War Time Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefits

Even though local VA offices are not very forthcoming about this benefit, it is not surprising that I am getting a lot of calls regarding this whether or not a person can avail themselves of it. There are now over 25 million US veterans eligible for of VA benefits.

Most believe they are only entitled to benefits if they were actually wounded or disabled while they were serving in the armed forces.

Nevertheless, more and more vets are realizing that VA special pensions exist, including the Aid and Attendance Pension.In fact, I received two calls in the last two weeks about Aid and Attendance Benefits. Both of the calls were from children of a war time veteran widow. One of the women was already in a board and care and the other was transferring to an assisted living facility from her home. The cost of these care facilities is $3,500.00 and $5,600.00 respectively. If these women qualified, they could get up to $1,056.00 a month to offset the cost of this care.
(Remember, if you do not wish to read the entire newsletter, but would like to ask me any questions, call me at 1 (310) 897-7434  or email me, susan@mymomnpop.com )

What is Aid and Attendance?

Aid and Attendance is a “special monthly pension” available to wartime veterans or surviving spouses of wartime veterans.  It provides a monthly stipend for in home care, or nursing home care or care in an assisted living facility.
The claimant must show that he or she requires the “aid and attendance” of another person in order to perform some of the basic activities of daily living.  The medical evidence must be provided by a physician.  Additionally, if the claimant resides in a facility, then the facility must also provide a letter stating that the individual resides in the facility because of the need for assistance with the activities of daily living.

The VA defines the need for aid and attendance as:

  1. Requiring the aid of another person to perform at least two activities of daily living, such as grooming, transferring, eating, bathing, dressing or toileting;
  2. Being blind or nearly blind; or
  3. Being a patient in a nursing home.

Aid and Attendance is awarded on top of either the “service” benefit or the “housebound” benefit. The veteran or surviving spouse must first be eligible for the “service” benefit, but there is no requirement of a service-connected disability.  That requires the basic qualification by the veteran of having served at least 90 days of active military duty, at least one of those days had to be during wartime.

The qualifying wars are:  WWII 12/7/1941 thru 12/31/1946, the Korean Conflict 6/27/1950 thru 1/31/1955, the Vietnam 8/5/1964 thru 5/7/1975 (back to –2/28/1962 if time served in Vietnam) and the Gulf Wars 8/2/1990 – current.

The Veteran has to have received a discharge that was other than dishonorable.  Additionally there are many people who served in capacities that were not specifically in the Army, Navy or Air Force who are included when considering VA benefits. The father of one of the families that I helped was in the Merchant Marines. She was entitled to apply for aid and attendance benefits.

Asset & Income Requirements

There are financial eligibility requirements associated with the qualification for any VA pension, including Aid and Attendance benefits. The income limitation for a widow is $12,861.  The VA will look at the gross income from all sources less countable medical expenses.  If a claimant’s income after these adjustments is equal to or greater than the annual benefit amount, the veteran or surviving spouse is not eligible for benefits. Both widows whose circumstances I was evaluating met the income limitation, but did not meet the asset test. The current rule of thumb is that a married veteran and spouse can have no more than $80,000 in countable assets ($50,000 for a single veteran or surviving spouse).   Those amounts include retirement assets but exclude a home and a vehicle.

The widows that I evaluated did meet the asset test because they both had home that were valued at over $500.000 and neither of the women were living in them. If they lived in their respective homes, the home would have been considered an exempt asset.

If you meet all the criteria for these benefits, you will still have to go through a painfully laborious and slow application process. I typically takes at least 6 months for approval. Fortunately, the benefit is retroactive to the month after the application is submitted. Moreover, If you or your loved one is 70 or older, you should request the application process be expedited.

The VA’s own law states that applications for benefits for a veteran/widow 70 or older are to be given priority. It is advised that you include a cover letter with the application noting this request

Please note that it is illegal for anyone to charge a fee for completing an application.

While no one can charge a fee for actually preparing and submitting an application, an expert can charge a fee for assisting you to qualify for VA Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits. Very few persons understand the “ins and outs” of the process, it can be daunting.

One must consider what care options available for the veteran and/or spouse, a review of VA, Medicaid and Medicare and how each may apply to your circumstances must be determined, specific documents including powers of attorney for property and healthcare matters, wills and trusts must be likewise assessed, a plan for the best use of your personal, financial, and family resources must be created. Additionally, tax consequences for income, capital gains, estate and/or gift taxes must be reviewed.

Some actions taken to qualify for VA benefits may create a penalty period later when you need to qualify for Medicaid. In the hands of an expert, VA benefits might provide a tremendous boost when properly integrated with other planning options. Only the A state veterans affairs office, a veterans service organization (such as VFW) or a licensed attorney certified by the Veterans Administration can assist you with this.

I am certified with the Veterans Administration. This means that I must take continuing legal education on this topic and prove it at certain intervals to the Administration. If you or a loved one needs an assessment of these benefits, you are welcome to call me. There are some companies that do not charge a fee but are merely capitalizing on the volume of people seeking this benefit. They may suggest a product such as an annuity because they will make a commission off of it.

To all of you who have served, I humbly thank you. Unfortunately, it is only now that I am a mother that I recognize on a deeper level what your service and sacrifice means to our country.  

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