Long-term care benefits for veterans and surviving spouses

Long-term care costs can add up quickly. But for veterans and the surviving spouses of veterans who need in-home care or are in a nursing home, help may be available. The Veterans Administration (VA) has an underused pension benefit called Aid and Attendance that provides money to those who need assistance performing everyday tasks. Even veterans whose income is above the legal limit for a VA pension may qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit if they have large medical expenses for which they do not receive reimbursement.Long-term-care-benefits-for-veterans-and-surviving-spouses

Aid and Attendance is a pension benefit, which means it is available to veterans who served at least 90 days, with at least one day during wartime. The veteran does not have to have service-related disabilities to qualify. Veterans or surviving spouses are eligible if they require the aid of another person to perform an everyday activity, such as bathing, feeding, dressing or going to the bathroom. This includes individuals who are bedridden, blind or residing in a nursing home.

To qualify the veteran or spouse must have less than $80,000 in assets, excluding a home and vehicle. In addition, the veteran’s income must be less than the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR). Following are the MAPRs for 2017:

  • Single veteran: $21,531
  • Veteran with one dependent: $25,525
  • Single surviving spouse: $13,836
  • Surviving spouse with one dependent: $16,506

Income does not include welfare benefits or Supplemental Security Income. Moreover, income may be reduced by subtracting unreimbursed medical expenses actually paid by the veteran or a member of his or her family. This can include Medicare, Medigap, and long-term care insurance premiums; over-the-counter medications taken at a doctor’s recommendation; expenses such as nursing home fees; the cost of an in-home attendant who provides some medical or nursing services; and the cost of an assisted living facility. These expenses must be unreimbursed (in other words, insurance must not pay the expenses). They should also be recurring, meaning that they should recur every month.

How it works. The amount of Aid and Attendance benefit a person receives depends on his or her income. The VA pays the difference between the veteran’s income and the MAPR. For example, assume that John, a single veteran, has income from Social Security of $16,500 a year and a pension of $12,000 a year, so his total income is $28,500 a year. He pays $20,000 a year for home health care, $1,122 a year for Medicare, and $1,788 a year for supplemental insurance, so his total medical expenses are $22,910. If you subtract his medical expenses from his income ($28,500 – $22,910), John’s countable income is $5,590. That means he could qualify for $15,941 ($21,531 – $5,590) in Aid and Attendance benefits.

To apply, contact a VA office near you.