Don’t Overlook Veterans Benefits for Long Term Care
Veterans or widow(er)s of veterans may be entitled to a non-service connected monthly pension to offset long term health care costs such as home health care, assisted living or nursing homes. Many veterans are unaware of this benefit or assume they don’t qualify because they didn’t retire from the military.
The main requirements for a pension for a veteran or widow(er) are:
- The veteran served at least 90 days of consecutive active duty service, one day of which was during a wartime period.
- The veteran’s discharge was not dishonorable.
- The claimant’s income and assets are under certain limits.
- The claimant has a permanent and total disability.
There is no specified limit on the amount of assets, but the VA will look at whether a claimant has sufficient means to pay for health care, taking into account the annual health care costs, and the claimant’s life expectancy. Assets that will not be counted in the analysis are the home, car and personal belongings.
The claimant’s annual medical expenses should exceed or be close to the amount of annual income. Medical expenses include health insurance premiums, prescription costs, caregivers, home health aides and the cost of an assisted living facility or nursing home. If the claimant is a married veteran, the medical expenses of both the veteran and the spouse will be counted.
To meet the disability requirement, the claimant’s doctor must confirm that the claimant is housebound and in need of assistance from another individual. The disability does not have to be service related. People aged 65 or older are presumed to be disabled and are not required to be rated as disabled under the VA schedule.
There are three types of tax-free pensions available, each with different eligibility requirements and each paying different amounts. The maximum non-service connected pension is called Aid and Attendance, and is available to a veteran or widow(er) who is either blind, living in a nursing home, or in need of assistance to manage the activities of daily living.
2010 Maximum Pension Rates for Aid and Attendance
Single Veteran $1,644 per month
Married Veteran $1,949 per month
Widowed Spouse $1,056 per month
A veteran who qualifies for a non-service connected pension can also apply for benefits through the VA health care system, such as prescriptions, medical equipment, glasses, hearing aids and incontinence supplies.
In these difficult economic times, an extra $1,056 to $1,949 a month in tax-free income is not something to ignore. If you are a veteran or widow(er) who might qualify, or if you have a family member who might qualify, now is the time to get started gathering the necessary information and filing a claim. It can take six months or longer for a claim to be processed, but once a claim is approved, payments will be retroactive to the month after the claim was filed.
Information and assistance on filing non service-connected pension claims is available on line at www.va.gov, through veterans’ service organizations, and through attorneys or other agents who have been accredited by the Veterans Administration.