VA Benefits: Your questions answered

Many of our clients receive the benefit Aid and Attendance from the Veterans Administration to assist with the costs associated with nursing home care, assisted living expenses and home health care expenses. Unfortunately, there are many veterans and spouses of veterans who are eligible for this benefit who are unaware that they can receive it. The purpose of this article is to discuss the requirements for eligibility for Aid and Attendance and some frequently asked questions that we have received concerning such benefits.

Military Service Requirements.  To qualify for Aid and Attendance, the veteran must serve at least 90 days of active duty, at least one during wartime. Additionally, the veteran must have received an Honorable Discharge.

Frequently Asked Question: What if my father was stationed in the United States during World War II?

Answer: As long as your father was active (as opposed to in the reserves) he did not have to be actually in a war theatre to be eligible for this benefit.

Frequently Asked Question: Is this benefit just for World War II veterans?

Answer: A veteran of any war, i.e. World War II, Korean, Viet Nam and the current war are eligible for these benefits.

Health/Medical Expense Requirements:  The next qualification is that the veteran, or his spouse, is in a nursing home, assisted living facility or receiving home health care.  The purpose of Aid and Attendance is to pay for the veteran’s medical expenses if they exceed the veteran’s or his spouse’s income. The expenses associated with a nursing home or an assisted living facility will count as medical expenses. If the veteran, or his spouse, is at home receiving home health care, the expenses associated with that home health care constitute medical expenses for Aid and Attendance as well.

Frequently Asked Question: If my father is at home receiving care from his family members, would he be eligible for Aid and Attendance?

Answer: If the care that the family is providing is such that but for such care your father would be in a nursing home or assisted living facility, he very well may be eligible for Aid and Attendance. Typically in this situation, family members need to enter into a Caretaker Agreement wherein they are legally obligated to perform such services and your father is legally obligated to pay for such services. In this instance, the caretaker payments constitute a valid medical expense for purposes of Aid and Attendance.

Asset Limitation Requirements: There are limitations on the amount of assets that the veteran can own and still be eligible for Aid and Attendance. There use to be a standard that if the spouse had more than $80,000 he had too much in the way of assets. If the spouse had less than $60,000 of assets, he would be eligible and between $60,000 and $80,000 was a gray area with no certainty. That standard has changed in that the Veterans Administration looks at a variety of factors including the spouse’s age, income, medical and non-medical expenses, marital status and health to determine whether the veteran has too many assets to be eligible for Aid and Attendance. A rough rule of thumb that we use for our clients is that if the client has less than $30,000.00 he will be eligible.

Frequently Asked Question: If my parents have too many assets is there any way for them to become eligible for Aid and Attendance?

Answer: Currently, there is no penalty imposed by the VA for the transfer of assets to qualify for aid and attendance. However, the VA is considering instituting a “3 year look-back,” which would result in a penalty. Additionally, Medicaid does impose a “5 year look-back” for gifts. Therefore, one has to be extremely careful with a transfer of assets to qualify for Veterans Administration. Many of our clients start out as VA clients but will ultimately become clients who are trying to receive Medicaid benefits. You want to be sure that the transfers made for VA benefits do not result in ineligibility for Medicaid benefits.

Frequently Asked Question: My mother was married to my father, a veteran, for 30 years before they were divorced. Is she still eligible for the VA benefit Aid and Attendance?

Answer: Unfortunately, for your mother to be eligible for Aid and Attendance she needs to be married to a veteran, or have been married to a veteran at the time of his death.  Divorce would cut off her eligibility for Aid and Attendance.