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Sunday May 31, 2020

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

The Long-Term Care Benefit Many Veterans Are Missing Out On

I have heard that the VA has a benefit that can help veterans and their spouses with long-term care costs. We recently had to move my 86-year-old father – who served in the army nearly 60 years ago – into an assisted living facility, and my mom is not far behind. Can the VA help?

The Veterans Administration has a little-known, 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 is paid in addition to a basic pension. It provides a maximum of $2,230 a month to married veterans, $1,881 a month to single veterans or $1,209 a month to a surviving spouse. The money is tax free and can be used to pay for in-home care, assisted living and nursing home care.

Today, approximately 230,000 veterans and survivors are receiving Aid and Attendance, but millions more are eligible and either do not know about it or do not 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 dishonorably discharged. Single surviving spouses of wartime vets are eligible if their marriage ended when their spouse passed away.

In addition, your dad 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 with basic everyday living tasks, such as eating, dressing, bathing or going to the bathroom. He may also qualify if he is blind or in a nursing home or assisted living facility due to mental disability. Single surviving spouses have no age restrictions, but they must require help with basic everyday living tasks to be eligible.

To qualify financially, your parents must have limited assets, under $127,061, excluding their home, vehicle and personal belongings. In addition, their annual income (minus medical and long-term care expenses) cannot exceed the Maximum Allowable Pension Rate (MAPR). In 2019, the MAPR is $26,766 for a veteran and his or her spouse, $22,577 for a single veteran or $14,509 for a surviving spouse.

To calculate your parents' income qualifications, add up their income over the past year (including Social Security, pensions, interest income from investments, annuities, etc.), minus any out-of-pocket medical expenses, prescription drugs, insurance premiums and long-term care costs. If the final total is under the MAPR and he meets the other requirements, he should be eligible for aid.

How to Apply

To learn more, or to apply for Aid and Attendance, contact your regional VA benefit office where you can apply in person (see Benefits.va.gov/benefits/offices.asp or call 800–827–1000). You can also apply by writing the Pension Management Center in your state (see Benefits.va.gov/pension/resources-contact.asp). You will need to include evidence, like VA Form 21-2680, which your dad's doctor can fill out to show your dad's need for Aid and Attendance (see VA.gov/vaforms).

If you need some help, you can appoint a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) or a VA-accredited attorney or claims agent to represent your dad. See www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/vso-search to locate someone.

If your dad is eligible, it will take between six and 12 months for his application to be processed, so be patient.

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 the application was filed until the day it was approved. From that point on, your dad will receive monthly payments going forward.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published May 17, 2019
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