1. 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). Those who qualify can receive up to $1,949 per month in benefits.
2. 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 limited income or no income at all. The income limit varies on a yearly basis. You can see this year’s income limit by visiting http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Rates/pen01.htm.
- 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. For a list of dates qualifying as “wartime” dates, you can visit http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/pension/wartime.htm.
3. Who can help me with my application?
In order to be legally permitted to help you with the VA application, professionals must be accredited to practice before the VA. The VA recognizes three types of professionals who may become accredited with the VA: 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.
Anyone can discuss VA benefits in general with a veteran. However, only those accredited with the VA may discuss specific information a veteran’s claim. There is an exception for someone who wishes to help a veteran, on a one-time basis, with their application. For a better understanding of what types of assistance require accreditation, you can visit the VA Office of General Counsel at http://www4.va.gov/ogc/accred_faqs.asp.
4. How can I get the application process started?
The best way to get an early start on your VA application is to send an informal statement to the VA notifying them that you intend to file for VA benefits. By completing this form, which you can find at http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-4138-ARE.pdf, you can preserve your application date. Once your application is approved, the VA will use the date of the informal statement to calculate the amount of benefits that it owes you. Once you have sent in the form, you will have one year from that date to send the appropriate documentation for the pension application. Upon receipt of the informal statement, the VA will send you a notice that your claim is incomplete, along with the required forms. However, you do not have to wait until you receive this letter; you can print out the VA forms online and begin completing them as soon as possible.
5. How long will it take for my application to be approved?
Most applications can take anywhere from four to eight months to get approved – and this is only true 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.
6. Are there limits on how I can spend my monthly pension?
No. You may spend your pension on anything you wish – home improvements, medical expenses, caregiver payments, and even clothing.
7. 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. To view the latest rules about remarriage and VA eligibility, you can visit http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/uscode38/usc_sec_38_00000103—-000-.html or contact our office for assistance.
8. What if Dad served for less than 90 days?
One of the most basic rules when applying for the VA Aid and Attendance pension is that the veteran must have served in the military for at least 90 days, one day of which was during a time of war. However, there are a few exceptions to this requirement. If the veteran earned the Purple Heart, suffered a service-connected disability, or was killed in the line of duty, the 90-day service requirement no longer applies.
9. What are the income and asset limitations for the pension?
For veterans, the maximum income you can receive to qualify for the pension is $1,644 per month, or $19,736 per year. For surviving spouses, the maximum income is $1,056 per month, or $12,861 per year. This amount varies on a yearly basis, so it is important that you consult a professional to determine if you or your loved one is eligible. Countable income includes earnings, disability and retirement pensions, interest and dividends income from business. However, income from unreimbursed medical expenses and SSI is excluded 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.
10. 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. However, while Aid and Attendance rules apply to the whole country, each state has different Medicaid eligibility rules. If you live in a different state, it is important to consult an attorney to find out that state’s rule regarding Medicaid and Aid and Attendance. To view the official policy regarding VA Aid and Attendance and Medicaid, you can view the Virginia Medicaid Manual at this website: http://www.dss.virginia.gov/benefit/medical_assistance/manual.cgi. The section regarding Aid and Attendance is S0830.302(B)(2).
11. What about disability benefits?
If you are already receiving payments from a service-connected disability, you cannot also receive payments from a non-service 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.
12. Do I need to hire a caregiver to become eligible for the pension?
As previously discussed (see question #1), in order 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.
For example, if Mrs. Johnson is living alone in her home, but her granddaughter comes over three times a week to help her shower and clean the house and her niece calls her to remind her to take her daily medications and runs weekly errands for her, both Mrs. Johnson’s granddaughter and her niece are providing her with aid and attendance.
An elder law attorney can prepare care agreements for the veteran’s or surviving spouse’s relatives to sign, and the applicant can begin paying his or her caregivers an hourly amount for the services they provide. This serves two functions – it shows that the applicant has medical expenses and it shows that the applicant actually does require the “aid and attendance” of another person in order to live a healthy and fulfilling life.
13. 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 a form called the Eligibility Verification Report (EVR). The EVR requires disclosure of the veteran’s or surviving spouse’s income, assets, and medical expenses for the past calendar year. There is always a deadline to complete the EVR, and if you miss it, the VA could delay pension payments until you submit the EVR. Even worse, if you cannot prove that you or your family member meets the financial eligibility requirements, the VA could discontinue the pension altogether.
In order to ensure that you can complete the EVR satisfactorily, it is important that you keep a record of all expenses throughout the year. This includes doctor’s visits, payments to caregivers, and medications. If you keep inadequate records and misreport your medical expenses, the VA could reduce the amount of the pension. Seeking the help of an accredited professional can help avoid reduction or even loss of the pension. For more information or to view the actual EVR form, you can visit http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-0510-ARE.pdf.