The Basics of Veterans Benefits
Sadly, around 69% of veterans are completely unaware of the benefits available to them — and that means many veterans are paying more for their care than they should.
At A Place for Mom, our goal is to help families find the right senior care solution. For many families in the U.S., the hardest part of the process isn’t finding the right community, it’s figuring out how to pay for it.
More than one third of Americans over 65 are either wartime veterans or the spouses of wartime vets. These individuals may qualify for a pension program through the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), commonly referred to as “Aid & Attendance,” yet only a small fraction of those who are eligible actually know about this benefit.
What Are Some of the Benefits in the Veterans Guide?
Aid & Attendance: Veterans and survivors who are eligible for a VA pension and who require the aid and attendance of another person (or are housebound), may be eligible for additional monthly payments above the normal pension amount. When applying for Aid & Attendance, you must also submit a basic pension application if you’re not currently receiving a pension. Financial qualifications for Aid & Attendance are different than financial qualifications for the basic pension alone. Therefore, some people qualify for Aid & Attendance even though they would not have qualified solely for the basic pension.
Housebound Benefits: Housebound veterans and survivors who are eligible for a VA pension may qualify for an additional benefit beyond the basic pension. Individuals who are confined to their immediate premises because of permanent disability, typically leaving only to attend doctor appointments and other medically necessary treatments, or who require the assistance of another person when leaving the home, may be considered housebound.
VA Pension: The VA helps U.S. Veterans and their families by providing supplemental income through the Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension benefit programs. The pensions are available to U.S. military veterans and widowed spouses of veterans. Pension benefits are needs-based and your “countable” family income must fall below the yearly limit set by Congress.
Eligibility for VA Benefits
VA benefit eligibility can be challenging and complex, so it’s important to understand the differences for each benefit.
Here are general requirements for the VA Pension benefit:
The veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty, with one of those days being during active wartime.
The veteran must also meet one of the following criteria:
Be age 65 or older with limited or no income
Be totally and permanently disabled
Be a patient in a nursing home
Be receiving Social Security Disability Insurance
The Aid and Attendance benefit gets even more confusing as there are specific requirements regarding which activities of daily living he or she can perform, such as bathing, dressing, feeding, preparing meals, taking medication or using the restroom. Eyesight and/or mental or physical incapacity also determines eligibility. The Housebound benefit has specific requirements as to the seniors’ confinement to their home as well as their medically necessary treatments, which are all outlined in the Veterans Guide.
To be eligible for benefits, a veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty, with one or more of those days occurring during wartime. This does not mean that the veteran had to see actual combat.
If the active duty occurred after September 7, 1980, you must have served at least 24 months or the full period that you were called to duty.
The VA’s dates of wartime are as follows:
World War II: 12/7/1941 through 12/31/1946
Korean Conflict: 6/27/1950 through 1/31/1955
Vietnam War: 8/5/1964 through 5/7/1975, although veterans who served in Vietnam itself (“in country”) as early as 2/28/1961 may also qualify.
Gulf War: 8/2/1990 to date to be determined by U.S. government (The Iraq War and Afghanistan War have not been officially declared wartime periods by the U.S. congress, but according to our research totally disabled veterans of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan may qualify.)
To learn more about each benefit, eligibility and qualifications, as well as to get examples of which veterans qualify for benefits, download the Veterans Guide to Senior Care e-book.
Financial Eligibility for Veterans Benefits
Financial eligibility is determined by many factors, including a senior’s assets and income. If their assets exceed $80,000 and their income is over the maximum amount after deducting out-of-pocket expenses from their gross income, they’ll most likely be denied.
Here are some important determinants of financial eligibility for VA benefits:
The veteran or widow must have a countable income below the amount set by Congress.
Countable income includes income such as: disability and retirement payments, interest and dividend payments from annuities, and net income from farming or a business
Income from eligible dependents is considered countable income
Some expenses, such as unreimbursed medical expenses, Medicare premiums and Medicare Supplemental Insurance Premiums may reduce your countable income