Many people are only familiar with Service Connected Veterans Benefits, the benefits available to veterans who were injured in the line of duty. As a result of this confusion, many fail to explore an important Veterans Benefit commonly known as Aid and Attendance. The Aid and Attendance benefit offered through the VA is available to veterans in need of long-term care even when they were not injured in the line of duty. It is also available to widows of qualifying veterans.
The Aid and Attendance benefit is tax free income, paid by the VA through direct deposit, straight to the recipient, so that the recipient can use it for whatever type of care he or she wants. The benefit is not like insurance, payable to a particular caregiver or facility.
In general, the VA will require information on three distinct sets of criteria to determine whether a veteran or widow of a veteran qualifies for the Aid and Attendance benefit – Veteran Status, Health Status, and Financial Status.
To qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit, the veteran must produce discharge papers showing that he or she served on active duty during a period of war, that the service lasted at least 90 days, and that the discharge was anything other than dishonorable. For those who no longer have their discharge papers, we can usually assist in obtaining the proper information from the National Archives. For widows seeking the benefit, proof of marriage to the veteran and proof of the veteran’s death are also required.
To qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit, the claimant must also show that he or she needs long-term care assistance. The VA does not limit assistance to those in need of nursing home care. Need for home caregiver services or an assisted living facility is sufficient. Claimants who are legally blind or who suffer from any form of dementia will generally qualify, as will claimants with physical infirmities that result in a need for long-term care assistance.
There are also income and asset restrictions applicable to the Aid and Attendance benefit. There is no specific income limit that will apply to every claimant. Instead, the income test used by the VA requires a comparison between the claimant’s gross monthly income and the recurring medical expenses paid each month. In very broad terms, unless a claimant is spending the bulk of his or her monthly income on long-term care costs, he or she will fail the income test. Health insurance and drug plan premiums are common qualified recurring medical expenses claimed by those seeking the Aid and Attendance benefit, but larger expenses, such as home caregivers, assisted living fees, and nursing home costs, also count as qualified recurring medical expenses and are more commonly relied upon to pass the income test.
The asset restrictions applicable to the Aid and Attendance benefit changed in October 2018. Under the old rules, the asset limit varied depending on whether the claimant was married or single and based on age. There is now one limit applicable in every case—$123,600 in total countable assets, adjusted annually when new Medicaid restrictions are released.
In addition, the new rules impose a three year look back. When a claimant transfers assets out of his or her name within that three year look back, those transfers must be disclosed to the VA at the time of application. Some transfers will result in a penalty period during which benefits will not be paid even though the claimant may otherwise be qualified. The more transferred, the longer the penalty, up to a five year limit.
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