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Understanding Veterans Benefits For Seniors

VA Non-Service Connected Pension

The VA Non-service connected Pension program is often called, Aid & Attendance, however, Aid & Attendance is an add on for the basic VA pension.  The VA pension benefit helps supplement the income of disabled or older veterans.  Unlike the service-connected compensation, there is no need to link any disability or injury to a veterans time in service.  However, also unlike the service-connected compensation program, the VA pension program is a need-based program.

The VA Pension can grant a single veteran $1,644 per month.  A veteran with a dependent or spouse could receive $1,949 per month and the surviving spouse of a veteran can receive $1,056 per month.

VA Pension Requirements

To qualify a veteran must have spent 90 days of active duty, one day during a period of war, and be discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.  If the veteran meets that criteria then he or she must also pass an income and asset test.

The requirement of one day of active duty during a time of war is linked to the official wartimes as determined by Congress, which are:

World War I: April 6th, 1917- November 11, 1918, or until April 1, 1920 if service was in Russia

World War II: December 7, 1941- December 31, 1946

Korean War: June 27, 1950- January 31, 1955

Vietnam War: August 5, 1964- May 7, 1965 or beginning February 28, 1961 if service was in Vietnam

Persian Gulf War: August 2, 1990- Present

Once the one-day during a time of war has been established, the next step is to review the first part of the needs based test, which is the income test.  For a veteran to qualify for any portion of their Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR), they must show that their income is less than the MAPR and will be reduced dollar for dollar for each dollar of income over zero.  For example, if a veteran’s monthly benefit was $1,644 and $19,736 annually and the veteran had $19,000 worth of income for the year, then the veteran’s benefit would be $746 annually, broken into a monthly benefit.  It is important to understand that this income calculation is what is known as a quasi-household calculation in that the income of the spouse or dependent children is also considered in the calculation.

Something to note about both income as well as unreimbursed medical expenses is that they are calculated forward from the date of claim as opposed to from the past.  In other words, the veteran needs anticipated unreimbursed medical expenses that can be clearly and reasonably calculated.  The VA typically accepts anticipated costs for nursing homes and assisted living facilities without issue, however proving home care expenses can be problematic.  It is key to document through the use of care contracts for family caregivers, or letters on company letterhead for commercial home care.  Additionally, in the case for home care, unless the veteran is deemed housebound or in need of aid and attendance, the caregiver must be a licensed health professional or the expense will not be deductible.

The asset test is not a hard line number.  The VA looks to the entirety of a veteran’s net worth in order to determine if the veteran’s assets are excessive.   While there is no hard line rule, the rule of thumb that is a married veteran cannot have more than $80,000 in total assets and a single veteran cannot have more than $40,000 in total assets.  These numbers would be adjusted down the older a veteran is.  Comparable to Medicaid, a veteran is allowed to exempt a primary residence as well as one automobile.

Conclusion

While there are asset and income tests for this program, a visit to a highly qualified elder law attorney who is accredited with the VA may provide strategies to aid a veteran (or surviving spouse) the hard earned benefits they deserve through their service to our country.  Some of these strategies may include Legacy Deeds, Care Contracts, or VAPT’s.

Through proper planning a veteran and their family can make use of a well deserved resource that can help keep the veteran at home or in assisted living longer by better being able to pay the cost of care. 

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