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VA Aid & Attendance: Never Give Up!

Never give up! Those words may bring back old memories, maybe of the high school football coach or an Army drill sergeant who constantly reminded you not to settle for less and to keep trying? In the back of your head, even when you know you couldn’t do it, there was that voice that told you to push on and take another crack at it and eventually you succeeded.

Going after a program like the Veterans Administration’s Aid and Attendance Benefit is a lot like that. You might get discouraged because you were denied, with no apparent reason spelled out, and for the most part you give up. But you know what? You should heed the old sergeant’s words and keep at it, because this is tax-free money that could allow you to receive medical care while still at home, or help offset the monthly bill for an assisted living community.

Wartime veterans and their surviving spouses, 65 years and older, may be entitled to this benefit. Approximately one out of four seniors could qualify for the Aid and Attendance Benefit, but surprisingly, only five percent of U.S. seniors are actually receiving it. It is a special monthly needs-based program available to wartime veterans or their surviving spouses. The amount of money received varies depending on the applicant’s circumstances.

Why is it that so many people are eligible for Aid and Attendance but aren’t applying?

There are two primary reasons why veterans and their families don’t apply for this underused benefit: time and the application process.

Time. It can take four to 16 months for an application to be approved. There are no rules to determine how long acceptance will take. Remember, you’re dealing with a government agency and it moves at its own pace. Waiting that long for approval is realistic, and that could be a big turn-off. Most people may not be aware that Aid and Attendance is retroactive to the application date. If you submitted your application on Nov. 1, 2013, for example, but weren’t approved until June 1, 2014, your first benefits check would be for that seven-month waiting period. The regularly monthly check that arrives on July 1, 2014 would be for the standard amount.

The application itself. Like the Medicaid application, the Aid and Attendance application is a long and complicated process. A common mistake is trying to do the application on your own, and this leads to mistakes. A crucial piece of information is overlooked or you didn’t consider your checking account as an asset. Remember the old adage about crossing all the T’s and dotting the I’s? The Aid and Attendance application is a great example of that. One missed T could disqualify you for benefits for up to a year.

Need more convincing to pursue the Aid and Attendance Benefit?
  • With the benefit in hand, you are able to afford the medical care you need.
  • You never have to pay it back. It’s completely tax-free!
  • Like Social Security, Aid and Attendance is dependable and is paid directly to you!
  • This benefit can be used for in-home care, residential care facilities, and assisted living communities.
It’s worth going after! There are just specific criteria that need to be met.
  • 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): 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.

Just because you weren’t boots on ground in 1944 France or 1968 Vietnam doesn’t mean you wouldn’t qualify. You could’ve been a cook on a destroyer in the South Pacific in 1943 or 1969 and qualify. Under the VA guidelines, you would qualify. However, if you were on a destroyer in 1949 or stationed in Germany in 1959, you wouldn’t qualify for Aid and Attendance. Even though you were drafted into the service and proudly served your country, that period of time was not considered wartime.

When you’re looking at the Aid and Attendance program, remember to seek professional help. You can ask an elder law attorney or an estate planner where to go and what to do. Generally they will know where you should turn.

Now that you’re a little more informed on the Aid and Attendance Benefit, are you ready to give it another go? You should.