VA Aid and Attendance is an extremely valuable benefit for U.S. wartime veterans or their surviving spouse. In 2019, this pension can pay a veteran with a dependent almost $27,000 per year, tax-free. A surviving spouse can be eligible for up to almost $15,000 per year, also tax-free. This benefit is often used to pay for in-home, assisted living, or nursing home costs.
Types of VA Disability Benefits
There are two types of disability income benefits available to veterans who served in active duty:
- Compensation and
Compensation is provided to qualifying veterans to “compensate” for potential loss of income due to disability, injury, or illness incurred during service. To receive compensation, the veteran must have a service-connected disability. Compensation is not the subject of this presentation.
Pension/Non-Service Connected Disability
The second benefit is called pension, which is to provide supplemental income to disabled or aged veterans with a low income. The disability need not be service connected.
VA Pension is benefit paid to wartime veterans with limited income, and who are permanently and totally disabled or age 65 or older.
You may be eligible for VA Aid and Attendance if:
- You were discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions, AND
- You served 90 days or more of active duty with at least 1 day during a period of war time, AND
- Your countable family income is below a yearly limit set by law, AND
- You are permanently and totally disabled, OR You are age 65 or older.
Tip: The Veteran need not to have served in a combat zone. Many clients disqualify themselves mentally, assuming that since they were not in a combat zone, they do not meet this prong of the test.
Persons 65 or older are presumed disabled under this definition.
Definition of “Period of War Time”
Period of War Beginning and Ending Dates:
- World War II: December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946
- Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955
- Vietnam Era: August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975; for veterans who served “in country” before August 5, 1964, February 18, 1961 through May 7, 1975
- Gulf War: August 2, 1990 through a date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation
Pension offers different maximum benefit amounts based on whether the award is for a 1) Single Veteran, 2) Veteran with a Spouse, or a 3) Single Surviving Spouse of a Veteran.
Aid and Attendance
Additional income is payable to a household receiving VA Pension if the Veteran, spouse, or surviving spouse has additional need for their “regular aid and attendance” from another person, or is housebound.
Technically, there is no “Aid and Attendance” VA benefit. Rather, there is simply an “aid and attendance allowance’ that increases the Veteran’s pension in a nod to their additional needs above and beyond those that may only qualify for the basic VA Pension. This allowance may not be paid without eligibility for basic VA Pension, so aid and attendance can be considered and “add on” rather than a separate VA benefit as it is typically referred to.
Aid and Attendance is best thought of as for applicants that need financial help for in-home care, to pay for an assisted living facility, or nursing home. This is a non-service connected disability benefit, so the disability need not be the result of their service.
As you consider whether VA Aid and Attendance is right for you, realize that you may need Medicaid in the future. Therefore, you should ensure that any planning done to qualify for VA Pension does not cause a problem under the Medicaid rules. Consider meeting with an elder law attorney to steer clear of any pitfalls.
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