The cost of long-term care can add up quickly.
But if you’re a veteran — or the surviving spouse of a veteran — who needs nursing care, help is available in the form of an underused pension benefit called Aid and Attendance.
This program provides money to those who need help carrying out everyday tasks. It’s even open to veterans whose income is higher than the threshold for a VA pension, provided they have large medical expenses for which they do not receive reimbursement.
The Aid and Attendance program is available to veterans who served at least 90 days, at least one day during wartime. The veteran does not have to have service-related disabilities to qualify.
Veterans or surviving spouses are eligible if they require the aid of another person to perform everyday activities such as bathing, feeding, dressing or using the bathroom. This includes individuals who are bedridden, blind or live in an assisted living.
To qualify the veteran or spouse must have under $80,000 in assets, excluding a home and vehicle. In addition, the veteran’s income must be less than the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR). These are the MAPRs for 2017:
- Single veteran: $21,531
- Veteran with one dependent: $25,525
- Single surviving spouse: $13,836
- Surviving spouse with one dependent: $16,506
Income does not include welfare benefits or Supplemental Security Income. And income can be reduced by subtracting unreimbursed medical expenses paid by the veteran or a member of his or her family.
This can include Medicare, Medigap, and long-term care insurance premiums; over-the-counter medications taken at a doctor’s recommendation; the cost of an in-home attendant who provides medical or nursing services; and the cost of assisted living. These expenses must be unreimbursed (in other words, insurance must not pay the expenses). They should also be recurring, meaning that they should recur every month.
How it works
The amount of Aid and Attendance benefit a person receives depends on his or her income. The VA pays the difference between the veteran’s income and the MAPR. For example, assume that John, a single veteran, has income from Social Security of $16,500 a year and a pension of $12,000 a year, so his total income is $28,500 a year.
He pays $20,000 a year for home health care, $1,122 a year for Medicare, and $1,788 a year for supplemental insurance, so his total medical expenses are $22,910. If you subtract his medical expenses from his income ($28,500 – $22,910), John’s countable income is $5,590. That means he could qualify for $15,941 ($21,531 – $5,590) in Aid and Attendance benefits.