Aid & Attendance Pension Benefit for Veterans and Surviving Spouses

The Aid and Attendance (A&A) Pension is a non-service connected benefit available to a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran. The veteran need not be eligible for other VA pensions to qualify for Aid & Attendance. In order to qualify for Aid & Attendance, the veteran or the surviving spouse must meet the following three criteria:

1. Their monthly medical expenses must exceed their monthly income;

2. Their total asset value must be less than $80,000.00 (excluding the value of the veteran’s or surviving spouse’s home; and

3. The veteran (or surviving spouse) must also require the regular attendance of another person to assist with activities such as eating, bathing, dressing and undressing and/or toileting. It also includes individuals who are blind or a patient in a nursing home because of mental or physical incapacity, as well as those who reside in an assisting living facility.

While a service-connected disability is not required, service during war-time is. The veteran must have served at least one day during the following periods and had 90 days of continuous military service. Under the law, the VA recognizes these war periods (there are prior periods too, not listed, such as World War I):

• World War II: Dec. 7, 1941, through Dec. 31, 1946.

• Korean War: June 27, 1950, through Jan. 31, 1955.

• Vietnam War: Aug. 5, 1964 (Feb. 28, 1961, for those who served “in country” before Aug. 5, 1964), through May 7, 1975.

• Gulf War: Aug 2, 1990, through a date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation

In order to be considered by the VA to receive the pension, an application must be filed with the local VA regional office and it must be accompanied by the necessary paperwork, which includes a copy of the DD-214 (or separation papers), Medical Evaluation from a physician, current medical issues, net worth limitations, and net income, along with out-of-pocket Medical Expenses. We have outlined the specific documents that will be required by the regional office below.

To apply for the Aid & Attendance Pension, you will need the following documents:

• Discharge/Separation Papers (DD-214). If you need to request military records, you can either fill out Standard Form 180 or, you can visit http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/standard-form-180.html. Full instructions on how to request military records is listed on that site;

• Copy of Marriage Certificate and all marital information (non-veteran surviving spouses only);

• Copy of the Death Certificate (non-veteran surviving spouses only);

• Copy of current Social Security Award Letter (the letter that Social Security sends at the beginning of the year stating what your monthly amount will be for the following year);

• Net Worth information, including bank accounts, CDs, Trusts, Stocks, Bonds, Annuities, etc;

• Proof of all income from pensions, retirement, interest income from investments, annuities, etc;

• If you are a court-appointed guardian of the veteran or surviving spouse, a certified copy of the court order of the appointment is required;

• Proof of insurance premiums, medications, medical bills or any other medical expenses that are not reimbursed by insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid including assisted living facility, nursing home and home health care costs;

• Physician statement that includes current diagnosis, medical status, prognosis, name and address, ability to care for self, ability to travel unattended, etc. If you are a veteran in a nursing home, a nursing home status statement will be required;

• Banking information for direct deposit of A&A monthly payments (include a voided check);

• Employment history (does not apply if you are over 65); and

• List of all doctors and hospitals visited in the last year.

You can expect that it will take at least four (4) to six (6) months or even longer for your application to be processed after it has been submitted to the regional office and to receive a determination letter. However, veterans and surviving spouses who apply for the pension can be assured by the fact that once the application is approved and a determination letter is received, the benefits awarded will be retroactive to the original application filing date. Furthermore, if the applicant, whether veteran or surviving spouse is age 70 or older, you should request the application process be expedited, as the VA regulations specifically provide that such applications are to be given priority.

The A&A Pension can provide up to the following amounts per month. These benefit payments are TAX FREE, and do not affect taxes on other pensions programs, such as Social Security Income.

2010 Maximum Monthly Pension Rates for Aid and Attendance
Veteran, Married $1,945
Veteran, Single $1,644
Surviving Spouse $1,055
Veteran married to another Veteran $2,580

These VA pension benefits can make a huge difference in the ability of the veteran, or widow or widower to afford basic costs of living, in-home caregivers in order to be able to stay at home, or to afford to live in an assisted living facility of his or her choice without Medicaid. Planning for eligibility for veteran’s pension benefits is somewhat similar to, but less complicated than the intricate planning often necessary for Medicaid eligibility. A very worrisome concern is, however, that the simpler rules for VA pension benefit eligibility may entice seniors or their agents under Powers of Attorney to carry out transactions that will cause later Medicaid ineligibility if either the veteran or the veteran’s spouse, widow or widower should require nursing home Medicaid benefits within five years.

It is crucial not to preclude later Medicaid eligibility. Because of this, VA pension eligibility planning needs be done with careful analysis of its implications for eventual Medicaid eligibility for the veteran or his or her spouse. Veteran Service Organizations (such as VFW and American Legion) provide an instrumental service as they provide no-cost assistance in preparing and filing applications for veterans benefits, but, unfortunately, they are not qualified to assist veterans or their families with eligibility planning. Furthermore, they are not qualified to counsel veterans or their families in regard to Medicaid eligibility and the sometimes-conflicting standards and techniques that apply to the two sets of eligibility rules. Such planning requires the careful guidance and assistance of an experienced elder law attorney.

Finding VA Resources and Getting Help

Information on VA benefits or a VA Medical Center can be found by calling toll-free 1-800-827-1000 or visiting the national VA Web site, http://www.va.gov. Most New York counties have a veterans service officer who assists veterans and their families without charge in identifying VA benefits that might be available to them and in applying for benefits.

For additional links and resources visit our Veteran’s link at ElderCare Resource Center:

http://www.eldercareresourcecenter.info/veterans-seniors-new-york.php

Brian Andrew Tully, Esq. is accredited by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs to represent and assist veterans and their spouses in the preparation, presentation and prosecution of claims for benefits, including the Aide and Attendance pension.

This Memorandum is based on current law and is for informational purposes only. It is important that you discuss all legal options and consequences with a qualified elder law attorney prior to any action. Should you wish to discuss your situation with us, please call (631) 424-2800 for a consultation.