In the last Blog we discussed Medicare as a first government program that can help with the costs of long-term care. Now we will discuss a second program, available through the Veterans Administration that can help certain Veterans with the costs of paying for care in their home, assisted living or skilled nursing homes.
VETERANS ADMINISTRATION (VA) BENEFITS
The Veterans rules are complex and do not always follow common sense guidelines. The information about the Veterans programs presented here are general in nature. If you are interested in pursuing Veterans benefits, you are encouraged to contact the Idaho State Division of Veterans Services to find the contact information for your local Veterans Service Office, 208-577-2300, or contact an Attorney or Agent Accredited with the Veterans Administration.
When to use this program?
It may be possible to use the VA “non-service connected disability income” (called “pension” by the VA) to help pay for care in the home, assisted living or skilled nursing home facilities. The VA benefit is sometimes referred to as “Aid and Attendance.”
The VA has a number of programs available to Veterans, but the only one addressed here will be the “non-service connected pension.” Veterans who are disabled as a result of their military service have other benefits available.
What does it take to qualify for the Veterans “pension” benefits? There are a series of tests to qualify for this benefit.
The simple tests are listed below:
- Are you a Veteran, Veteran’s spouse, widow or widower of Veteran?
- Was the Veteran in the military for 90 days?
- Was one day of the military service during a defined Wartime? The war periods recognized by the VA1 are:
- WWII December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946;
- Korean: June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1953;
- Vietnam: February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975 for Veterans who served in Vietnam during that period and August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975 inclusive for all others;
- Persian Gulf: August 2, 1990 through (no one knows since the war on Terror continues and is part of the Persian Gulf War)
- Other than dishonorably discharged
- Is the Veteran age 65 or older? There is no age limit for the Veteran’s spouse.
The tests that can be more difficult to measure are concerned with the applicant’s income and assets.
The income test compares the gross income of the veteran and the veteran’s spouse to their repeating monthly medical expenses. Gross income is defined as the income from social security, pensions, dividends and interest and other sources of regular income, before any deductions are taken out for taxes, Medicare Part B premiums, other health insurance premiums, etc. Repeating monthly medical expenses include, but are not limited to Medicare Part B premiums, health insurance premiums, Medicare Part D premiums paid for prescription drug coverage, prescription drugs, the cost of care givers coming into the home, if the physician declares him or her housebound and in need of assistance from another individual, which may also include services offered in assisted living. If the physician states the applicant needs to live in a “protective environment” then 100% of the assisted living expenses may be deemed a reoccurring medical expense for VA purposes.
What does it really mean to be in “need of assistance from another?” These are some of the categories.
- Living in a nursing home
- Unable to Dress/ undress or keep oneself clean and presentable
- Attend the wants of nature without assistance
- Have a physical or mental incapacity that requires assistance on a regular basis to protect the claimant from daily environmental hazards.
What is the maximum the VA pays in 2010 for Aid and Attendance Pension on a monthly basis?
- For a single Veteran, $1,644
- For a married Veteran $1,949
- For a widowed spouse of a Veteran $1,056
- For a Veteran married to a Veteran $2,540
Calculating the amount of the VA benefit.
Start with the gross Income before any deductions of a single person or both spouses.
Subtract from the gross income all repeating monthly medical expenses, such as insurance, prescriptions, attends, caregivers or assisted living or nursing home costs to come up with “net income”
If the difference is
- Zero, the VA will pay the maximum benefit.
- Less than zero, the VA will pay the maximum benefit.
- More than zero, the VA will only pay the difference between the maximum benefit and the net income.
Here is an example of the calculation for a single vet:
- Gross income from Social Security and Pension $3,150
- Repeating monthly expenses for Medicare Part B, Medicare Part D premiums Health insurance premiums and the cost of caregivers coming into the home $2,150
- Difference = $1,000
- VA maximum benefit = $1,644
- Subtract Difference $1,000
- VA will pay $644
Next time we will discuss the other criteria needed to qualify for the VA non-service connected pension benefits.
1Check the VA regulations for additional war time dates.