Veterans, and their dependents, are entitled to a number of benefits and qualify for numerous assistance programs as a result of their service. One program that can help veterans and their spouses put off the need to move to long-term care is the Veterans Aid & Attendance program. The VA&A program is not a well-known program; however, the benefits it provides can make a huge difference to seniors wishing to remain in their homes. The Veterans Aid & Attendance program recently announced some important changes to the eligibility requirements that veterans should be aware of as the changes may require them to plan ahead to ensure eligibility.
What Is the Veterans Aid & Attendance Program?
Administered by the Veterans Administration, the Veteran’s Aid & Attendance (VA&A) program is intended to provide additional monetary assistance, above and beyond that provided by other VA programs such as the VA pension program. The additional assistance is intended to help cover the cost of someone to help you with daily tasks of living, such as dressing, bathing, or cooking. Currently, the VA&A program pays up to $2,169 per month to an eligible veteran (or up to $1,178 per month to the widow/widower of a veteran) who is in need of aid and attendance from a health care provider. That care can be provided by a child as long as there is an adequate written caregiver agreement between the parent and child.
Current Eligibility Requirements for Veterans Aid & Attendance
As a veteran or surviving spouse of a veteran, you may be eligible for assistance through the VA&A program if:
- You must be eligible for pension or, if you are a surviving spouse you must be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, or DIC.
- In addition, one of the following must apply:
- You require the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting yourself from the hazards of your daily environment.
- You are bedridden, in that your disability or disabilities requires that you remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment.
- You are a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity
- Your eyesight is limited to a corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less in both eyes; or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.
- You must be at least 65 or officially disabled if younger.
- If you are a veteran, you must be considered a “wartime veteran” meaning you served at least 90 days and served at least 1 day during a qualifying wartime.
- You, or your spouse if applying as a survivor, cannot have been dishonorably discharged.
- You are not required to be disabled; however, a higher benefit is available to those who are disabled.
- If you are a surviving spouse, you must have been living with the veteran at the time of their death and must be single at the time of claim.
Finally, there are also income and asset limits that you cannot exceed. The income limit changes each year. The veteran’s (and spouse’s if applicable) income minus unreimbursed medical expenses (including the cost of a caregiver in many cases) is subtracted from the benefit to be received. If this net income exceeds the amount the veteran/surviving spouse would receive in VA&A benefits, then the applicant will not be approved for benefits. The “countable resource” (asset) limit for a veteran (and spouse) is currently $123,600. This asset limit is tied to Medicaid’s Community Spouse Resource Allowance and is also subject to change each year.
Recent Changes to the VA&A Program
The Veterans Administration recently published changes to the VA&A program. The VA has added a gifting penalty and a 36-month look-back period, similar to the rules currently used when determining eligibility for Medicaid. What the new rules mean is that the VA will now have the ability to “look-back” over your finances for the 36 month period leading up to your application. Gifts and/or uncompensated transfers of assets that occurred during the “look-back” period could cause your application to be denied or you could incur a “gifting penalty” that effectively delays your receipt of benefits.
The new provisions will apply to all gifts made after Oct. 18, 2018. The new rules mean you need to plan ahead for the possibility that you will need to qualify for VA&A benefits. Many of the same Medicaid planning tools and strategies can be used to protect your assets while ensuring that you meet the eligibility requirements for VA&A benefits down the road.
Contact Florida Veterans Aid & Attendance Attorneys
For additional information and assistance, please download the FREE solid estate plan checklist. If you have specific questions about the changes to the Veterans Aid & Attendance program, please contact the experienced Florida Veterans Aid & Attendance lawyers at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule an appointment.