The VA’s Best Kept Secret

Government benefits, designed to assist seniors reduce or eliminate long term care costs, are not always available to all seniors who need them. It can be frustrating for a family to struggle with the reality of not having sufficient funds to pay for long term care or home caregivers, but then be told by a government agency that they have too much money to qualify for aid. In this article, we are going to take an in-depth look at the VA Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit and how it may help the senior veteran, or their spouse, in your life.

The Veterans Administration (VA) Aid and Attendance Benefit is actually classified as a “pension” by the VA and is a great source of funds for financially constrained wartime Veterans and/or their surviving spouses to use for their long term care costs such as living at home with a caregiver, adult day care, independent living with a caregiver, assisted living, and/or skilled nursing.

While family income is one of the determining factors of eligibility, it is important to be aware that the VA allows individuals to deduct their unreimbursed medical expenses, which includes their health insurance premiums, home care, assisted living, adult day care, caregiver, and nursing home costs from their income. As a result, many Veterans who may not have previously qualified might now qualify if long term care has become necessary for them or their spouse. As a general rule, to qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit, a family's total assets (excluding their primary residence and vehicles) cannot exceed $125,000.  Fortunately, many individuals have assets in surplus of this number. The good news is that with the right strategies and planning, they can still position them to qualify.

A few things worth mentioning:

  • Currently this benefit has a 3-year look-back period as far as gifting/transferring assets is concerned. If assets are gifted within 3 years of applying, the applicant can be penalized, thus having to wait to obtain benefits;
  • The benefit ranges from a little over $1,200/month (for a surviving spouse) to a little over $2,200/month (for a Veteran with a dependent);
  • The benefit is tax free

In the end, the VA Aid and Attendance pension is a heavily untapped, but much deserved, benefit for those Veterans and/or their surviving spouses who served and fought for our country.

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