Extra Income for Veterans and Spouses Can Help Pay for Care

APRIL 28, 2008  VOLUME 15, NUMBER 44

There is no doubt that in today’s economy some extra income would be welcome, especially if you are struggling to pay for long term care. Many people aren’t aware that the Veteran’s Administration (VA) has a special program, called “Aid and Attendance,” that pays additional income to Veterans and their spouses, and to the widows (and widowers) of Veterans.

In 2008 single Veterans can receive up to $1554 per month in extra income. Married Veterans may qualify for as much as $1842 per month and widow(er)s up to $998 per month. These additional funds can mean the difference between being able to stay in the home while receiving in-home care or having to be placed in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

In order to qualify, the Veteran must have served at least 90 consecutive days of active service with at least one day of that service having been during a wartime period. The Veteran does nothave to have a service connected disability. The Veteran must also meet medical criteria, which means that he or she must need supervisory care or assistance with activities of daily living. That means requiring assistance with, for instance, grooming, eating or bathing.

There is also a financial test. A Veteran, married or single, must have less than $80,000 in “countable” assets (a house, car, and some other personal items are exempt) and have limited income.

Although there are financial requirements, Veterans should know that the VA will take into account medical bills to offset income. In addition (and unlike the rules for Medicaid and most other government programs), there are no penalties for gifts or transfers. The VA programs even allocate account values based on account titling — meaning that a jointly-held account will be treated as only partially belonging to the Veteran. These rules are much more relaxed than federal/state Medicaid rules, which means that there are many more opportunities to plan for VA benefits. That can even mean securing government assistance which allows the Veteran to simultaneously stay at home while staying off of the state Medicaid system.

If a VA Aid and Attendance applicant already requires long term care it is certainly important to consider Medicaid rules at the same time, if for no other reason than the possibility that care needs might increase. Benefits received under the Medicaid system can be much more generous than those available under Aid and Attendance Income, as the Medicaid system pays for care directly. That can easily amount to $4,000 or more of care costs per month. Cautious planning is, of course, the rule when considering present Aid and Attendance applications and/or future Medicaid eligibility.

All that being said, there are planning opportunities for both programs, and many Veterans will find that they are presented with more options in receiving assistance to pay for long term care. At Fleming & Curti, PLC, we stand ready to help Arizona Veterans and their family members figure out the availability of benefits, eligibility rules and planning options.

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