As we have discussed in previous newsletters, one of the best kept secrets of the Department of Veterans Affairs is the veterans 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.
Aid and Attendance Benefit
There is a specific type of VA pension which is of particular importance. It is called the “Aid and Attendance” (or A&A) pension and is available to those veterans who are disabled and require the aid of another person to perform personal functions 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 2014, a single veteran can receive a maximum of $1759.00 per month. A married veteran can receive up to $2085.00 per month. A surviving spouse in 2014 will be able to receive up to $1130.00 per month. These figures are based upon the most recent cost-of-living adjustments.
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 2014, a married veteran’s annual income for the limit A&A benefit is about $25,000.00. 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. Bill Jones is an 82 year old Korean War veteran. Due to his dementia, he recently moved from his Flint home into an assisted living facility which costs about $3,500.00 per month. His pension and Social Security income total $1,800.00 each month. With savings of only $25,000, he applies for the A&A pension. The VA considers the cost of his assisted living an unreimbursed medical expense and offsets this against his monthly income leaving Bill with negative income of $1,700.00 each month. As a result, Bill is eligible for the $1,759.00 A&A pension benefit each month. Now Bill will be able to afford the assisted living and still be able to pay the taxes, utilities, insurance and other expenses on his home.