One of the Veteran Administration’s best kept secrets, which is an
excellent potential source of funds for long term care (either at
home or in an assisted living facility) are veteran’s benefits for
a non service connected disability.
Most VA benefits and pensions are based on a disability which was
incurred during a veteran’s wartime service. There is another
benefit, however – a pension
program – available for individuals who are disabled due to the
issues of old age, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple
sclerosis, and other physical disabilities. For those veterans and
widows (ers) who are eligible, these benefits can be a blessing for
the disabled individual who is not yet ready for a nursing home.
There is a specific portion of the pension program which is of
particular importance. This program is “Aid and Attendance” (A and
A) and is available to a veteran who is not only disabled, but has
the additional requirement of needing the aid and attendance of
another person in order to avoid the hazards of his or her daily
environment (in other words, someone needs to help you to prepare
meals, to bathe, to dress and otherwise take care of yourself).
Under this program, a veteran can receive a maximum of $1,842.00
per month in benefits and a widow or widower can receive up to
$998.00 as a maximum benefit for A and A for the year 2008. The
applicant must be determined to be “permanently and totally
disabled”. The applicant does not need to be helpless he/she
need only show that he/she is in need of aid and attendance on a
regular basis. Someone who is housebound or is in an assisted
living facility and over the age of 65 is presumed by the Veterans
Administration to be in need of aid and attendance.
This particular program has limitations related to the income and
assets that are held by the applicant. However, in computing the
income of the applicant, certain items can be deducted.
Specifically, unreimbursed medical expenses (UMEs) paid by an
individual may be used to reduce the applicant’s income. Home
attendants or aides are an allowable medical expense deduction, as
long as that attendant is providing some medical or nursing
services for the disabled person. The cost of an assisted living
facility, and even part or all of the cost of an independent living
facility, can also be an allowable medical deduction to reduce your
gross income to a much lower net countable income that may qualify
you for veterans’ benefits.
Simplified Example: Bill Robert is a 66 year old veteran and, due
to his health needs, has caregivers coming to his home for several
hours each day. His income is $1800/month and he is paying
caregivers $3300/month. Rather than deplete his savings of
$45,000, he applies for a service pension through the VA. The VA
considers the $3500/month he is paying to his caregivers
unreimbursed medical expenses and “subtracts” the amount from his
income. In other words, when calculating his pension, the VA
considers his income to be negative $1500. He applies for benefits
and is eligible for $1500/month to help him with his bills!
To file a claim for this benefit, it is wise to seek the
involvement of a trained Elder Law attorney. They can help you
file your claim. They can also help you through all of the related
issues that come up: estate planning, disability, and coordination
of Medicaid and veterans’ benefits.
An attorney skilled in elder law can provide a veteran and the
veteran’s family with appropriate pre-filing consultations to
determine the appropriate steps that must be taken to be able to
determine if it would be right to apply for this VA benefit.
Receving this benefit can help a person stay in their home longer
or stay in an assisted living facility longer.
Until next time…
Qualified individuals should not wait too long before applying.
The approval process is often a lengthy one. I believe that funds will be paid retroactively from the day of the application…but…I’ve heard that if the individual dies after approval but before funds are sent no money will be paid.
This is very useful information. I don’t believe my parents are at this stage of needing home care other than me yet, but will be all too soon. I will keep this in mind. Thank you!!
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