A surviving spouse of a U.S. military veteran may be eligible for benefits from the Veterans Administration. VA benefits for an elderly surviving spouse include CHAMPVA, a Survivors Pension and Aid and Attendance.
CHAMPVA is a health insurance benefit for the spouse and surviving spouse of a deceased disabled veteran. At least one of the following requirements must be true to qualify for this benefit:
- You are the spouse of a veteran who has a service-connected disability and is rated permanently and totally disabled, or
- You are the surviving spouse of a veteran who passed away from his/her service- connected disability, or
- You are the surviving spouse of a veteran who, when he/she passed away was totally and permanently disabled from a service-connected illness or injury, or
- You are the surviving spouse of a veteran who passed away from a service-connected illness or injury, or
- You are the surviving spouse of a veteran who died in the line of duty.
A permanent disability is one that is not expected to get better. A service-connected disability is an illness or injury that occurred or got worse because of active-duty service.
CHAMPVA covers various health care services and supplies, including ambulance service, medical equipment, maternity, hospice care, inpatient services, outpatient services, mental health services, skilled nursing care, transplants, and pharmaceutical services (prescriptions).
A surviving spouse who qualifies for CHAMPVA and remarries before age 55 may not qualify for this benefit. If the spouse remarries on or after their 55th birthday, they can keep their benefits.
A surviving spouse whose remarriage ends in death, annulment or divorce may qualify for CHAMPVA again.
Another type of benefit for an elderly surviving spouse is Survivors Pension. To qualify for Survivors Pension, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty with at least 1 day during an eligible wartime period. The veteran must also have received an honorable or anything other than dishonorable discharge.
A surviving spouse can also qualify for this benefit if the veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months or the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty, with at least 1 day during an eligible war period, or the veteran was an officer and started active duty October 16, 1981, and hadn’t previously served on active duty for at least 24 months.
The eligible wartime period established by Congress are:
- World War I (April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918). The last World War l veteran passed away in May of 2008 at the age of 107.
- World War II (December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946). The number of WWII vets still living in 2023 is less than 130,000.
- Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955). The estimated number of living Korean War veterans is estimated at less than 2 million.
- Vietnam War era. November 1, 1955, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. August 5, 1964, to May 7, 197, for Veterans who served outside of the Republic of Vietnam (anywhere in the world).
- Gulf War (August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)
To receive a Survivors Pension, the claimant (surviving spouse) must also meet various income and asset requirements. The maximum pension amount for a spouse with no dependents is $14,078 per year.
In addition to Survivors Pension, there is an enhanced pension called Aid and Attendance. The Aid and Attendance benefit is a long-term care benefit for veterans and spouses who need help with some of the activities of daily living. It is a reimbursement for care that is tax free and never needs to be paid back.
To qualify for the benefit, just like the Survivor’s Pension, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty with at least one day during a wartime period and received an honorable or anything other than dishonorable discharge.
The spouse must have been married to the veteran for at least a year, in addition to being married to the veteran at the time of his/her passing and never remarried. The only exception is if the spouse remarried between January 1, 1971, through November 1, 1990, and the marriage ended (divorce, death, annulment) during that same time period.
There is no surviving spouse age requirement for this benefit.
Another key qualification is that the spouse must need help with some of the activities of daily living. These daily living activities include bathing, dressing, mobility, toileting and feeding.
In some cases, the benefit may also be awarded if the spouse needs supervision. Custodial care refers to the need for assistance with at least two daily living activities or general supervision, with or without help with daily living activities. People who need this kind of care will often have mental or physical disorders.
Aid and Attendance can be used to cover the cost of home care, adult day care, board and care (residential care), assisted living, and skilled nursing.
Home care can be provided by a family member, friend, or professional caregiver. Sometimes the care is provided by a family member and a professional caregiver. Hiring someone from a care agency usually costs between $30 to $40 an hour.
Assisted living facilities provide both help with daily living activities and supervision. They range in price from around $3,500 a month to $5,000 a month or more depending on how much care is needed.
A Board and Care refers to a residential home, usually with 6 to 10 residents. Board and Care homes can be less expensive than assisted living facilities, even though they provide many of the same services, including custodial care and help with daily living activities.
Just like a Survivors Pension, the Aid and Attendance benefit has specific financial requirements. To find out more about how Aid and Attendance works, including the benefit’s income and asset criteria, contact a Benefit Consultant today at 877-427-8065 or click here.