Long-term care benefits for veterans and spouses

Long-term care benefits for veterans and spouses

Dear Savvy Senior,

I understand that the Veterans Administration has a benefit that can help veterans and spouses with long-term care costs. We recently had to move my elderly father into an assisted living memory care facility, and my mother will probably need care too in the near future. What can you tell me?

Searching for Aid

Dear Searching,

The Veterans Administration does indeed have an underutilized benefit that can help wartime veterans and their surviving spouses pay for a variety of long-term care costs.

This benefit, called Aid and Attendance, is a special pension that’s paid on top of existing VA pensions for eligible veterans and surviving spouses. In 2024 it pays a maximum of $2,727 a month to married veterans, $2,300 a month to single veterans or $1,478 a month to a surviving spouse. The money is tax free and can be used to pay for assisted living, memory care, nursing home or in-home care services.

Currently, around 156,000 veterans and survivors are receiving the Aid and Attendance benefit, but many thousands more are eligible who either don’t know about it or don’t think they qualify.

Eligibility requirements

To qualify, your dad must have served at least 90 days of active military service with at least one day of service during a period of war and not have been discharged dishonorably. Single surviving spouses of wartime vets are eligible if their marriage ended due to death.

In addition, your dad also will have to meet certain thresholds for medical and financial need to be eligible.

To qualify medically, he must be either disabled or over the age of 65 and need help performing everyday living tasks such as eating, bathing, dressing or going to the bathroom. Being blind or in a nursing home due to disability or receiving Social Security Disability or SSI also qualifies him. Single surviving spouses have no age restrictions, but they must require help with everyday living tasks to be eligible.

To qualify financially, your parents’ “net worth,” which includes assets and annual income combined, must be below $155,356 in 2024.

To calculate this, add up your parents’ assets, which includes their personal property — like investments, real estate, et cetera — excluding their primary home and vehicles. Tally up their income over the past year including Social Security, pensions, interest income from investments, annuities, et cetera, minus any out-of-pocket medical expenses, prescription drugs, insurance premiums and long-term care costs over that same period of time.

The VA also has a three-year lookback to determine if your parents transferred any assets to ensure they would qualify for benefits. If so, they may be subject to a penalty period of up to five years.

How to apply

To apply for Aid and Attendance, you’ll need to fill out VA Form 21-2680 and mail it to the Pension Management Center for your dad’s state. You’ll need to have your dad’s doctor fill out the examination information section. Or you can apply in person at a VA regional office near your parents.

For more information or to download application forms, visit www.VA.gov/pension/aid-attendance-housebound. You also can call the VA at 800-827-1000 if you have questions.

If you need some help, you can appoint a veteran service officer, a VA-accredited attorney or claims agent to represent your dad. Visit www.VA.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp to locate someone.

If your dad is eligible, it can take months for his application to be processed, so be patient.

You also should know that if your dad’s Aid and Attendance application is approved, the VA will send a lump sum retroactive payment covering the time from the day you filed the application until the day it was approved. Then your dad receives monthly payments going forward.

Send your senior questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.SavvySenior.org.

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