One of the Veterans Administration’s best kept secrets is the veteran’s pension for a non-service connected disability. This pension is an excellent source of funds for seniors receiving nursing home care, in-home care or residing in an assisted living facility. Many VA benefits are based on a disability that was incurred while serving in the armed forces. This benefit – a pension program – does not require a wartime injury. It is available for individuals who have served during wartime and are disabled due to the issues of old age, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s dementia, etc. It can be a tremendous blessing for veterans who are facing the burden of paying for assisted living, nursing care or in-home care.
Aid and Attendance Benefits:
There is a specific type of VA pension which is of particular importance. It is called “Aid and Attendance” (A and A) benefits and is available to those veterans who are not only disabled but require the aid and attendance of another person on a regular basis. For example, this would include needing assistance with bathing, dressing, preparing meals, etc. Under this program, a veteran can receive in 2011 a maximum of $1,949 a month and a widow or widower can receive up to $1,056 per month.
The A and A pension program has asset and income limitations that must be met in order to qualify. While the VA does not provide a specified limit of assets that are allowable, generally it is presumed that a single person can have assets (excluding a home or vehicle) of up to $50,000 and a married veteran can have assets of up to $80,000.
Regarding a person’s income, an applicant’s countable income cannot exceed the family income limits set by the VA. In 2011, a married veteran’s annual income limit for the A and A benefit is $23,396. A widow or widower’s income limit is $12,681. However, in computing the income of the veteran, unreimbursed medical expenses can be offset against that applicant’s income. For example, the cost of an assisted living facility or the expenses incurred for in-home or nursing home care can be deducted.
How it works:
Let’s take a look at a simplified example to see how this actually works. Bill Jones is a 79 year old veteran of the Korean War. Due to his poor health, he requires the assistance of caregivers several hours each day. His income is $1,800 per month and his caregivers cost $3,000 per month. Rather than deplete his savings of $42,000, he applies for the A and A pension. The VA considers the $3,000 per month he is paying to his caregivers as unreimbursed medical expenses and “subtracts” this amount from his income leaving him with a negative income of $1,200 each month. Mr. Jones applies for VA benefits and is eligible for the $1,949 A and A monthly pension to help him pay his bills.
It’s a shame that so many veterans who served our country honorably are unaware of this pension benefit – particularly at a time when so many could use it. An elder law attorney can assist veterans and their spouses in qualifying for this well deserved VA pension.