The Veterans Administration Improved Pension, or “Aid & Attendance” program, pays monthly cash benefit to veterans who served during a period of wartime and who have become permanently and totally disabled from non-service connected causes. The Aid and Attendance benefit is available for both the veteran and the surviving spouse of a veteran. It is a cash payment benefit paid to a claimant for assistance with medical expenses and is awarded on the basis of need.
This article is only intended to provide introductory information for veterans and their spouses about qualifying for Aid and Attendance benefits. It is urged that any potential claimant seek the help of a trained professional by consulting an attorney in your state. There are many important issues, which arise when qualifying for Aid and Attendance benefits, including, but not limited to, Federal and state estate tax issues, gift tax issues, property tax issues, and Medicaid issues. It is important to understand that the law changes frequently and that any potential actions related to the planning for benefits could have unintended consequences.
There are four (4) primary requirements that the veteran must meet in order to be eligible for Aid and Attendance.
1) The Military Serve and Discharge Requirement
The veteran must have served at least ninety (90) days of active duty service with at least one (1) day of this active duty service occurring during a stated period of war. The Veterans Administration has outlined a specific range of dates for the beginning and end of each war. The veteran must have received an honorable discharge or a discharge for medical reasons with an honorable record from any branch of the armed forces. It is important to know that the veteran does not have to have seen action, fought in battle or served over seas.
2) The Medical Requirement
In order to qualify for Aid and Attendance, the claimant must establish a factual need for the “aid and attendance” of another based on the inability of the claimant to perform one (1) or more activities of daily living. Activities of daily living include: dressing, meal preparation, bathing, feeding, transfers, grooming, laundry, ambulating, personal hygiene, attending to wants of nature, medication, transportation, wound care, housekeeping, etc. A claimant should have his or her physician complete a medical evaluation certifying the claimant’s disability based on the aforementioned criteria.
3) The Asset Requirement
There is a common misunderstanding that a claimant must have less than $80,000 in countable liquid assets in order to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits; however, there is no statutory authority or regulatory limit as to how much in countable assets a claimant can own. Typically, the VA will only consider claimants eligible if their countable assets are below the $80,000 threshold. Caseworkers must take into consideration whether property can be readily converted into cash at no substantial sacrifice, life expectancy, number of dependents, potential rate of depletion, including unusual medical expenses for the claimant and the claimant’s dependents. The value of the primary residence of the claimant, as well as other personal items like a vehicle, furniture and clothing, are excluded when calculating a claimant’s assets.
4) The Income Requirement
The Aid and Attendance program is based on an “as needed” basis. In order to determine a claimant’s financial eligibility, the VA uses “Countable Income” which it computes by totaling all household income the claimant receives or will receive during a 12-month period minus the claimant’s household qualified expenses. More simply put: “Countable Income” is your household income minus your qualified medical expenses.
Below is a chart, which shows the Maximum Annual Pension Rates available for the different categories of claimants:
|Aid and Attendance Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) Category
If you are a…
Your yearly incomemust be less than:
|Maximum Monthly Pension Rates|
|Veteran with Spouse/Dependent||$23,388||$1,949|
|Two Veterans Married To Each Other||$30,984||$2,582|
|Surviving Spouse with One Dependent||$15,132||$1,261|
There are several techniques available for claimants to qualify for Aid and Attendance. Very often a claimant is eligible but for a single requirement. A good Elder Law attorney can advise a claimant and his or her family on several techniques, which may be appropriate. Some planning strategies may have disadvantages and cause an unintended detriment to the claimant. Such drawbacks could have serious consequences for the claimant, such as a revocation of the Aid and Attendance benefit or could create potential penalties for Medicaid eligibility.
It is also important to remember that Aid and Attendance is only a part of an effective estate plan. Documents such as Power of Attorney, Advanced Health Care Directive, Care Management Agreements and a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Living Trust are vital for any estate plan. It is important that a claimant have these documents in place when applying for the Aid and Attendance benefits.
The Aid and Attendance benefit is not intended to make a claimant rich. It is intended to supplement income and offset the ever-increasing costs of in-home care, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. The benefit serves an integral part of an effective estate and/or elder care plan. Those who are eligible for the benefit will possibly be able to afford in-home care, increase the level of care in an assisted living facility, increase the amount of assets passed on to future generations, and/or increase the current level of care.
If you have not already done so, then it is highly recommended that you consult with an Estate Planning or Elder Care attorney for advice and guidance before taking any actions. Maryland residents seeking advice on these issues can contact Ryan M. McConnell, Esq. for further information or to schedule an appointment to go over the many issues discussed herein.