Most senior veterans will want to live at home as long as possible. Eventually many of them will need help with personal care like bathing and dressing. In-home care for veterans can be expensive, but the cost can be offset with a special type of VA benefit called Aid and Attendance.
Very few people know about Aid and Attendance and how it really works. It is a type of VA pension paid to veterans and spouses who need home care. The benefit can also be used to pay for residential care or an assisted living facility. It is tax-free and does not need to be paid back.
A key requirement for the benefit is that the veteran must have served during an eligible period of war. These war dates have been established by Congress. To qualify for Aid and Attendance, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of Active Duty and at least 1 day during one of these wartime periods.
For example, the WWII war period is from December 7, 1941 (the date Pearl Harbor was attacked) to December 31, 1946.
If the veteran served during the Korean War, the eligible wartime period is from June 27, 1950 (the day President Harry S. Truman ordered U.S. air and naval forces to South Korea) to January 31, 1955.
A veteran who served during the Vietnam era can file a claim for Aid and Attendance if they served from November 1, 1955 to May 7, 1995 in the Republic of Vietnam (or on a ship off the coast). Vietnam veterans on active duty anywhere in the world from August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975, can also apply for this benefit.
Gulf War veterans are also eligible for Aid and Attendance if their service period began August 2, 1990. There is currently no ending period for this war.
Another important military qualification is that the veteran must have received an honorable or anything other than dishonorable discharge. Most veterans receive an honorable discharge when they leave the military. Other types of discharges include a General Discharge, Entry-Level Separation, Medical Discharge, Other than Honorable Discharge, Bad Conduct Discharge, Dishonorable Discharge and, for Officers, a Dismissal.
Serving during wartime and receiving an honorable discharge opens the door to applying for the Aid and Attendance benefit, but meeting these requirements does not guarantee that the claim will be approved.
The veteran must also need help with some of the activities of daily living. These are tasks that include not only bathing and dressing, but mobility, toileting and eating. A Physician must attest that the veteran needs this kind of care.
Help with bathing can include stand-by assistance if the veteran is considered a fall-risk, as well as physically assisting the person when it is needed. Veterans who need assistance with mobility, will generally need help standing up, sitting down, getting into or out of a vehicle, or help up or down stairs. Help with eating does not mean meal preparation. It’s actually feeding someone, including cutting up their food into small pieces.
Home care can be provided by a family member, friend or professional caregiver. The person doesn’t have to be licensed. In 2021, the average cost of an in-home caregiver was $26 an hour.
Some people will hire a caregiver through an agency, while others may prefer to find an independent caregiver. Home care agencies typically conduct background checks on their employees. They will also provide back-up care if a replacement is needed. The agency is paid directly and takes care of employment agreements, insurance, and taxes. Most agencies require minimum weekly hours. If you want to work with an agency, speak with several caregiving companies if you can to find out which one is the best fit. Also make sure the agency is licensed if that is a requirement in your state.
When a family hires an independent caregiver, they assume all the risk involved in hiring an individual. One of the main disadvantages in hiring an independent caregiver is that there is usually no backup coverage. You will also have to conduct your own background checks and follow applicable tax laws.
Because the Aid and Attendance benefit is a reimbursement for care, the veteran must be paying for home care before a claim can be submitted. How much the veteran ends up spending will determine the benefit amount. The maximum Aid and Attendance benefit amount for a single veteran is $2,229 per month ($26,748 per year). A married veteran will receive up to $2,642 per month ($42,432 per year). The maximum Aid and Attendance benefit amount for two married veterans $3,536 per month – over $42,000 a year.
In addition to some income criteria, there are also various asset requirements, which can add some complexity to the application process.
There are many reasons why a senior veteran will want to stay at home. Not only is it convenient, it gives the veteran a greater sense of independence. The veteran may also have emotional ties to their home and family. And it may be less expensive to live at home than transition to a care facility. Moving can also be very stressful. It is a significant change in a person’s life that can result in considerable anxiety.
The VA Aid and Attendance program can make it easier to hire a home caregiver so a veteran can continue to live in their own home. To find out more about the benefit, contact one of our benefit consultations today at 877-427-8065 or click here.