As we have discussed in previous newsletters, one of the Veterans Administration’s best kept secrets is the veteran’s pension for a non-service connected disability. This benefit – a pension program – does not require a wartime injury. It is available to veterans and their spouses provided the veteran is disabled, served for no less than 90 days with at least 1 day during wartime and was honorably discharged. This pension benefit can be a tremendous blessing for those disabled veterans who are facing the burden of paying for assisted living, nursing home or in-home care.
There is a specific type of VA pension which is of particular importance. It is called the “Aid and Attendance” (or A&A) benefit and is available to those veterans who are disabled and also require the aid and attendance of another person on a regular basis. This for example, would include needing assistance with bathing, dressing, preparing meals, eating, etc. Under this program beginning in January of 2012, a single veteran can receive a maximum of $1703.00 per month. A married veteran will be able to receive up to $2019.00 per month. A surviving spouse in 2012 will be able to receive up to $1094.00 per month. These are the first cost-of-living adjustments since 2008.
The A&A pension also has asset and income limitations that must be met in order to qualify. Generally, it is presumed that a single person can have up to $50,000 of countable assets (excluding a home and car) and a married veteran’s countable assets cannot exceed $80,000. These figures however decrease steadily as the veteran or spouse ages.
The VA also sets family income limits which the applicant cannot exceed. In 2012, a married veteran’s annual income limit for the A&A benefit is about $24,000.00. The income limits however, can be offset by unreimbursed medical expenses. For example, the cost of a nursing home, assisted living or the expenses incurred for in-home care can be deducted from the person’s income.
A simplified example will help explain. 79 year old Bill Jones is Korean War veteran. Due to his dementia, he recently moved from his Flint home into an assisted living facility which costs about $3,000.00 per month. His pension and Social Security income total $1,800.00 each month. With savings of only $35,000, he applies for the A&A pension. The VA considers his assisted living expense of $3000.00 per month as unreimbursed medical expenses and offsets this against his monthly income leaving Bill with negative income of $1,200.00 each month. As a result, Bill is eligible for the $1,703.00 A&A pension benefit each month. Now Mr. Jones will be able to afford the assisted living and still be able to pay the taxes, utilities, insurance, etc. on his vacant home.