Don’t Forget About VA Aid & Attendance

Memorial Day is more than just the start the start of summer. It’s an exclusive American holiday honoring American soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Here are some interesting facts to consider as we prepare to commemorate Memorial Day: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 18.8 million military veterans. Of that figure, 9.3 million are veterans age 65 and older.

You wonder about the older veterans and their particular situations. Are they still at home, being cared for by loved ones, or in assisted living facilities or nursing homes? As you ponder this further, you question if they know about the Veterans Administration’s Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit?

Often referred to as the “ghost benefit” because an estimated 70 percent of qualifying veterans are unaware of it, Aid and Attendance is a needs-based program paid to a veteran or the widow/widower of a veteran (who hasn’t remarried) whose health condition require non-medical, or personal care. This benefit will pay for long-term care, adult day care, skilled nursing care or house care, as well as be used to pay a family member other than a spouse to care for the veteran at home.

Here’s something big to remember: the veteran earned this benefit due to his or her service to our country. Before a veteran can start receiving the extra income, there are some requirements that must be met. There needs to be a reasonable physical need for Aid and Attendance. If you family member has problems performing two or more of the five activities of daily living (ADLs), he or she may be eligible. The ADLs are eating, bathing, toileting, dressing, and transferring (walking). If he or she only has problems with one of the ADLs, that would disqualify him or her from Aid and Attendance.

There is also an income criteria need that must be met. If Dad or Uncle Bob’s income is too great, he would be automatically denied. Also, if Dad is already receiving some type of disability from the VA, he wouldn’t be permitted to receive Aid and Attendance. He can receive his disability, Aid and Attendance, but not both. You can’t double-dip.

So what conditions would get Dad or Uncle Bob approved for Aid and Attendance? There are three qualifications to receive Aid and Attendance: service, need help of assistance (the ADLs) and financial need.

He or she must have:

• Served at least 90 days of active military duty, one day of which was during a war-time period.
• The veteran was honorably discharged from the service. When applying for this benefit, the applicant would be asked to show his discharge papers, the DD-214.
• Must be 65 years and older or totally disabled.

The dates of military service determined by the VA are as follows:

World War II: Dec. 7, 1941 – Dec. 31, 1946
Korean War: June 27, 1950 – Jan. 31, 1955
Vietnam War: Feb. 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975
Persian Gulf War: Aug. 2, 1990 – present

To qualify doesn’t mean the veteran had to be involved in the fighting, or even in the theatre of operations. For example, Uncle Bob was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, but stationed in California. Under the guidelines created by the VA, Uncle Bob could qualify.

Once applied, it will take some time before approval is granted. It might take six months or longer before you receive the official letter stating you’re eligible for Aid and Attendance. But don’t worry: once approved, the benefit is retroactive to the application date. So, if you applied on June 1, 2017, but weren‘t approved until Dec. 1, 2017, your first benefits check would cover that six-month period. The following month would contain the regularly monthly amount.

On this Memorial Day, remember to thank a veteran for his or her service and sacrifice to our country. And, if the opportunity presents itself and if you know the veteran has a need, ask him if he knows about Aid and Attendance.

In no way does this article presume solid legal advice. It is to serve as a consumer guide in the complicated world of long-term care and financial strategies. It is best to consult an elder law attorney who can properly advise and draw up the necessary legal documents.