The costs associated with long-term care add up fast. Veterans and their surviving spouses who require nursing home care or in-home care on a long-term basis may find the costs insurmountable. But there may be help available. The Veterans Administration’s (VA) Aid and Attendance pension benefit is underused. The benefit offers financial assistance to veterans and surviving spouses who need help performing daily tasks. If you are a veteran or surviving spouse you may qualify for assistance with the costs associated with elder care – even if your income is above the legal limit for a VA pension, you could be eligible due to significant medical expenses (unreimbursed).

The VA’s Aid and Attendance is a pension benefit. It is available to veterans who served a minimum of 90 days with at one of those days served during a time of war. Disabilities do not need to be service related to qualify for benefits. If a veteran or surviving spouse requires the assistance of another person to perform everyday tasks or functions like eating, dressing, or going to the bathroom, they are eligible. Eligibility requirements can apply to veterans or surviving spouses who are blind, bedridden or living in a nursing home facility.

To qualify for the VA’s Aid and Attendance benefits, the veteran or surviving spouse must have a net worth limit of $127,061 (as of 2019). This amount increases each year alongside cost-of-living. For VA benefits qualification, this number includes both assets and income. It is indexed to inflation similar to the way that Social Security increases. For instance, an applicant’s house (up to a two-acre lot) does not count as an asset even if the applicant is currently living in a nursing home care facility. Applicants may also deduct recurring medical expenses including Medicare, long-term care insurance premiums, Medigap, over the counter medicine recommended by a physician, long-term care costs, costs of in-home help for nursing or medical services, the costs of an assisted living facility, etc. Only unreimbursed expenses are deducted (not covered by insurance).

Applicants for benefits must disclose all financial transactions in the three years preceding the application. The three-year-look-back determines if the veteran transferred assets to qualify for benefits. If an applicant transferred assets to put themselves below the net worth limit during the three years before applying for benefits, are subject to a penalty period up to five years during which they are not eligible for VA benefits. For information on exceptions to the penalty period for fraudulent transfers or transfers to a trust for a child who is unable to “self-support,” contact an experienced VA benefits attorney in your area. The penalty period is determined by dividing the amount transferred that would have left the applicant over the net worth limit by the maximum annual pension rate (MAPR) for a veteran with one dependent in need of aid and attendance.

If you need help determining your eligibility for Veteran assistance for long-term health care needs, please get in touch with one of the experienced VA benefits attorneys at Aronow Law PC today. Ask us how you can qualify for the VA’s Aid and Attendance benefits and how it could help manage your health care expenses.