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Veterans Guide to Senior Care

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?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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:

  1. The veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty, with one of those days being during active wartime.

  2. 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.

Basic Eligibility

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:

  1. 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

  1. The VA also looks at assets when determining eligibility.

According to the VA, “There is no set limit on how much net worth a veteran or dependent can have, but net worth cannot be “excessive.” The decision as to whether a claimant’s net worth is excessive depends on the facts of each individual case. All net worth should be reported, and the VA will determine if a claimant’s assets are sufficiently large that the claimant could live off these assets for a reasonable period of time.”

Learn more about VA benefit eligibility in the detailed expert e-book.

Aid for Various Senior Living Types

Eligibility for veterans’ benefits also depends on the type of senior living community your family is considering:

  • Adult Day Services — Adult day service providers offer assistance, supervision and meals during the day. They are often a solution for family caregivers who are employed during the day, or who need a chance to run errands or have some time alone. Typically, the amount paid for adult day services may be deducted from gross income when applying for Homebound or Aid & Attendance pensions.

  • Assisted Living — Assisted living communities have emerged in the last two or three decades as an alternative to nursing homes for those who need some care, but not 24-hour skilled nursing care. Aid & Attendance can help qualified recipients pay for assisted living.

  • Independent Living Retirement Communities — While many independent living communities offer amenities like housekeeping, hot meals and transportation; personal care is still the seniors’ responsibility. So many applicants are denied benefits in independent living retirement communities, but may qualify for benefits upon moving to a community that requires more assistance with activities of daily living.

  • In-Home Care — Home care expenses can be deducted from gross income when applying for Homebound or Aid & Attendance pensions, if the expenses are incurred with a licensed home care agency or a private caregiver.

  • Memory Care — Memory care is a specialized kind of assisted living for people with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other cognitive disorders. Most residents who need to reside in a memory care community qualify for Aid & Attendance clinically as a result of their dementia diagnosis. Because of its high cost, Aid & Attendance can be immensely helpful to families with a loved one who needs memory care.

  • Nursing Homes — Nursing homes offer the highest level of care. Nursing homes are generally the appropriate care option for people who are completely immobile, who require medical attention on an ongoing basis, or who require high acuity care for things like feeding tubes or tracheostomies. Since nursing home care is very expensive, VA benefits can be used to help pay for care. Each veteran seniors’ unique situation depends on the level of financial eligibility.

  • Residential Care Homes — Costs vary widely for residential care homes, but usually range from $2,000 to $5,000 per month. As with assisted living, Aid & Attendance works well to help pay for residential care homes but typically only if the home is licensed by the state.

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