The Hampton Roads area has one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the country. As these veterans age, many may be struggling to pay for the care they need. If you are a veteran or married to a veteran, you may be unaware of an important benefit offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs – the Aid & Attendance Pension.
This benefit is a pension benefit which means you do not have to have a service-related injury to qualify. However, there are certain medical and financial requirements. Aid & Attendance can help pay for in-home care, nursing home care, or assisted living costs. Getting your Veterans benefits, such as Veteran Aid and Attendance, can be a complex process that requires research, proof of eligibility and associated paperwork. Let the experienced VA accredited attorneys at Alperin Law take care of this process for you so that you can enjoy your retirement and the compensation for your service.
The Application Process
Applying for the Aid & Attendance Pension is a complicated and lengthy process requiring very specific information and copies of several different types of documents. All of the forms for the application are available online. However, when dealing with this sort of issue, it is important to get help from an attorney or professional who is accredited to practice before the Department of Veterans Affairs. Attorneys who specialize in this type of benefit are well aware of the information needed for the application, as well as all of the nuances of the application itself, and much of this information is not available to the general public. If you submit an incomplete or incorrect application and it is denied, you will have to wait one year before reapplying. This kind of delay can be devastating to a family who needs financial assistance as soon as possible.
The Aid & Attendance Benefit – How Much Could You Receive?
The cost of long-term care can be devastating for some families. In Virginia, the monthly cost of nursing home care is approaching $7,000, while the average cost of one month of assisted living care can be up to $4,000. Even home health care can be pricey, with the average home health aide making around $20 per hour. The Aid & Attendance pension can help lighten this burden for veterans and their spouses who qualify for the benefit.
Who Is Eligible to Receive Aid & Attendance Benefits?
There are three main requirements to be eligible for this pension: military service, medical need, and financial need.
Military Service. In order to qualify for Aid & Attendance, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty in the military, at least one day of which must have been during a wartime period. The VA has specific time frames that it defines as “wartime periods.” To see if your dates of service were during one of these time frames, please see this chart located at the VA website: http://benefits.va.gov/pension/wartimeperiod.asp. Additionally, the veteran must not have been dishonorably discharged from his or her military service.
Medical Need. The veteran or surviving spouse must show that they need the “aid and attendance” of someone else in order to do the basic activities of daily living. The VA defines the need for aid and attendance as:
- Needing help from someone else to perform personal care, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, and toileting;
- Being bedridden, meaning that your disability requires that you remain in bed most of the time; or
- Having a mental or physical condition that requires you to live in a nursing home.
Financial Need. Qualifying for this aspect of the pension is often the most difficult part. The VA simply states that the applicant must have a “financial need.” Applications are evaluated on an individual basis. Although the VA has not released a specific asset limit for qualifying for Aid & Attendance, an accredited attorney with the proper experience can advise you as to how many assets to keep in your own name.
Along with the asset test, there is also an income limit. In order to qualify for the pension, your unreimbursed medical expenses (expenses not covered by insurance or other benefits) must be greater than your gross income from all sources.
How Can I Qualify for Aid & Attendance Benefits?
Many of our clients qualify for the pension with regard to military service and medical need, but have too many assets or too much income to be immediately eligible. If this is the case, it is possible for you to re-title your assets and reallocate your income so that you qualify for the pension. This may include establishing an irrevocable trust so that you can preserve the assets you have worked so hard to accumulate while still qualifying for the Aid & Attendance pension. Setting up this type of estate plan is perfectly legal, but it is important to consult an experienced estate planning attorney while making these changes. Otherwise, you might inadvertently take action that could create a significant penalty period for the purposes of applying for Medicaid.