VA Gives Veterans Money to Pay for Elder Care Services
Under the right conditions, about one-third of all seniors in this country could qualify for up to $1,949 a month in additional tax free income from the Department of Veterans Affairs to help defray the cost of elder care.This little-known source of money for paying long term care costs is known as Veterans Pension (also sometimes referred to as “Aid and Attendance benefit”)and is available to Veterans who meet certain criteria and who served on active duty during a period of war or to the single surviving spouses of these Veterans. Most people who have heard about this benefitknow that it can helpcover the costs of assisted living and, in some cases, nursing home costs. However, the majority of seniors receiving long term care in this country are in their homes. Estimates are that approximately 70% to 80% of all long term care is being provided in the home. This money can be used to pay children, other relatives, friends, home care companies, or domestic workers to provide elder care services at home. The Department of Veterans Affairs will allow Veterans’ households to include the annual cost of paying any person such as family members, friends or hired help for care when calculating the amount of the Veterans Pension benefit. This annual cost, along with other non-reimbursed medical expenses, is deducted from household income and used to calculate a lower “countable income” which in turn enables families to receive this additional income. The care arrangements and payment for home care must be made prior to application and there must be evidence that this care is needed on an ongoing and regular basis. A formal care contract, prepared by an Elder Law Attorney, is recommended. The benefitis “means based”, meaning that it has an income and an asset test. Veteran households with income or assets above the test levels will not qualify for the benefit. Fortunately, there are special provisions that allow individuals who would normally fail the tests to still qualifyunder certain circumstances. Whilethe VAmaintains that the benefit is for low income families, it should be noted that households earning between $3,000 to $6,000 a month or more can still qualify under the right conditions because of the special provision in the regulations allowing for deduction for care costs. An Elder Law Attorney, accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs,can help potential applicants receive this benefit even when it appears that they do not otherwise qualify.Both Heather Kirson and Patti Fuller are accredited by the VA and are frequent lecturers on this important benefit.