Aid and Attendance is a special Veterans Administration pension for wartime vets and their spouses (current or surviving) who need help with some of the activities of daily living. It is a tax-free benefit that can significantly reduce the cost of long-term care, either at home or in a care facility.
Even though the pension has been available for decades, it is one of the VA’s most underutilized benefits. One reason so few veterans and spouses have applied for the benefit is misinformation about eligibility requirements.
Here are some common myths about Aid and Attendance qualifications, debunked.
Myth #1 “The veteran must have served in a combat zone.”
Fact: Not a requirement. To qualify for Aid and Attendance, the veteran must have served during an eligible period of war. Except for the early Vietnam wartime period (February 28, 1961 to August 4, 1964) there is no requirement that the veteran must have served in a combat zone. The service criteria is 90 days of active duty, with at least 1 day during an eligible period of war. Wartime periods have been established by Congress.
Myth #2 “The veteran must have been injured or become ill while serving in the military.”
Fact: Not a requirement. When a veteran is injured or becomes ill while serving in the military, he or she may be eligible for VA disability compensation, also called service-connected disability compensation. Aid and Attendance and service-connected disability compensation are two different types of benefits. A veteran does not have to be disabled or receiving VA disability compensation to qualify for Aid and Attendance. Veterans who are already being paid a monthly monetary benefit for their service-connected disability may also be eligible for Aid and Attendance.
Myth #3 “You must already be receiving a basic pension before you can apply for Aid and Attendance.”
Fact: Not a requirement. A VA Basic Pension provides supplemental income to veterans who meet military service and other requirements. The Aid and Attendance benefit is an enhanced pension. It includes the VA’s Basic Pension plus additional monetary compensation for people who need help with daily living activities.
Myth #4 “You must be in the VA system before submitting an Aid and Attendance claim.”
Fact: Not a requirement. Submitting an Aid and Attendance application automatically puts you in the system. You do not have to be enrolled in the VA healthcare system or “be in the system” to file an Aid and Attendance claim.
Myth #5 “The benefit can only be used for an Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing Facility.”
Fact: Aid and Attendance is a reimbursement for home care as well as facility care. Home care refers to help in the home with daily living activities such as bathing, dressing and mobility.
Myth #6 “If you are approved for the Aid and Attendance benefit, you will lose your Social Security benefit.”
Fact: If your Aid and Attendance claim is approved, it will not affect your monthly Social Security payments. You can receive both benefits at the same time. Keep in mind however, that Social Security is counted as income when determining Aid and Attendance eligibility.
Myth #7 “You can only have up to $80,000 in assets.”
Fact: You can qualify for Aid and Attendance with more than $80,000 in assets. Important note: VA income and asset regulations are complex. The best way to find out if you are financially qualified for the Aid and Attendance benefit is to consult a VA accredited claims agent.
Myth #8 “If you served after 9/11, you must have 20 years of service.”
Fact: Not a requirement. If you entered active duty after September 7, 1980, the general rule is that you must have served at least 24 months (2 years) or the full period for which you were called or ordered to active duty (there are some exceptions) with at least one day during a wartime period. Unless you are permanently or totally disabled, you must also be at least 65 years of age or older.
Myth #9 “You can only hire through a caregiver agency to provide home care.”
Fact: Not a requirement. Home care can be provided by a family member, friend or professional caregiver. You do not have to be licensed to provide personal care.
Myth #10 “You cannot get Aid and Attendance and a military retirement pension.”
Fact: When a service member has been on active duty for over 20 years, he or she is eligible for a military retirement pension. A veteran who receives a military retirement pension can also apply for, and receive, Aid and Attendance if he/she meets the requirements. Military retirement pensions are counted as income for the purposes of the claim.
Myth #11 “If you apply for and are receiving Aid and Attendance, you will not be able to qualify for Medicaid later on.”
Fact: Aid and Attendance recipients are not disqualified from receiving Medicaid benefits in the future.
Myth #12 “The spouse must have been married to the veteran when he or she was in the service.”
Fact: Not a requirement. A spouse is considered eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit if he or she was married to the veteran as the time of their passing and has not remarried. There is no requirement that the spouse must have been married to the veteran when the veteran was in the service.
Myth #13 “Your income is too high.”
Fact: The income requirements for Aid and Attendance can be confusing. Even if your income is high, you may still qualify for the benefit. To find out more about VA income and asset rules, speak with an Aid and Attendance Benefit Consultant.
Myth #14 “Charging a fee to help someone with their claim is illegal”
Fact: An individual must be accredited in order to help a claimant with the preparation, presentation and prosecution of a claim for VA benefits. The VA allows a person who is accredited to charge a fee for pre-filing consultation. A pre-filing consultation typically includes document and record reviews, along with any research, counseling or assistance that is needed before the claim is prepared. Veterans and spouses can never be charged a fee for claim preparation, presentation or advocacy/representation. Although getting help or assistance with a claim is not required, it can make a big difference in the outcome of a claim and is often recommended.
The VA’s Aid and Attendance pension is an important funding source for long-term care. The benefit can save veterans and spouses thousands of dollars a year on home or facility care. There are hundreds of VA rules and regulations that pertain to Aid and Attendance claims and benefits. Register today to learn more about Aid and Attendance from a knowledgeable benefit consultant.