eligible to receive an additional amount for Aid and Attendance up to $14,133 (another $5,477 per year).

Welfare benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are not counted as income for aid and attendance eligibility purposes. In addition, unreimbursed medical expenses actually paid by the veteran are not included. Examples of such expenses include Medicare co-pays, supplemental health care insurance premiums (Medigap insurance), long-term care insurance premiums, prescriptions and over-the-counter medications regularly taken at a doctor’s recommendation, long-term care costs including the monthly cost of assisted living or nursing homes, and the cost of in-home care for some medical or nursing services. These expenses are only excluded from the income calculation if they are not to be reimbursed by insurance or Medicare.

If you think you or your spouse may be eligible to receive VA Aid and Attendance benefits, please contact MPO. We would be happy to advise you regarding planning strategies that may enhance your eligibility.