July - August 2018

Written by Chad Eichorn
From his column Elder Law

images/news/2018/elder-law-07-18_articleOne of the most common issues I discuss with people is the skyrocketing cost of assisted living, either in the home or residential environment, and long-term care. There are a variety of ways to pay for such care, including long-term care insurance (expensive), “self-insurance” (using your savings), and qualifying for aid through either state or federal programs. Today I want to discuss one exceptional federal benefit for which many people may qualify: Veterans Affairs Aid and Attendance.

Any veteran or surviving spouse of a veteran who served in active duty at least 90 days, including at least one day during wartime, is potentially eligible for benefits to help pay the cost of assisted living. Service by a veteran during wartime includes:

  • WWII: December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946;
  • Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950 to January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam Conflict: February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975 (for vets who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period, otherwise, August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975); and
  • Persian Gulf War: August 1990 to the present (includes current Iraq war and Afghanistan veterans).

For compensation, a veteran is not required to have served in combat or a combat zone and the benefit is not dependent upon service-related injury. The purpose of the pension is to assist veterans and surviving spouses with paying costs related to the activities of daily living.

Any veteran or surviving spouse of a veteran who served in active duty at least 90 days, including at least one day during wartime, is potentially eligible for benefits to help pay the cost of assisted living.

Besides the military service condition, there are three other substantial eligibility requirements. First, the veteran or surviving spouse must meet a medical needs test. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requires the pension applicant to be blind; residing in assisted living; receiving assistance with two out of the six activities of daily living; or have a physical or mental incapacity (such as Alzheimer’s) that requires assistance on a regular basis to protect the applicant from daily environmental hazards.

Second, there is an income requirement. This test combines all monthly income brought into the home, and then subtracts certain recurring, unreimbursed medical expenses. Typical medical expenses include those for Medicare parts B, D or supplement premiums, and assisted living or skilled nursing care.

Third, there is an asset test. Currently the VA reviews assets on a case by case basis, but even when families appear to have too many resources, there are spend down techniques that can help loved ones to qualify.

A veteran who qualifies for Aid and Attendance receives a tax-free monthly payment in the amount of $1,794. If qualified, the surviving spouse receives a tax-free monthly payment of $1,153. And, if both a veteran and spouse qualify, they receive a tax-free monthly payment of $2,127. While this may not cover the entire cost of needed assistance, it will certainly help.

Not everyone who reads this article is eligible for these benefits; however, you may know someone who is and is not aware of it. If you, a family member, or someone you know served during wartime and needs assistance, don’t hesitate to contact the VA or an elder law attorney for more information.

Chad Eichorn is an attorney licensed in Iowa only. This article is provided as legal information only and is not intended as legal advice. If you have questions regarding your specific situation, please contact an estate planning and elder law attorney licensed in your state of residence.