There is a special program for war period Veterans or their spouses and widows called the Improved Pension Benefit that pays a reimbursement for long term care expenses. A Veteran can also qualify for medicine and medical supplies, as well as a personal needs allowance. Qualification is subject to income and net worth limits. Importantly, the Improved Pension Benefit can be used for home care, assisted living, or nursing care. Professional assistance can be very helpful in meeting the qualification rules.
Veteran Pension Amount – A Veteran or the Widow of a Veteran may qualify for a special pension, the amount of which varies depending on the Claimant’s marital status (married, single, widowed). The following table shows the maximum net income and maximum monthly benefits available to a Veteran or their Widow. (These amounts may change each year based on the Cost of Living Index).
Current Marital Status
Maximum Net Income*
Maximum Monthly Benefits*
Rules for Qualification – There are two tests for qualification. The first test is based on facts that cannot be changed (time in service, type of discharge, etc.). However, the second level allows for the claimant to make changes in order to meet the requirements. Those changes may include the use of trusts, care contracts, and changing account ownership, as well as other strategies to become eligible.
First Level of Qualification
- The Veteran must have served 90 consecutive days on active duty (through the Vietnam War).
- The Veteran must not have received a dishonorable discharge.
- The Veteran must have served at least 1 day of active duty during a war period. There is no requirement that any service be performed in a combat zone.
- The Widow must not have divorced the Veteran or remarried after the Veteran’s death.
- The Claimant must be certified by a doctor as needing assistance with their daily living activities.
Second Level of Qualification
- The household cannot have more than the Allowable Countable Assets – this is a floating maximum, which depends on your marital status and age.
- There is also an income test that is rather complex; your household income less your unreimbursed long term care expenses must result in an IVAP less than the Pension benefit—an IVAP of zero gets you the full benefit
Planning for Veteran’s Pension – In order to qualify for the VA Aid and Attendance (A&A) or Housebound Pension Benefit for unreimbursed medical expenses, your countable assets must be below the threshold limits, and your income must meet the VA test. With proper planning, the war period Veteran, spouse, or the Veteran’s Widow can qualify for Pension moneys and other assistance, while preserving family assets. This pension will help the family pay for long term health care needs and avoid the depletion of the Claimant’s assets.
Unlike Medicaid, VA Pension can be used for all types of home healthcare and assisted living care. Also, unlike Medicaid, gifts can be made into an irrevocable trust without a sanction period resulting in ineligibility and without estate recovery. In other words, assets can be transferred just prior to qualification.
The Lost Entitlement – And Veterans Don’t Know Where to Look
An Article by William G. Alexander, J.D.
Each month, war time veterans over 65 are losing thousands of dollars to which they are entitled – if they only knew to apply for the money! You many have lost over $20,000 this year alone just because you didn’t apply for it. Most veterans and their families have never heard of the VA benefits that are available. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) never writes to those who might be eligible for cash payment or health services to say that you should look at their programs for help.
If you endured a service related injury, you probably have been receiving a VA Disability check each month (this is called compensation) and know about some of the health benefits available to you. But most veterans are not aware of the entitlements available through veterans health care, state veterans homes, home renovation grants (HISA grants), or for the income programs called Pension.
The pension, commonly called “Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit,” can provide money to pay for your home care or care in an independent living facility. Aid and Attendance can also be used to pay for assisted living or nursing care for a veteran or the veteran’s spouse. This benefit is to help a veteran pay for unreimbursed medical expenses. It is available to any veteran over 65 (or their spouse) who served during a war period (actual war zone service not required) for at least one day out of only 90 days of active duty with a discharge that was not dishonorable.
Roughly 1/3 of all Veterans over 65 can qualify for up to $1,949 a month in additional income through Pension under the right conditions. However, government statistics show only 5% of potentially eligible Veterans are receiving this pension. This benefit can help you pay anyone, including your child, for your home care. It can also be used to help you pay for professional care in your home or independent living, for assisted living, or for care in a nursing home. Think about receiving an extra $1,949 per month that you didn’t even know existed. In today’s market, it would take a million dollar bank CD to produce that much montly income.
There are three levels of Pension. The first is a basic Pension for low income Veterans. The second level is an add-on to the basic pension for Housebound Veterans. The third level is another add-on for Veterans or their spouses who have a regular need for the aid and attendance of a caregiver. Evidence of this need for care must be certified by VA as a “rating.” Based on the rating, Veterans or their surviving spouses can qualify for Pension. The basic Pension is available to low income Veteran households without a rating, but it is for a lesser dollar amount. Rated Veterans with high income can qualify with high unreimbursed medical or long term care costs.
Filing a VA claim can be time-consuming and complicated. It’s important to get help. Applications for Pension that involve a rating, evidence of prospective and recurring medical expenses, naming your fiduciaries, and an understanding of the VA application process should not be attempted without help. Applications that also involve reallocation of assets in order to qualify should not be attempted without the help of a VA accredited attorney.
It is also critical to understand that VA planning can significantly affect your eligibility for Medicaid for nursing home care and other financial assistance programs and should not be attempted without a complete understanding of your options and opportunities.