If you were married to a U.S. military veteran, you may be eligible for VA nursing home benefits for spouses. The benefit, called Aid and Attendance pension is a lifetime financial benefit that pays up to $1,318 per month. It’s tax-free and you don’t have to pay it back.  Aid and Attendance can also be used for other types of long-term care like home care, board and care and assisted living.

Qualifying for Aid and Attendance

Wartime service is a key factor in determining eligibility for Aid and Attendance.

To qualify for the VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit, the veteran must have entered active duty:

  • On or before September 7, 1980, and served at least 90 days of active duty and with at least one day during a wartime period, or
  • 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 wartime period, or
  • Was an officer and started on active duty after October 15, 1981 and hadn’t previously served on active duty for at least 24 months.

The eligible wartime periods, which have been established by Congress, are:

  • World War II – December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946; extended to July 25, 1947, if the veteran was in service on December 31, 1946.
  • Korean War – June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955.
  • Vietnam 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, 1975, for Veterans who served outside the Republic of Vietnam.
  • Gulf War – August 2, 1990, to present. This wartime period Includes Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Other important requirements are:

  • The veteran was discharged from the U.S. military service with anything other than a dishonorable discharge.
  • The spouse must have been married to the veteran for at least a year, married to the veteran at the time of his or her passing and not remarried.

Marriages are considered valid according to the laws where the parties involved resided when they were married or when the claimant became eligible for benefits. The VA also recognizes same-sex marriages without regard to a veteran’s current or former state of residence.

Help with Daily Living Activities

A spouse transitioning to a skilled nursing facility can no longer live on their own and needs more assistance than the kind of help provided at an assisted living facility. To qualify for the VA Aid and Attendance benefit, the person must specifically require personal care – help with some of the activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, mobility, toileting and eating.

More About Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are residential licensed care facilities for people who need higher levels of care than an assisted living facility, but not hospitalization. They have skilled nurses such as registered nurses and licensed practical nurses on the premises 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Registered nurses provide care plans and monitor the resident’s medical condition. A licensed physician supervises individual patients.

Along with assistance with daily living activities, the type of care provided at a skilled nursing facility includes medical treatments, therapy, dispensing intravenous medications, medication management, meals, laundry, social activities, pharmaceutical, radiology, laboratory, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and hospice. There are also some nursing homes with special care units for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Some skilled nursing facilities provide short-term rehabilitation care after a surgery, injury, or illness.

Paying for Nursing Home Care

Nursing homes are very expensive. Currently, the average cost of a shared room is $255 a day – nearly $7,500 per month. In some rural areas, the cost of care can dip below $200 per day, while in other parts of the country, daily nursing home rates can exceed a staggering $1,000 per day.

The Aid and Attendance benefit can help a person with sufficient assets remain private pay by offsetting some of the cost of their care. Private pay means the person is paying for their care out of their own pocket.

Another payment option for a skilled nursing facility is Medicaid. To qualify for Medicaid, the person must meet strict financial requirements, including having a low income and only a few thousand dollars in assets. Medicaid will usually only pay for shared rooms.

Finding a Nursing Home

There are nursing homes in every state. If you are looking for a nursing home, find out as much as you can about the facility, including:

  • Does the nursing home have a current state license?
  • Is it Medicare/Medicaid certified?
  • What types of services are offered?
  • What are the basic fees?
  • Are there any extra charges?
  • Can residents see their own primary care physician?
  • Does the facility provide transportation services?

You should also check ratings and reviews on websites such as Medicare.gov and Yelp. 

Nursing Homes vs. Assisted Living Facilities

An assisted living facility is another type of long-term care facility for people who can no longer live on their own, but don’t need the more advanced medical care provided by a nursing home.

Assisted living facilities typically offer basic health care services, such as medication management and emergency first aid. The staff at an Assisted living facility provides assistance with daily living activities and other types of personal care.

If you would like to know more about the VA Aid and Attendance benefit, contact one of our benefit consultants today at 877-427-8065 or click here.

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