What Older Veterans Need to Know About VA Aid and Attendance Benefits
There are almost 20 million veterans in the United States, according the US Census Bureau, and more than half of them are over age 65.
As those who served our country age, many will need long-term care or assistance with the basic activities of daily life.
Long-term senior care and nursing home care can be very costly, so veterans and their families may wonder: how can we pay for this type of care?
The good news is that the VA provides a special benefit to help veterans who served during wartime pay for several types of long-term senior care.
The bad news is that very few veterans know about it.
AARP reports that “Large numbers of veterans and their survivors who need caregiving help have no idea they might qualify for thousands of dollars a year through a program called the Veterans Aid and Attendance (A&A) pension.”
“It’s a benefit that many, many elderly vets are eligible for and have no idea,’’ says Alene Tarter, director of benefits and assistance for the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
What is the Veterans Aid and Assistance Benefit?
This special benefit is known as the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit, the Housebound Benefit, Aid and Attendance, the Enhanced or Special Monthly Pension—or simply as Veterans Aid.
This monthly pension benefit is administered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs—formerly the Veterans’ Administration—commonly known as the VA.
The Aid and Attendance benefit provides monthly financial assistance beyond the normal VA pension amount.
It is available to wartime veterans and their spouses and helps pay for long-term care costs.
What Can the Veterans Aid and Assistance Pension Be Used For?
The benefit can be used to pay for many types of long-term care. It is intended for care that will improve your quality of life and may be used to pay costs for:
- Home care, including in-home assistance with the activities of daily life
- Nursing home expenses
- Assisted living facility fees
Whether you prefer to stay in your home and get help with activities like bathing, grooming, housekeeping and meal prep, or you need the higher level of care offered in an assisted living or nursing home facility, the Veterans Aid benefit can help you cover the costs.
VA Aid and Assistance can be used for any long-term care expenses that aren’t already covered by Medicare, health insurance or long-term care insurance.
In most cases, you or your family can choose the caregiver or facility you prefer and specify the level of care you want, as long as that care fits your needs.
Who Can Qualify for a Veterans Aid and Assistance Pension?
Veterans who served during a time of war may be eligible for the VA Aid and Assistance benefit.
Their surviving spouses can also qualify for this same benefit, regardless of military service.
To qualify, you must have served at least 90 days on active duty, with at least one of those days falling during a recognized period of war.
You do not need to have served in combat to qualify for this type of Veterans Aid, but you do need to have been honorably discharged.
If you meet these requirements—or if you already have a regular VA pension—you must also meet at least one of these disability requirements to qualify for VA Aid and Attendance:
- You need another person to help you perform daily activities, like bathing, feeding, dressing or using the bathroom
- You are bedridden due to illness
- You are a patient in a nursing home due to the loss of mental or physical abilities related to a disability
- Your eyesight is limited, with visual acuity of 5/200 or less in both eyes or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less
There is also a different Housebound pension benefit available for those who are housebound due to a permanent disability.
You cannot receive both the Aid and Assistance and Housebound VA benefits at once.
How Much is the VA Aid and Assistance Benefit for 2022?
For 2022, the Veterans Aid benefit pays:
- Up to $2050 for a single veteran
- Up to $2431 for a married veteran
- Up to $1318 for a surviving (widowed) spouse of a veteran
The amounts can vary based on factors like number of dependents, uncovered medical expenses, Medicare premium rates and whether you are married to another veteran.
They may also change depending on whether you (or your spouse) qualify for Aid and Assistance or Housebound VA benefits.
Due to the complexity of the rules for determining VA benefits amounts and eligibility, it is a good idea to seek help from a lawyer with experience helping clients navigate the Veterans Aid process, if possible.
You may also be able to find informational resources through VA groups in your area.
Asset Limits to Qualify for Veterans Aid and Assistance in 2022
The VA Aid and Assistance Pension benefit is needs-based and therefore subject to certain asset limits.
There is no specified income limit, but in order to qualify in 2022, the applicant’s net worth cannot exceed $138,489.
How Is Net Worth Calculated By The VA?
The VA includes the applicant’s income (and that of a spouse, if applicant is married) in the net worth calculation and adds that to any countable assets.
This income + net worth cannot exceed the net worth limit of $138,489, but there are certain income reductions and asset exceptions that may lower your net worth.
Payments like Medicare premiums and unreimbursed medical and senior care expenses are subtracted from yearly income for the calculation, so you may qualify even if you think you make too much.
Moreover, a primary residence and a vehicle are not counted in as assets, so you don’t have to worry if you have a valuable home or a late-model car.
Certain types of trusts and estate planning measures—including special needs trusts—may also be excluded when assessing net worth.
The calculation can be complex, and the rules and asset limits change regularly, so it is a good idea to seek expert help before applying, if you can.
An experienced elder law attorney can help you figure out whether you might qualify for Veterans Aid and help you navigate the application process.
The Look-Back Period for Veterans Aid and Assistance
There is a 36-month look-back period when applying for Veterans Aid.
That means that the VA will review any asset transfers within that 3-year period as part of their examination of your net worth.
