What is Aid and Attendance and How can it Help?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has some great programs to help elderly veterans, even beyond the typical assistance of other programs like Social Security and Medicare. However, there is a lot of misinformation on the internet, and sometimes clients will approach experienced elder law attorneys in The Villages, asking about applying for Aid and Attendance as part of their plan for long-term care. First, it is important to understand what this program is and is not.
What is Aid & Attendance?
The VA does not offer Aid and Attendance to just any veterans. There are several key requirements to qualify, but each has a host of exceptions and details that should be carefully reviewed by a skilled attorney.
- The veteran must have actual wartime service.
- In some cases, a surviving spouse of a wartime veteran may receive the benefit.
- The veteran must have limited income, as determined by a specific means test.
- The veteran must also:
- Need the aid of another person to perform at least two activities of daily living, like eating, bathing, dressing or undressing;
- Be blind or nearly blind; or
- Be a patient in a nursing home.
What Does Aid and Attendance do for a Veteran?
It is very important to understand that many people who are in the process of “spending down” assets in anticipation of entering a nursing home may not qualify for Aid and Attendance due to having too much income or too many assets. Likewise, it may not always be a wise decision to apply. For instance, for some, receiving the pension would disqualify them from receiving Medicaid, because it would put their income over the limit.
For those, however, who do decide to apply for Aid and Attendance, the VA allows unreimbursed medical expenses to be deducted from the veteran’s gross monthly income for the purpose of qualifying. These can be insurance premiums, Medicare premiums, and many other things that help the veteran maintain a healthy life. Further, unlike Medicaid, there is no five-year look-back period for income. The VA looks only at current assets and income. Finally, keep in mind that Aid and Attendance is a sort of safety net program; it will not provide a lot of money. It will not give you a lot of disposable income. For the most part, it is there as a last resort for those who have very little income for self-support but need the assistance of others to provide for their care. This even applies, in many cases, to assisted living facilities.
Given the complex array of VA and Medicaid rules that may apply when applying for Aid and Attendance, you should contact an elder law attorney here in The Villages at the Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group who can navigate the program and tell you if it is right for your unique situation.