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. Causing much confusion to applicants for the Aid and Attendance benefit, there is no specific income limit that will apply to every applicant. Instead, the income test used by the VA in connection with the Aid and Attendance benefit requires a comparison between the claimant’s gross monthly income and the qualified recurring medical expenses paid by the claimant each month. In very broad terms, unless and until 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 by applicants to pass the income test.
The asset restrictions applicable to the Aid and Attendance benefit are also often misunderstood. In reality, there is no specific asset limit applicable in every case, but there are guidelines often applied by the VA to give claimants some guidance. Generally, married veterans with more than $80,000 in total countable assets will fail the asset test, as will single veterans or widows of veterans with more than $40,000 in total countable assets. But these numbers are only general guidelines, not hard and fast rules.
To add to the confusion, the law currently includes no transfer penalty or look back period for transferred assets. As the law currently stands, only those assets in the claimant’s name at the time of application are applicable under the asset test. Assets transferred prior to the date of application are not counted and are irrelevant. However, Congress may soon change this rule, instituting a three year look back period and a transfer penalty. We will keep our clients informed regarding any developments on this issue.
Not sure what documents you need to file for Veterans Benefits? Download the VA documents checklist.
In need of Veterans Benefits?
Our Attorneys can show you how to qualify.