Inappropriate transfers or gifts may subject you to a penalty period or disqualify you from receiving Veterans Aid and Assistance.
This is intended to prevent people from giving away assets in order to qualify, as VA Aid and Assistance is supposed to go to those in need.
For this reason, it is usually a good idea to talk to a long-term care planning attorney about your eligibility prospects and find out what steps you can legally take to protect your assets and qualify for Veterans Aid.
How to Apply for VA Aid and Attendance Benefits in Georgia
You can apply for VA Aid and Attendance Benefits by filling out VA Form 21-2680 and sending it in to the Georgia PMC.
You can also apply in person at the regional VA nearest you.
Whether you apply by mail or in person, it helps to include information on:
- Why you need Aid and Attendance or Housebound care
- Your specific illness, impairment or disability and how it affects daily life
- How you manage your daily activities, including how much help you need
If you live in a nursing home, you will also need to fill out VA Form 21-0779: Request for Nursing Home Information in Connection with Claim for Aid and Attendance.
One caveat on trying to apply on your own: making a strong case, managing assets properly, and including all the relevant documentation may mean the difference between getting the aid you need and being turned down.
It can be very helpful to have someone experienced with the VA Aid and Assistance process help you, which is why many experts recommend seeking the counsel of an attorney experienced not only in Veterans Aid but also estate planning and elder law.
Frequently Asked Questions About Veterans Aid and Assistance
I am a veteran, but I did not serve in a combat role. Can I still qualify for the VA Aid and Assistance benefit?
You do not need to have served in combat to qualify for Veterans Aid.
If you were on active duty during a period of wartime and were not dishonorably discharged, you are eligible to qualify for Aid and Assistance.
You will still need to demonstrate that you require long-term care assistance and that you do not exceed the VA’s net worth requirements for A&A.
I am not sure if I served during wartime. How can I find out?
The VA maintains a list of wartime period dates that you can use to determine whether you served during wartime:
- Mexican Border period (May 9, 1916, to April 5, 1917, for Veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders, or in adjacent waters)
- World War I (April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918)
- World War II (December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946)
- Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955)
- Vietnam War era (November 1, 1955, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served outside the Republic of Vietnam.)
- Gulf War (August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)
You do not need to have served in a combat zone to qualify as a wartime veteran. You also need only have served 1 day of your tour during a wartime period, provided you served at least 90 days on active duty.
My spouse did not serve. Are they qualified for any aid under this benefit?
Yes, the benefit is available for wartime veterans and their spouses, even if those spouses did not serve in the military.
Both civilian spouses and dependent children can qualify you for higher Veterans Aid and Assistance pension amounts.
Furthermore, your surviving spouse can also qualify for Veterans Aid after your passing.
How much is the Veterans’ Aid and Assistance benefit?
The benefit amounts change regularly based on the cost of living, and they can vary depending on individual factors, as well.
For 2022, the VA Aid and Assistance benefit will pay up to:
- $2050 for a single veteran
- $2431 for a married veteran
- $1318 for a surviving (widowed) spouse of a veteran
Is this VA benefit taxed?
No, the VA Aid and Assistance benefit is tax-free.
Will my home disqualify me from receiving this benefit?
No, a primary residence is not considered when calculating net worth for the purposes of qualifying. Your automobile and certain types of trusts may also be excluded from the calculation.
Talk to an estate planning attorney about asset preservation strategies and how to set up trusts for special needs family members without disqualifying yourself from eligibility for VA Aid and Assistance.
I am not a senior citizen, but I am a disabled veteran. Do I qualify for this benefit?
Older veterans 65 years of age and up can qualify for Veterans Aid and Assistance even if their disability is limited and they can still do some things for themselves.
Veterans under 65, however, must be permanently and totally disabled in order to qualify.
Another thing to know if you are a disabled veteran under 65 is that the VA Aid and Assistance benefit is not for those who were disabled while serving. There is another VA benefit intended specifically for that.
A lawyer with experience helping veterans can determine which benefits you may be eligible for and help you apply and qualify successfully.
Should I apply for Veterans Aid on my own or seek outside help?
While you can apply for Veterans Aid on your own by mailing in VA Form 21-2680 or by going in person to your regional VA office, in many cases this may not be possible or advisable.
The rules for qualifying for Veterans Aid can be complex, and determining whether you are eligible can sometimes be a challenge. You must also supply documentation validating your need for the benefit and clear financial records showing your assets and expenses.
For this reason, you may want to seek the help of an elder care law firm with experience in Veterans Aid benefits.
Wondering Whether You Might Qualify for Veterans Aid and Assistance?
We can help. The elder law attorneys at Speights are expert at navigating VA benefits red tape, and we have helped many veterans successfully qualify for Veterans Aid.
Call us at (770) 479-1500 today to set up your free consultation. We can answer any questions you have and get the process started.
Amanda Speights is a co-founder and lead family law attorney at Speights Law, PC in Cherokee County. She is an experienced family law lawyer who handles an assortment of domestic cases, including divorce, child custody, child support, appeals and other types of litigation in the state of Georgia. To contact Amanda, please visit our contact page.