Many aging veterans will want to remain at home as long as possible, even when their care needs increase. Aid and Attendance is a special VA benefit that can help veterans and spouses offset the cost of long-term care they need to continue living independently. Benefit amounts range from $1,228 per month for surviving spouses, up to $2,266 per month for a married veteran (or $3,032 if the veteran is married to another veteran). This is a tax-free reimbursement benefit that does not need to be paid back.
What does home care mean?
Home care refers to services that allow a veteran or spouse to live safely in their home. Veterans and spouses may be eligible for Aid and Attendance for home care services that provide assistance with daily living activities.A daily living activity is a basic self-care task. There are five types of daily living activities recognized by the VA – bathing, dressing, feeding, toileting/incontinence and walking/transferring.
Here are some of the specific tasks involved with each type of daily living activity:
Bathing – help adjusting the shower head or water temperature, any assistance cleaning a part of the body, help getting in or out of the tub/shower, wash and dry completely, as well as reminders to bathe
Dressing – help picking out clothes, getting clothes out of a dresser or closet, assistance putting clothes on or taking them off, and help with buttons and zippers
Feeding – helping the veteran or spouse eat by transferring their food from plate to mouth, cutting food into bite sized pieces
Toileting (Incontinence) – help getting to the bathroom, assistance on or off the toilet, and help needed with incontinence
Walking/Transferring – moving from place to place, moving to or from bed, chair, wheelchair or standing position, help up and down stairs, and assistance getting in or out of a vehicle
To qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit, the veteran or spouse must need help with at least two out of these five types of tasks. This includes stand-by assistance, which means someone is there to help just in case it is needed.
Meal preparation, transportation, housekeeping, laundry, errands and medication management are not part of this group of activities, although many times a caregiver will also provide help in these areas.
Who provides the care?
Because daily living activities are considered non-medical tasks, home care can be provided by a family member (excluding a spouse) or friend, as well as a professional caregiver. The person providing the care does not need to be licensed.
Other names for home caregivers include sitters, home health aides and companions.
Home Care Agencies vs. Private Caregivers
When a veteran or spouse needs home care, the caregiver is hired by the family. On average, a caregiver will cost between $20 and $30 per hour. Caregivers from home care agencies are usually 20% to 30% more expensive than independent caregivers. Most agencies will conduct background checks on their employees. They will also have liability insurance. Agencies will also have backup caregivers when an employee is unable to work.
Background checks for private caregivers must be conducted by the family. Also, very few independent caregivers carry their own liability insurance, and when a private caregiver can’t show up for work, finding a replacement on short notice can be extremely difficult.
The Aid and Attendance benefit has been around for a long time, but it is not very well known or understood. Much of Aid and Attendance information is incomplete and extremely confusing.
Here are some common misconceptions about benefit eligibility requirements:
- The veteran must have served in a combat zone
- The veteran must have a service-connected disability
- Spouses aren’t eligible for the benefit
- You can only hire a caregiver through a home care agency
- You must be receiving a basic pension before you can apply for the benefit
- You can only use the benefit for assisted living or skilled nursing facility care
- You must be in the VA system before you can submit a claim
Aid and Attendance Qualifications
There are several important Aid and Attendance requirements and qualifications.
To start with, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty, with at least one day during an eligible war-time period. The following are the war-time dates established by Congress for World War II, Korean Conflict and Vietnam veterans:
World War II – December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946
Korean Conflict – June 27, 1950 to January 31, 1955
Vietnam Era – February 28, 1961 to August 4, 1964 for veterans who served in Vietnam or on a ship of the coast of Vietnam. August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975 for veterans who served anywhere in the world.
The veteran must also be at least 65 years of age to qualify for this benefit.
Surviving spouses (the spouse of a deceased veteran) can qualify for Aid and Attendance if he or she was married to the veteran at the time of his or her passing and never remarried. A spouse applying for the benefit can be any age. The spouse must have been married to the veteran for at least a year.
The VA also requires veterans and spouses to meet specific income and asset criteria. These requirements can be extremely complex, especially when assets are involved. We can help you with any questions you have regarding Aid and Attendance claims.
Veterans who are currently receiving VA disability compensation may also be eligible for Aid and Attendance depending on their service-connected disability rating and payment amount. Generally, the VA will pay the higher of the two benefit amounts.
Do you or a loved one need financial assistance to help pay for home care? The VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit is one of the best ways to help with long-term care at home. Getting a claim approved, however, can be difficult due to the complexity of the claim process. Give us a call today at 877-427-8065 to find out more about Aid and Attendance and how to successfully navigate the system.