Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What is the Aid and Attendance Pension?
Answer: Aid and Attendance is the highest level awarded to a veteran or surviving spouse who requires assistance with their daily living. The applicant must show that while they may not need assistance for everything, they cannot function completely on their own. In addition to living in a facility, this care can be provided in the home by either outside agencies or family members. The benefit is paid in an income to the veteran or surviving spouse, not the care provider such as Medicaid. The funds can be used for anything, although most need the money to pay for needed care and medical expenses.
Q: What Is the amount of the Aid and Attendance Benefit?
Answer: Maximum Annual Tax Free Pension amount as of January 2015.
Married Veteran – $25,440.
Single Veteran – $21,456.
Surviving spouse – $13,788.
Q: Who Is Eligible for this VA Pension Benefit?
Answer: To receive the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit, you must be a veteran or single surviving spouse of a veteran who served in active duty, at least 90 days, and at least one day of which occurred during a period designated as wartime. The veteran did not have to serve over seas or be in combat. There must have been a discharge better then dishonorable (preferred is an honorable discharge). If younger than 65, the veteran must be totally disabled.
Official Dates of conflicts:
World War II: 12/7/1941- 12/31/1946
Korean Conflict: 6/27/1950 – 1/31/1955
Vietnam Era: 8/5/1964 – 5/7/1975
Gulf War: 8/2/1990 – TBD
Q: Is this pension only for low income veterans?
Answer: No, and this could be the primary reason that this benefit is so widely misunderstood. You can use medical deductions to adjust countable income or what the VA calls “IVAP.” This is actually your household income minus your recurring, unreimbursed medical and long-term care expenses. These allowable, annualized medical expenses are such things as health insurance premiums, home care expenses, the cost of paying a family member or other person to provide care, adult day care, assisted living facility, nursing home or possibly Independent Living facilities.
Q: I didn’t know about this benefit but I would have qualified for this years ago. Can I get back payment?
Answer: In some cases if that claimant would have qualified, the VA will pay up to a year back pay if the proper documentation can be shown. So for example, if a widow of a veteran moved into an assisted living facility and qualified at that time, then application was made a year later, her first check from the VA could be a minimum of $12,681.
Q: How long does it take for application to get approved?
Answer: This is a difficult question to answer and we can only give averages. Our average in most states currently is around 3 to 6 months. Some approvals come through in as little as 6 weeks, but these are the exception. Many families that apply on their own however, may take much longer. We have had families come to us a year or longer after filing a claim asking us for assistance. (Although the delay in benefits can put a hardship on families, remember that the benefit, if approved, is paid retro to the date of application.) If your loved one is not capable of managing their own affairs due to diminished mental capacity like dementia or Alzheimer’s, the VA may rule that they are in need of a fiduciary to act in their behalf and handle their affairs. Holding POA, DPOA or legal guardianship does not grant this authority. In order to get the authority to take care of their affairs, you will need to be appointed as a fiduciary by the VA. You will have to complete some forms and a VA representative may be required to interview you to determine if you are “fit” to handle their affairs regarding VA matters.
Q: I have Power of Attorney. Will the VA let me sign on the application or find out info on their claim?
Answer: The VA does not recognize legal POA, DPOA or Guardianship. If your loved is capable signing, it may be best to have them do so.
Q: What if the Veteran and Spouse divorced?
Answer: If you are divorced from that veteran when the veteran passes away, you are not a widow. You are a divorcee. The qualifications are: if you are the surviving spouse of a veteran in other words a (widow(er) of a veteran.)
Q: What if the Surviving Spouse remarries?
Answer: If the surviving spouse remarries, and their second spouse passes away who was not a Veteran, then the VA will deny benefits. If however, the second spouse was a veteran, then you may be entitled to benefits.
Q: What if the Veteran does not need care but his spouse needs assistance. Can benefits still help pay for that care?
Answer: Yes, but the veteran may not receive the full aid and attendance amount. The veteran could be eligible for up to $15,000 annually to help pay for his spouse’s medical expenses. In a case like this it is important to get knowledgeable assistance in making that determination.
Q: I live in an Independent Living facility. Can I still qualify?
Answer: In some cases, yes. However, not all Independent Living facilities will be able to be used as a countable medical expense. As a basic rule, if the Independent Living facility provides ADLs like cooking, cleaning, transportation, protective environment, etc., and a doctor states that you need these services provided by the independent living facility because of a disability, then you may be able to receive the benefit. Be aware that caution is advised. Make sure you have someone knowledgeable about V.A. regulations to analyze your situation before you apply in order to avoid denials and unneeded work on your part. Notice this quote from Title 38 of us code on VA pension benefits:
“Allow all reasonable fees paid to the facility as long as the facility provides some medical or nursing services for the disabled person. These services do not have to be furnished by a licensed health professional.”
Q: We can’t locate the marriage or death certificate?
Answer: These documents can typically be found at the courthouse in the county of marriage or death.
Q: How can we locate the Veteran’s discharge papers?
Answer: click to request records
Q: Can I receive the full pension rates if I am already receiving compensation from the VA?
Answer: If you are currently receiving disability compensation from the VA, you cannot receive both the compensation and pension. However, if the Aid and Attendance pension is more than your compensation payment, then the VA will pay whichever benefit has the highest dollar amount. If you are going to apply for pension when already drawing compensation, you need to make it clear to the VA that you want whichever benefit is greater.
Q: Is there an asset level to qualify for this pension?
Answer: “The decision as to whether a claimant’s net worth is excessive depends on the facts of each individual case.” They will look at income, monthly expenses, age, and the type of assets you have in determining “how much is too much.” Many think that $80,000 is the limit, this is not the case. If you read this information, you need to check their source. Asset Exemptions: A primary residence, vehicles, and difficult-to-sell property are generally excluded from the asset test. However, some assets that are considered to be exempt by Medicaid (e.g., life estates) are considered to be countable by the Veterans Administration. It is very important to use someone knowledge about both VA and Medicaid when determining whether or not you can arrange your affairs in order to get qualified.
Q: I want to apply, what do I do now?
Answer: Admittedly, the tax-free “Aid and Attendance Benefit” could greatly help many deserving families care for their loved ones. The truth is, the process can be daunting, and few actually receive the benefit without professional assistance.
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