Memorial Day is right around the corner. Talking about home care for veterans on the holiday that’s the unofficial kick-off to summer may not be on your list, but now is a good time to do so.
When people think about veteran’s home care, they might not think much more than what the Veterans Affairs (previously known as the Veterans Administration) offers them. In other words, it’s easy to assume that the VA will be able to provide the right accommodations and care for aging veterans. However, that’s not the case.
The VA does offer what is called the Aid and Attendance pension that can provide monetary assistance to veterans and their spouses to help pay for home care. For more than 30 years, Aid and Attendance has financially helped seniors stay at home longer, receive services at home, and even help pay for some of the costs of assisted living.
Aid and Attendance is a special monthly needs-based program available to wartime veterans or surviving spouses. It is not a stand-alone benefit; it’s an additional allowance that a veteran or surviving spouse may be entitled to because of his or her wartime service and non-service-connected disability, if certain medical and financial requirements are met.
Approximately one out of four seniors could qualify for the Aid and Attendance Benefit under the right conditions. What are those conditions?
- The veteran 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 require the assistance of another person to perform some of the activities of daily living (ADLs). The ADLs are eating, bathing, toileting, dressing, and transferring (walking).
- Meet the income and countable asset criteria established by the VA.
- 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, your loved one didn’t have to be involved in combat, or even in the theatre of operations. For example, your neighbor served in the Marines during the Korean War, but Uncle Bob was an Air Force mechanic stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War. Under the guidelines created by the VA, both your neighbor and Uncle Bob could qualify.
What can Aid and Attendance funds be spent on? Someone to prepare meals, make sure he’s taking his medication, etc… There are licensed agencies in your communities who could provide personnel (a nurse or a sitter, for example) to check in on grandpa a couple of days a week. Aid and Attendance money could be used to help offset that cost.
It’s common practice for family members to lend a helping hand. Not much is thought of it because it’s family and they’re not paid for running errands or doing laundry. The Aid and Attendance funds could be used to pay someone for those tasks and chores. A legal document called a Personal Services Contract (PSC) would be required. A PSC is a contract drawn up by an attorney that outlines services between an employer (person receiving VA benefits), with an employee (another family member or close friend.) An hourly fee is established. The employee, whoever it may be, keeps a log to show what services were done and for how long.
A lot of people will prejudge his or her situation and think they wouldn’t qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits because they have too much money. Qualified financial and estate planners in your area know how to protect assets and get folks approved for Aid and Attendance Benefits on a regular basis.
Filing for Aid and Attendance is a lot like filing for Medicaid: it’s complicated. People make the mistake of trying to apply for the benefit on their own and make mistakes in the application process. The slightest mistake will disqualify you for up to a year. Seek professional help if you’re considering applying for the Aid and Attendance Benefit.
Once your application is submitted, it will take time before you’re approved. The VA says wait times vary. It could take anywhere from 3 to 6 months for veterans to get the assistance they qualify for. However, if you’re 90 years or older, your claim may be expedited. But don’t worry: once approved, the benefit is retroactive to the application date. So, if you applied on June 1, 2022, but were not approved until Dec. 1, 2022, your first benefits check would be for six months worth of benefits. The following month would contain the regular monthly amount.
While we’re planning our picnics and other family functions for the Memorial Day weekend, let’s not forget what this day is about, and also think about those aging veterans wh0 served our country, especially those who served during time of war. For when those veterans require home care, this country owes them at least that.
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