Frequently Asked Questions: Veterans Benefits

What is Aid and Attendance?

Aid and Attendance is a monthly pension available to veterans or their surviving spouses who need assistance with activities of daily living (like bathing, dressing, cooking, or cleaning). A married Veteran could receive up to $2,085 per month of tax-free income to assist with unreimbursed monthly medical expenses. A single Veteran could receive up to $1,758 per month and a surviving spouse could receive up to $1,130.

What are the requirements for qualification?

In order to qualify for Aid and Attendance, veterans or surviving spouses must meet several requirements:

  • They must be 65 or older; or if under 65, they must be permanently disabled.
  • They must have recurring monthly medical expenses that match or exceed the monthly gross household income, such as prescription drug costs, home care costs, assisted living costs, or nursing home care costs. Paying a child for care is also considered a medical expense.
  • They (or their spouse) must not have been dishonorably discharged from the military (medical discharges or “other than honorable” discharges will not cause a veteran to be disqualified from receiving the pension).
  • They (or their spouse) must have served in the military for at least 90 days, one day of which must have been during a predetermined wartime period. However, it is not necessary for the veteran to have served in combat.

Who can help me with my application?

In order to be legally permitted to help you with the VA application, professionals must be accredited. The VA recognizes three types of professionals who may become accredited: attorneys, agents, and representatives of service organizations. Those applying for accreditation must submit an application and must meet certain character requirements. Additionally, all professionals except for attorneys must pass an exam that tests knowledge about all types of veterans’ claims and benefits.

How long will it take for my application to be approved?

Most applications can take four to eight months to get approved, but only if the VA does not encounter any problems with your application. The VA makes the application decision in three phases: first, it receives and reviews the application, requesting any additional information it needs to make its decision. Next, it decides whether the veteran or surviving spouse is eligible, and if so, how much of the pension he or she should receive. Finally, the VA reviews the application to make sure no errors were made during the decision phase and notifies the veteran or surviving spouse of the decision. Because this process is so lengthy, it is important to start the process of applying as promptly as possible and to make sure that your initial application includes all of the information and supporting documentation required by the VA.

What if I’m no longer married to a veteran?

If you’re no longer married to a veteran, the rules can become quite complicated. If you are a widowed spouse of a veteran who has not remarried, you will still be eligible for the pension. However, if you are divorced from the veteran or if you have remarried since the veteran’s death, the rules for eligibility vary depending on several factors, including when the marriage took place, how old the spouse was when they married, when the VA application was filed, and when the marriage ended. These laws change frequently, so it is important that you work with an accredited professional who will know the latest rules regarding remarriage.

What are the income and asset limitations for the pension?

There is no single income limit for this benefit. Veterans, or widowed spouses, must show that a large portion of their income is being spent on medical and/or care costs in order to qualify. Countable income includes earnings, disability and retirement pensions, interest and dividends income from business. However, income from unreimbursed medical and care expenses are deducted from the countable income.

As for asset limits, there is no set limit, and the determination of whether the applicant’s net worth disqualifies them from receiving the pension is made by a VA caseworker. All personal goods, such as the home, one vehicle, and jewelry, clothing and furniture are exempt from being considered as part of the net worth. If your net worth is too high for the benefit, remember that there is no penalty for transferring assets. Many families are able to transfer assets outright or to an irrevocable trust and then become eligible for the VA benefit. It is best to speak with an experienced elder law attorney to discuss your specific family situation and how you can qualify for benefits.

Can I still get Medicaid if I’m getting the VA pension?

In Virginia, income received from the VA Aid and Attendance Pension is not counted as income for Medicaid purposes. Therefore, it is possible for someone to receive both Medicaid and Aid and Attendance at the same time.

What about disability benefits?

If you are already receiving payments from a service-connected disability, you cannot also receive payments from a nonservice connected disability (i.e. Aid and Attendance). However, if you apply for Aid and Attendance and the amount you are awarded is greater than the monthly service-connected disability pension you have been receiving, the VA will pay you whichever amount is greater.

Do I need to hire a caregiver to become eligible for the pension?

To receive the VA pension, applicants must show that they require assistance with several activities of daily living. The VA application has a section for caregivers to give statements regarding how they provide assistance to the veteran or surviving spouse. However, many people do not realize that even if they do not live in a nursing home or assisted living facility, go to adult day care, or have professional caregivers coming into the home, they may still have caregivers – the friends and family that help them on a daily basis. An experienced professional who is accredited with the VA can help veterans and surviving spouses determine if their friends and family provide enough services to be caregivers.

Do I have to “requalify” for benefits every year?

Each year, people receiving Aid and Attendance must show that they are still eligible for the pension by submitting their medical expenses to the VA.

 
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