Aid and Attendance

Summary

Aid and attendance is a Department of Veterans Affairs pension benefit for wartime veterans and surviving spouses of wartime veterans. Aid and Attendance is a tax-free benefit that is used to help pay for the cost of assisted living, home care, nursing care, adult day care, and some independent living facilities. If you are eligible, the VA will deposit money into your bank account that you then use to pay the cost of unreimbursed medical expenses.

So how much does the VA pay qualified veterans and their surviving spouses? The maximum benefit for a married veteran is $2230 per month; $1881 for a single veteran, and $1209 for a surviving spouse.
How do you qualify for this valuable benefit? Please read on to learn about the criteria for qualifying for Aid and Attendance pension.

Military Service

If the veteran served at least one day during a period of war, 90 days total active service time, and didn’t receive adishonorable discharge, then that veteran meets the service requirements for Aid and Attendance pension.

  • World War II (December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946)
  • Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam War era (February 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served outside the Republic of Vietnam.)
  • Gulf War (August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)(different service requirements)

Health/Medical

The claimant must require the care or assistance of another person to qualify for Aid and Attendance pension. The veteran or surviving spouse meets the health requirement if they need assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, ambulating, transferring, toileting, and eating/drinking.

You also meet this eligibility standard if you require care or assistance on a regular basis to protect yourself from hazards or dangers incident to your daily environment because of a physical, mental or cognitive impairment. This is known as the protected environment standard. If the veteran or surviving spouse has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia or is very frail, then they meet the protected environment standard.

Income

The income requirement can be difficult to understand. Many families are denied VA Aid and Attendance pension because of excessive income even though they have very limited monthly income. This is because they don’t have medical expenses (or haven’t reported the medical expenses correctly on the application).

The income criterion can be looked at as an unreimbursed medical expense criterion. The VA compares your medical expenses against your income. If medical expenses (home care, assisted living, health insurance premiums, etc…) are more than income, the VA will award the maximum benefit. If your unreimbursed medical expenses are less than income, then the VA will either award a partial benefit or deny benefits. Chances are good that if the claimant is an assisted living facility, they will be awarded the maximum benefit.

Net Worth

If your income is less than your medical expenses, the net worth requirement is really an asset requirement. The VA defines net worth as assets plus income. But if the claimant’s care expenses are more than their income, then net worth is really only the value of their assets.
The VA has a net worth limitation of $127,061. If you have $128,000, you are not eligible (but don’t panic – we can help you become eligible as soon as possible). If you have $126,000, then the VA says your net worth is not too high.

So, what is an asset? It’s easier to tell you what isn’t an asset. Your primary residence isn’t an asset (until its sold). Read this article to learn what you need to do before you sell your house. Your car is not an asset. Your personal belongings are not assets. Burial and final expense policies are not assets.

However, your liquid assets are assets. This means bank accounts, CD’s, IRA’s, money market account, and brokerage accounts are part of your net worth.

Marriage

This last criterion only applies to the surviving spouses of wartime veterans. If a surviving spouse divorced a wartime veteran and never remarried, they are ineligible for Aid and Attendance pension.

If the veteran died and then the surviving spouse re-married someone that wasn’t a wartime veteran, they are not eligible for benefits unless the marriage started before January 1, 1971 and ended before November 1, 1990. If the marriage did happen between those dates, the VA will consider you the surviving spouse of a wartime veteran.

Gifting

The Department of Veterans Affairs implemented a 36 month look back period effective October 18, 2018. Any gifts (assets given away for less than fair market value) completed before that date are part of the old rules. The old rules did not penalize gifting.

However, any money the veteran or surviving spouse gave away after October 18, 2018 could result in a costly penalty period. A penalty period means a period of ineligibility during which the claimant can’t receive Aid and Attendance pension. If the veteran or surviving spouse gifted money (transferred assets for less than fair market value), then they may not be eligible for VA benefits depending on how much was given away. Contact us for more information.

Crucially, the VA does not penalize gifting or transferring the primary residence.This presents a unique and valuable planning opportunity for families that own their own home.