Vets – How Are You Going To Pay For Assisted Living?

Veterans Assisted Living

Are you a Veteran?  Hats off to you and thank you for your service.   Some say it seems that the US government does not help its veterans to the extent they should.  Now, good news for those qualified veterans who are in great need of help with activities of daily living.

The “VA Aid and Attendance Pension” (A&A) was designed as a pension intended to pay for personal care for qualified veterans with non-service-related illness and disabilities. To be eligible, a veteran needs to have served at least 90 days in the service, have at least one day served during wartime.  Wartime veterans who entered active duty on or after 9/9/1980 must have completed at least 24 months of military service or the period for which they were ordered to active duty.  A&A is available to the qualified veteran and his/her spouse who require regular attendance of another person to assist with activities of daily living and have un-reimbursed medical expenses.  These people may be living at home, a resident of a nursing home, or in assisted living.

Eligible veterans who are under age 65 and on SSI may qualify.  In addition, the (un-remarried) widow or widower, who was married at least one year, to a qualified veteran may also qualify.

The A&A Pension can provide up to $1,794 monthly to a veteran, $1,153 monthly to a surviving spouse, or $2,127 monthly to a couple. This pension is tax free.  Statistically, Chris Adams of Knight Ridder Newspapers states that 73% of eligible veterans who meet criteria are not receiving this little known pension.

The veteran and/or spouse must prove eligibility for the A&A pension.  The application may be obtained from sources listed in the last paragraph and will require a copy of DD-214 or separation papers, medical evaluation from a physician, current medical issues, net worth limitations, and net income, along with out-of-pocket medical expenses.

It is important to know that you can have assets and income and still qualify for the A&A pension.  In some cases a person may need to change the format of their assets by estate planning and income to qualify, and in many cases this should and can be done.  In fact, this presents a good time to review wills, trusts, and one’s legal needs.

A 1994 VA report used census and other data to estimate that 853,000 veterans and 1.1 million spouses, mostly widows, are eligible for A&A pensions but do not receive them.  Among those likely to qualify, only 27% of veterans and 14% of their surviving spouses receive the benefit.

The A&A pension has been available for qualified veterans since 1952, however has not been promoted.  Many people who apply are initially turned down, make some minor changes, reapply, and then are approved.  So, if a person applies and are told no – “no may not really mean no”.  That person should learn why the VA said they did not qualify and then they could analyze their situation, explore making changes and re-apply and could possibly be awarded the pension.  Be persistent!

Advice to the wise: get professional help. Much like a complicated tax situation, estate planning or a Medicaid application it is prudent to seek professional help making a VA Aid & Attendance Application.  A VA Accredited Attorney can better present a thorough and complete application and provide the most likelihood of an appropriate approvable. The Accredited Attorney can also follow-up on the status of submitted applications on a regular basis which could keep the app moving or discover any additional information that might be needed.  Not only would use of a VA Accredited Attorney probably save processing time and provide more certainty for success; it will certainly reduce stress.

Fadi Rustom, a partner of Hall Rustom and Fritz is a Peoria based VA Accredited Attorney.  His office is located in Peoria and he can be reached at 309-699-4691. Helpful resource information can be found at the V.A. website, www.va.gov (then search this site for Aid & Attendance), by calling 1-800-827-1000.  As always, if we can provide further information, feel free to call our office.