Benefits of VA Pension
Veterans are missing out on a pot of gold
You served your country during active wartime, put your life on the line, did your tour of duty and if you were one of the lucky ones, you survived and were honorably discharged back into civilian life. You may have entered the workforce, started a business, raised a family or continued to serve your country. You are a veteran and the U.S. government thanks you for your service. Years go by and time has not been so kind and you find yourself unable to care for yourself and unable to find the resources to pay for your care. Help is available through the Department of Veterans Affairs,” the VA.”
It is estimated that nearly 1.5 million wartime service veterans and their surviving spouses are eligible for help through the VA and do not even know about it. Veterans are missing out on a pot of gold. This isn’t a handout from the VA, it is an earned benefit. If you are in need of long term care through assisted living, nursing home care or even at home care and meet certain eligibility requirements, financial assistance is available to you.
The VA offers three tiers of improved pensions and each tier has its own qualifications and benefits. There is the basic pension also known as a disability pension, which is available to vets who have at least 90 days of active duty service, with at least one day during a wartime period qualify for a VA Pension. If you entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally you must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which you were called or ordered to active duty with at least one day during a wartime period.
In addition to meeting minimum service requirements, the Veteran must be:
- Age 65 or older, OR
- Totally and permanently disabled, OR
- A patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care, OR
- Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, OR
- Receiving Supplemental Security Income
Further, for a basic pension your yearly family income must be less than the amount set by Congress to qualify for the Veterans Pension benefit. Each tier of pensions has different income limits. For instance, a veteran with no dependants must have a yearly income of less than $12,868.00 to qualify for a disability pension.
Veterans in need of long term care may apply for the VA’s Aid and Attendance Pension. The Aid and Attendance Pension provides benefits that reduce the cost of care for veteran and surviving spouses of veterans who need long term care. This is entirely different than the basic pension and has its own set of qualifications and benefits. Applicants must meet an asset limit of no more than $80,000.00. Unlike the Medicaid application process, the VA does not currently have a 5 year look back period. The VA considers the value of the assets at the time of the application. This is a major plus for veterans who exceed the asset limit and still in need of aid and attendance. In situations where the applicant exceeds this limit it is advisable to seek the services of a VA accredited or elder law attorney who can assist in qualifying you for the pension.
Aid and Attendance is a benefit in addition to the monthly pension. This benefit may not be paid without meeting the eligibility to pension. A veteran may be eligible for Aid and Attendance when:
- The claimant(veteran or surviving spouse)requires the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, transferring OR,
- The claimant is bedridden, in that their disability requires that they remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment OR,
- The claimant is residing in a nursing home, assisted living community ,group home, adult day care, or similar facility due to physical or mental 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.
Eligible veterans may qualify for a pension in the amount of $1788.00 per month.
There is a misnomer that the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit is only for care in a
nursing home or assisted living facility. Many vets want to remain in their own home and are in need of additional help from a caretaker. It is important to note that if a claimant is rated by the VA as qualified for Aid and Attendance, caregivers may be family members, other than a spouse and do not have to provide medical care or be licensed. In order to have the at home services count as an allowable medical expense, the caregiver must be paid for their services. The Department of Veterans Affairs will require written proof that the services were rendered and compensation paid accordingly. It is wise to keep accurate records and receipts for caregiver services.
Outside caregivers and home health agencies like Comfort Keepers can also assist in this process. They can provide services that include bathing, grooming and hygiene to vets as well meal preparation, laundry, light housekeeping, shopping and even 24 hour care. Many veterans’ family members live outside the state and can take assurance that their loved one is receiving professional care and can receive updates form the agency. Oftentimes, this type of monitored care makes a world of difference to a veteran seeking to remain in their home. Further, professional care agencies can relieve the spouse of the burden of caring for the veteran or at the very least provide much needed respite care for the caregiver.
What good are all these benefits if you do not apply for them? Far too many veterans are in the dark as to what benefits are available to them in their time of need. Contact your local VA office and ask about applying for VA benefits. There is no fee to apply and accredited VA agencies and attorneys will not charge you to submit an application. You paid your dues and served your country, now is the time to put your hand in the pot of gold.
Joseph W. Lehn is a VA accredited Elder Law attorney with offices in Sarasota and Port Charlotte, Florida