If you are the surviving spouse of a Vietnam veteran and need help with daily living activities like bathing and dressing, you may be eligible for a special Veterans Administration (VA) benefit called Aid and Attendance. The benefit pays up to $1,209 per month ($14,507 per year), tax free, for home or facility care.
The Vietnam War took place in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It began in November of 1955 and ended with the Fall of Saigon in 1975. Approximately 2.7 million Americans served in Vietnam. Today, less than 850,000 Vietnam veterans are still living.
A surviving spouse may qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit if the veteran served in Vietnam (boots on the ground) during the wartime period called the Vietnam Era, which starts on February 28, 1961 and ends on May 7, 1975 (Code of Federal Regulations).
The spouses of U.S. military personnel who served anywhere in the world during the latter part of this era – from August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975 – may also qualify for this benefit.
It is not a requirement that the veteran must have served in a combat zone or was injured or became ill from military service.
More About VA Pensions
The VA provides many different types of benefits to veterans, including healthcare, disability compensation (for veterans who were injured or because ill during wartime), education and training, home loans, insurance and pensions.
A pension is a special monetary benefit available to both veterans and their spouses who meet specific criteria regarding wartime service, income and assets.
Aid and Attendance is a type of VA pension for veterans and spouses who need long term care. In addition to service, income and asset requirements, the claimant (veteran or spouse) must need help with daily living activities.
To qualify for Aid and Attendance, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty with at least one day during an eligible period of war. As noted above, the eligible wartime period for Vietnam veterans (Vietnam Era) starts on February 28, 1961 and ends on May 7, 1975. During the early period of the Vietnam Era (February 28, 1961 to August 4, 1964) the veteran must have served at least one day in the Republic of Vietnam or on a ship off the coast of Vietnam.
The veteran’s discharge status must also be anything other than dishonorable.
The VA uses military discharge papers (DD-214) to verify the veterans wartime service. The DD-214 contains important information regarding the servicemembers date of entry, date of separation and when he or she was on active duty.
Surviving Spouse Eligibility
The widow (surviving spouse) of a Veteran may be entitled to the Aid and Attendance benefit if they meet all of the pension requirements.
Aid and Attendance is part of the Survivors Pension. It is an enhanced pension for spouses who need help with long-term care. A Survivors Pension, also referred to as a Death Pension, is a benefit paid to low-income surviving spouses of wartime veterans who never remarried. Survivors Pensions are also paid to the unmarried children of a deceased veteran. A child of a deceased veteran must be under 18 years of age, or under 23 years of age and attending a VA-approved school, or permanently disabled before the age of 18.
Spouse (Marriage) Rules
To qualify as a surviving spouse, the person must have been married to the veteran for a at least one year prior to their passing, and never remarried. If the spouse was married to the veteran for less than a year, and had a child with the veteran, an Aid and Attendance claim can also be filed.
The spouse may also be entitled to benefits If they remarried and on or after January 1, 1971 and the marriage was terminated by death or divorce before November 1, 1991.
The VA will also recognize a common law marriage and, since 2015, same-sex marriages.
The are no age requirements for a surviving spouse.
Help with Daily Living Activities
To qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit, the surviving spouse must need help with two out of five types of daily living activities – bathing, dressing, eating, toileting and transferring. Bathing is any help at all with bathing, adjusting water temperature or the shower head, or even just stand-by assistance in case help is needed. Dressing is assistance with zippering, buttoning or help picking out clothes. Eating is primarily feeding someone. It can also be reminders to eat or eat healthy. Toileting refers to any bathroom assistance that is needed, including help with incontinence. Transferring is a term used to describe problems with mobility. For example, help getting in or out or a chair, up or down stairs or in and out of a car.
Daily living activities does not include assistance with medication management, meal preparation, running errands or driving a person to medical appointments.
The care can be provided by a professional caregiver, family member or friend. The caregiver does not have to be licensed to assist with long-term care.
Aid and Attendance Financial Requirements
The VA has stringent Aid and Attendance financial requirements. The rules regarding income and assets can be complex and easily misunderstood.
You can find out more about the financial criteria for Aid and Attendance by contacting a Benefit Consultant.
Paying for Long-term Care with the Aid and Attendance Benefit
Aid and Attendance is a lifetime, tax-free benefit that can help Vietnam veteran surviving spouses pay for long-term care. This includes home care, board and care, adult day care, assisted living and skilled nursing home care.
With Aid and Attendance, a surviving spouse can stay at home longer, or cover the cost of a care facility.
Long-term care can cost thousands of dollars a month. If you or a loved one are a surviving spouse of a Vietnam Era vet, and need long-term care, call a Benefit Consultant today at 1-877-427-8065 to find out more about how the benefit works and to see if we can help.