VA Pensions: Are You or a Loved One Eligible?
The Veteran’s Administration provides many different types of benefits to U.S. veterans and their spouses. Some of the more commonly known benefits include health care and disability compensation. If you are a veteran over the age of 65, or the spouse of a veteran, you may also qualify for tax-free pensions to supplement your income or help pay for long-term care.
What is a VA Pension?
A VA pension is monthly monetary benefit paid to low-income veterans (Basic Pension) and their surviving spouses (Survivor’s Pension). There is also an enhanced pension for veterans and spouses who need long-term care (Aid and Attendance). Pensions are tax-free supplemental income.
A key pension requirement is the veteran having have served at least 90 days of active duty, with at least one day during a wartime period. Wartime periods are established by Congress and currently include:
World War II – from December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946
Korean Conflict – from June 27, 1950 to January 31, 1955
Vietnam Era – from February 28, 1961 to August 4, 1964 for veterans who served in Vietnam (boots on the ground) or on a ship of the coast of Vietnam, and August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975 for veterans who served in Vietnam, on a ship off the coast of Vietnam, or anyplace else in the world.
Gulf War – from August 2, 1990 to a date that will eventually be set by law or presidential proclamation.
A common myth is that the veteran must have served in a combat zone to be eligible for a pension. Except for the early Vietnam Era period, a veteran can qualify for a pension regardless of whether or not they served in combat, as long as they meet the criteria of at least 90 days of active duty, with at least one day during an eligible period of war.
Veterans who apply for a pension must be at least 65 years of age or older, or totally disabled.
The spouse of a veteran applying for a survivor’s pension can be any age, but must also meet the VA’s income and asset requirements. The spouse must have been married to the veteran at the time of his passing, and not remarried.
Note: Children under the age of 18, or under the age of 23 who are attending an approved VA school or who became disabled before the age of 18 and can no longer take care of themselves (self-support) may also be eligible for a VA pension.
More About Aid and Attendance
Aid and Attendance is an enhanced benefit for veterans and spouses who need personal care. It is a reimbursement for care that can help cover the cost of home care, adult day care, board and care, assisted living and skilled nursing care.
Home care can be provided by a family member, friend or professional caregiver. The caregiver does not have to be licensed to provide the care.
Similar to the basic and survivor’s pensions, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty, with at least one day during a wartime period, and be 65 years of age or older. A spouse can be any age. Other spousal qualifications include being married to the veteran at the time of his passing, and not remarried.
Because Aid and Attendance is a long-term care benefit, the veteran or spouse must need help with at least two out of the five types of daily living activities: bathing, dressing, eating, toileting and transferring.
Bathing means any assistance at all with bathing, including adjusting the water temperature or shower head, or even reminders to bathe.
Dressing refers to help with buttoning, zippering, putting clothes on or taking them off, reminders to change clothes or help picking out cloths.
Eating is feeding someone or reminding someone to eat or eat healthy. It does not include meal preparation.
Toileting is any type of bathroom assistance or help with incontinence.
Transferring is a term used to describe helping someone move from place to place, such as up and down stairs or in and out of a vehicle.
Important – the VA does not consider housekeeping, running errands, medication management or driving someone (transportation) activities of daily living.
The VA also has very specific income and asset criteria. To find out more about Aid and Attendance financial requirements, contact one of our Benefit Consultants.
The maximum Aid and Attendance benefit for a single veteran is $1,881 per month – $22,572 a year in additional income. For married veterans it’s $2,230 per month ($26,760 a year) and for surviving spouses $1,209 per month ($14,508).
Paying for Long-Term Care
According to current research, 7 out of 10 people will need long-term care at some point in their life. The average cost of a home health aide or assisted living facility now averages around $4,000 a month, while the median cost of a skilled nursing facility is $7000 a month or more.
With Aid and Attendance, veterans and spouses can reduce their out-of-pocket care expenses, stay at home longer and get the personal care that they need. It can also help veterans and spouses in a care facility remain private pay and in control of the quality of the care.
If you or a loved one are a veteran or spouse and need help paying for long-term care, contact one of our benefit consultants today to find out more about Aid and Attendance, and how the benefit and claim process works.