Every year, millions of senior veterans miss out on a benefit that could help them pay for much needed care. It’s called Aid & Attendance (A&A), and for qualifying veterans and their families, it can go a long way toward paying for the cost of an assisted living community or nursing home, or even pay an adult child providing care. Starting this year, the VA has made the qualifications for A&A more explicit.
Aid & Attendance: A Senior Care Benefit for Veterans
“I first found out about A&A while I was talking to a senior living advisor at A Place for Mom,” says Lisa Paganetti of Colorado. Her father served in the Air Force for 21 years, and two years ago, he broke his hip and needed assisted living care. Paganetti moved him from Texas to Colorado, then needed to pay long-term care expenses not covered by Medicare.
The A&A application process was complex and time-consuming, but worth it, says Paganetti,
“That money made the difference in getting my father the care he needed,” agrees Virginia-based Melinda Mayo. Her father, Alton Butler, served in the Navy during World War II and needed care after a near-fatal bout of pneumonia. Mayo learned about the program from the VA’s website.
As of October, a veteran with no dependents could qualify for up to $1,831/month; a married veteran could qualify for $2,170.
Navigating the Aid & Attendance Application Process
The application process takes an average of nine months, including filling out forms and submitting a long list of documents, including original discharge papers, proof of all assets and income, and a physician statement.
A paid accredited claims agent assisted Mayo as she gathered the necessary documents and submitted forms. “The agent followed up with the VA and even called on my behalf when there were delays,” she says. The process took about nine months. After approval, Mayo moved her parents into assisted living.
After her father passed away, Mayo coordinated surviving-spouse Aid & Attendance benefits for her mom. “Approval only took about three months, because dad was already in the system,” Mayo says.
The Colorado Division of Veterans Affairs offered Paganetti free help for her dad’s application.
“They made an appointment with me to go over everything, so the paperwork was complete and filled out correctly,” she says.
Eligibility factors include:
- Medically documented need for daily help
- Monthly income and assets below the limits set by the VA
- Honorable discharge
- Service during wartime
Before October, the VA only stated that an applicant’s net worth couldn’t be “excessive.” Now, the net-worth upper limit is $123,600, excluding appliances, home and vehicles. There’s also a new three-year lookback period, similar to the Medicaid lookback period, to ensure that applicants haven’t given away assets that would have put their net worth over the limit. Gifts and transfers that don’t meet the requirements may result in delays of the benefit for veterans, but they’re not necessarily disqualifying.
The VA pays retroactive benefits as well – covering the time from application until approval. “That retroactive payment was a huge relief. I can’t imagine not having this for Dad,” Paganetti says.
Resources to Apply for Aid & Attendance
Learn more about A&A, eligibility, documents and to get help in the application process, by downloading the Guide to VA Benefits & Long Term Care.
Other helpful resources include:
- The American Legion
- The Veterans Benefits Administration
- The Veterans of Foreign Wars
- VA-accredited claims specialists and attorneys (be sure to check the Better Business Bureau, references and reviews before you sign any financial agreement)
- Your state’s Department of Veterans Affairs
This Veterans Day take a few minutes to see if you or another loved one is eligible for A&A.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based writer and frequent contributor to A Place for Mom’s blog.
Photo: Luke Michael for Unsplash