Veterans Benefits

Home / Blog / Archive by category "Veterans Benefits"

Two Important Statistics Related to Aging in America

Two Important Statistics Related to Aging in America

1.  The life expectancy of today’s senior is roughly a decade longer than the previous generation of seniors.

2.  Over the next 25 years, the senior population is expected to increase 70%.

In a nutshell, the future holds that there will be more seniors and they will be living longer….and the need for estate planning and long term care planning for Medicaid and VA benefits are set to increase significantly.

 

 

What are VA Aid and Attendance benefits

Aid and Attendance is a benefit paid by Veterans Affairs (VA) to veterans, veteran spouses or surviving spouses. It is paid in addition to a veteran’s basic pension. The benefit may not be paid without eligibility to a VA basic pension. Aid and Attendance is for applicants who need financial help for in–home care, to pay for an assisted living facility or a nursing home. It is a non–service connected disability benefit, meaning the disability does not have to be a result of service. You cannot receive non–service and service–connected compensation at the same time. Aid and Attendance benefits are paid to those applicants who:

  • Are eligible for a VA pension
  • Meet service requirements
  • Meet certain disability requirements
  • Meet income and asset limitations

Who is Eligible for Veterans Affairs Basic Pension and Aid and Attendance?

A pension is a benefit that the VA pays to wartime veterans who have limited or no income and who are at least 65 years old or, if under 65, are permanently or completely disabled. There are also “Death Pensions,” which are needs based for a surviving spouse of a deceased wartime veteran who has not remarried.

What are the Service Requirements for Aid and Attendance?

A veteran or the veteran’s surviving spouse may be eligible if the veteran:

  • Was discharged from a branch of the United States Armed Forces under conditions that were not dishonorable AND
  • Served at least one day (did not have to be served in combat) during the following wartime periods and had 90 days of continuous military service:
    • World War I: April 6, 1917, through November 11, 1918
    • World War II: December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946
    • Korean War: June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955
    • Vietnam War: August 5, 1964 (February 28, 1961, for veterans who served “in country” before August 5, 1964), through May 7, 1975
    • Persian Gulf War: August 2, 1990, through a date to be set by Presidential Proclamation or Law.

If the veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally he/she must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty (there are exceptions to this rule).

What are the Disability Requirements for Aid and Attendance?

Veterans, spouses of veterans or surviving spouses can be eligible for Aid and Attendance benefits if they meet the following disability requirements:

  • The aid of another person is needed in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting himself/herself from the hazards of his/her daily environment; or
  • The claimant is bedridden, in that his/her disability or disabilities require that he/she remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment; or
  • The claimant is in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity; or
  • The claimant is blind, or so nearly blind as to have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less, in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.

What are the Income Requirements for Aid and Attendance?

The claimant’s countable family income must be below a yearly limit set by law. Countable Income means income received by the claimant and his or her dependents. It includes earnings, disability and retirement payments, interest and dividends, and net income from farming or business. A claimant must report all income, but the VA will exclude any income that the law allows. Public assistance, like SSI, is not counted as part of countable income. The annual income limits for the Aid and Attendance program are higher than those set for the basic pension. The maximum Aid and Attendance benefit that can be paid monthly to a single veteran is $1,704, but the veteran must have countable income of $0 to receive the maximum benefit.

The following chart includes the set yearly income rate/annual pension Aid and Attendance limit set by Congress; it also includes the maximum monthly benefit:

Aid and Attendance Maximum Annual Pension
Rate (MAPR) Category

If you are a…

Basic Pension MAPR5% of Basic Pension MAPR

(The amount you subtract from
medical expenses…)

Annual Aid and Attendance Pension Rate

Your yearly income must be less than…

Single Veteran$12,465
($1,039 per month)
$623$20,795
($1,733 per month)
Veteran with Spouse/
Dependent
$16,324
($1,360 per month)
$816$24,652
($2,054 per month)
Two Veterans Married to
Each Other
$16,324
$1,360 per month)
$816$32,115
($2,676 per month)
Surviving Spouse$8,359
($697 per month)
$417$13,362
($1,114 per month)
Surviving Spouse with
One Dependent
$10,942
($912 per month)
$547$15,940
($1,328 per month)

Unreimbursed Medical Expenses

A portion of unreimbursed medical expenses paid by claimants may reduce the countable income.

Unreimbursed medical expenses include: cost of a long term care institution or assisted living, health related insurance premiums (including Medicare premiums), diabetic supplies, private caregivers, incontinence supplies, prescriptions and dialysis not covered by any other health plan. Only the portion of the unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 5% of the basic pension MAPR may be deducted (see above chart for this amount).

What are the Asset Requirements for Aid and Attendance?

Net Worth (the value of your assets) also affects eligibility. VA pensions are a need–based benefit, and a large net worth might affect your eligibility. All personal goods are exempt from the net worth. These goods include the home you live in, a vehicle used for the care of the claimant, and household goods and personal effects such as clothes, jewelry and furniture. Unfortunately, there is no asset limit set by law, and the determination of eligibility can be made at the discretion of a VA caseworker.

Caring for Mom and Dad as they age…

Probably one of the best things about being an estate planning and elder law lawyer is that I get to work with and help seniors.  I am often dealing with the adult children of elderly parents as they are suddenly dealing with a crisis with Mom or Dad or a slow evolving process of needing to help them out as they age.

There are two main issues for us to discuss if you are helping an elderly parent.  The first issue we need to discuss is whether Mom and/or Dad have their estate planning in place and updated.  Do they have a will?  Is there a trust?  Have their assets been transferred into the trust?  Is there a recent power of attorney allowing you to make decisions for them (if they want you to do that)?  The cutoff for completing estate planning is competence.  Once a person loses competence, we lose a lot of ability to proactively complete estate planning for them.
There are alternatives.  Without a power of attorney, we’ll have to file a petition for guardianship to have the court appoint you as the legal representative.

We usually see outdated or incomplete estate planning with older clients and that’s why it’s especially important that we tackle this issue first.  Because going forward, those documents have to be done before it’s too late.

The second issue is whether Mom or Dad should stay at home, can move to an independent living facility (the next best thing to being at home), should go to assisted living or must go into skilled nursing.  This largely is going to hinge on their medical condition and whether Mom or Dad wants to move.  If they are going to a facility the question then becomes how are they going to pay for that?  It is one of the unfortunate quirks in our healthcare system that physical ailments (such as heart problems / strokes) are paid for nearly in full by Medicare, regardless of age, but diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are not covered when they require more extensive and prolonged care for their patient.

Depending on the type of facility, there are a few different ways to pay for long term care.  The first is private pay.  Next and best is long term care insurance.  Then there are government programs such as VA Aid and Attendance and Medicaid.

VA Aid and Attendance is available to veterans and surviving spouses of veterans who have served one day in a war time period, had 90 days of active duty and were discharged honorably, are in need of the “aid and attendance” of another person with the activities of daily living and have limited assets and income.

Medicaid is a federal program administered through the states and is much more stringent in the amount of assets an individual can have (in Missouri, less than $1000.00).

No matter what the circumstances, you will need a competent estate planning and elder law attorney to guide you through the process.  Estate planning and elder law has a lot of moving parts and they are constantly changing.