One of the services Elder Law and Estate Planning attorneys often provide is helping clients navigate the application procedures and bureaucratic systems for the various state and federal medical insurance programs; and one thing that remains a surprise throughout the years is how many people forget about the VA Aid and Attendance Program for war veterans.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs website, VA Aid and Attendance is “a benefit paid to wartime veterans [or their spouses] who have limited or no income, and who are age 65 or older, or, if under 65, who are permanently and totally disabled.” Unfortunately, too many veterans and their spouses are unaware that they qualify for this benefit, or even worse, have never been informed that the program exists.

An informative article in the Washington Post quotes the VA’s deputy undersecretary for disability assistance as saying that he believes they are only reaching “about one in four eligible veterans.” Part of the reason for this is that “there are a lot of veterans where it’s been 40 years or more since they’ve been on active duty. It just doesn’t occur to them there may be a benefit from the VA.”

If you are a war veteran over the age of 65 it is very likely that you and/or your spouse qualify for Aid and Attendance Benefits. Eligibility requirements include:

  • You served at least 90 days of active military service 1 day of which was during a war time period. (If you entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally you must have served at least 24 months, or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty.)
  • You were discharged from service under conditions other than dishonorable.
  • Your countable family income — after subtracting unreimbursed care and medical expenses — is below a yearly limit set by law (The yearly limit on income is set by Congress.). Basically, your NET family income–after subtracting unreimbursed care and medical expenses — must be less than the applicable VA Pension rate in order to receive the difference as pension.
  • Pension Rate:  A Vet qualifying for Aid & Attendance pension in 2020 would receive up to $1,911/month if single, and a married Vet would receive up to $2,266/month.
  • Your Net Worth of you and spouse, if any, is less than $129,094 (for 2020). Net Worth is defined as the sum of  (1) your savings and other non-exempt assets, PLUS (2) one year’s worth of your household income.
  • You must need help with at least one activity of daily living: dressing, eating, walking, bathing, adjusting prosthetic devices or using the toilet. Those who are blind, living in nursing homes or require in-home care may also be eligible.

For many veterans and their families the financial assistance they receive from their VA Aid and Attendance benefits can be an incredible help. This is especially so if the Veteran needs care at home or in an Assisted Living or Board and Care Facility, as in California the Medi-Cal program usually does not offer a subsidy for those care venues, but usually only for persons receiving care in a Nursing Home.

“Unfortunately, the application process required to receive the benefits can be daunting. It’s not a simple process. A&A applicants must mail the forms, copies of service records, marriage certificates, proof of insurance and medical records to the regional VA office. If a third party is making the application, an additional form, 21-22-a or 21-0845, must be completed”

If you think you may be eligible for VA Aid & Attendance Benefits, check out the information on VA Pension Benefits by clicking this link:  VA Pension Benefits. For the current Net Worth and Pension Benefit Rates effective 12/01/2019 and continuing to 11/30/2020, click here.

Updated 01/12/2020.