VA Aid and Attendance Basics
The purpose of the VA (Veterans Administration) Improved Pension, also known as non-service connected benefits or generally referred to as “Aid and Attendance”, is to give qualified veterans additional income when their long term care and medical expenses become too expensive. The tax free cash benefit paid monthly assists you or your spouse with paying the monthly obligations in addition to their medical and care expenses.
The following 4 requirements must be met to qualify for VA Improved Pension.
REQUIREMENT FOR ELIGIBILITY #1: Military Service. This Military requirement for the VA Improved Pension has 3 sub-parts that must be met. You meet this requirement by providing your discharge papers or DD-214 to the VA. It also has an additional requirement if your deceased spouse was a veteran who meets the 3 sub-parts of the military service requirement.
PART #1: You need to have served 1 day during a period of war. You can find the periods of war as follows:
12-07-1941 through 12-31-1946, Inclusive
(If in service on 12-31-1946 with continuous service before 07-26-1947 (Acceptable as war time)
*Merchant Marines 12-07-1941 through 08-15-1945
06-27-1950 through 01-31-1955, Inclusive
Vietnam: (Note: Two Periods for Vietnam)
02-28-1961 through 05-07-1975, Inclusive for Veterans Who Served in Vietnam During that Period
08-06-1964 through 05-07-1975, Inclusive for All Others
08-2-1990 through (date to be determined) (No one knows at this time, since the war on terrorism is considered a continuation of the Persian Gulf War)
For national guard and reserve service, you will need active duty to fulfill this requirement.
PART #2: You must have served for a period of 90 consecutive days regardless of whether the 90 days were served during war or not during war.
PART #3: You did not receive a dishonorable discharge.
SPOUSES OF DECEASED VETERANS: In most cases, a spouse claiming this benefit through a deceased spouse must have been married to the deceased veteran at the time of the veteran’s death and the claiming spouse did not remarry.
REQUIREMENT FOR ELIGIBILITY #2: Medical Need. The Medical Need requirement for the VA Improved benefit has 3 levels of payment. Each level is similar to a disability rating. A Veteran satisfies this requirement if he or she meets any level of physical need. This requirement is proved to the VA through medical records or a physician’s report. Also note that the greater the medical needs and number of dependants, the higher the benefit you are awarded.
BASIC: Any veteran over age 65 can be awarded this Improved Pension.
HOUSEBOUND: A veteran that needs some assistance with activities of daily living and is confined to their dwelling. This level is best described as “you cannot drive, but you can do some things around the house.”
AID AND ATTENDANCE: A veteran that needs a protective environment to live or help with 2 or more activities of daily living. Activities of daily living that the VA looks at typically include feeding him or herself, help with getting dressed, help with using the restroom, and so forth. Veterans with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, blindness, or who are bed or wheel chair bound will usually meet these requirements.
How to Figure Out the Maximum Monthly Amount
Step 1: Are you a veteran or surviving spouse?
Step 2: Do you have a dependent? Yes, a spouse can be considered a dependent.
Step 3: Which one best describes the care needs of the veteran or surviving spouse of the veteran? Basic? Housebound? Aid and Attendance?
- Special Note: A healthy veteran with a spouse that needs care will qualify for the Basic Level of Improved Pension.
The monthly tax free benefits pay out as follows:
(These numbers are current as of January 1, 2014 – there are cost of living increases every few years)
Veteran with One Dependent
Basic Improved Pension $1,380
Aid and Attendance $2,085
Basic Improved Pension $1,054
Aid and Attendance $1,758
Basic Improved Pension $707
Aid and Attendance $1,130
Example: A single veteran that cannot drive (housebound) can earn up to $1,288
REQUIREMENT FOR ELIGIBILITY #3: Asset Limit. The Asset Limit requirement varies because the VA gives general guidelines to its caseworkers.
The consensus among attorneys specializing in this field is a maximum $30,000 of net worth for single veterans or surviving spouses, and $50,000 for married couples. If you are below these numbers, you usually meet the asset requirement for this benefit. However, it is important to emphasize that the VA does not have a hard and fast number for permitted net worth.
It is a well circulated that the limit is $80,000 – that number appears in the VA employee manual as the asset limit requiring additional review from other VA employees. However, the prevailing belief is that the lower the amount of countable assets, the faster the approval time.
The maximum net worth allowed is the random VA caseworker’s subjective analysis. The VA caseworker’s manual requires the claims examiner to consider the claimant’s age, life expectancy, and income during their net worth evaluation. Claims examiners are instructed to consider whether it is reasonable, under all circumstances, for the claimant to spend their assets on healthcare.
To determine your net worth, you count the amount in your bank accounts, IRA, Roth IRA, investment accounts, stocks, bonds, annuities, cash value life insurance, CDs, money market accounts, rental properties, raw acreage, and other investments. Of course, you may subtract debts to come up with net worth.
Basically, the VA counts any and all assets that you have any control over. Control means you personally own the asset, you receive a direct financial benefit from the asset, or have the legal ability to direct how the assets is invested, when it is sold, or to whom it is distributed to when you pass away.
The most common asset that you do not count is your primary residence, but the primary residence could disqualify you from VA benefits in the future if it is sold.
Generally, the lower the assets, the faster you will be approved for Improved Pension (if all other requirements are met) and it is more likely that you will meet the Asset Limit Requirement.
Currently, you can transfer assets without legal penalty in the eyes of the VA in order to qualify. Don’t give money away just yet! There are costly traps awaiting families that gift assets, which will be explain further in this report. Also note that Congress is attempting to close this loophole as of the date of publishing this report.
REQUIREMENT FOR ELIGIBILITY #4: Income Test. The Income Test can get tricky. Basically, if your unreimbursed medical expenses exceed your gross income, then you get the full cash benefit indicated above. Please re-read this paragraph after you read the explanation in greater detail.
First, the VA looks at your gross income before deductions for taxes, health care, or Medicare Part B. This includes all forms of income: social security, rentals, investment interest and dividends, long term care insurance payouts, and your pension.
Next, the VA looks at your unreimbursed medical expenses (UME). UME typically includes assisted living fees, caregiver costs, health insurance premiums and deductibles, long term care insurance premiums, medical supplies, and medications.
Then, the VA subtracts your UME from your gross income. If your UME exceeds or equals your gross income, you get the full benefit amount in the tables included under REQUIREMENT FOR ELIGIBILITY #2. If your UME is less than your gross income, then the VA subtracts that difference from the benefit amount in the tables included under REQUIREMENT FOR ELIGIBILITY #2.
An example of the Income Test may help. For example, if you are a single veteran needing aid and attendance with a gross income of $2000 and UME of $1500, you review the chart and see the maximum benefit is $1,703. You then would subtract the difference between gross income and UME of $500 from the maximum benefit of $1,703. The result is a monthly benefit of $1,203. On the other hand, if your UME is $2,500 per month, you will get the maximum benefit on the chart of $1,703.