Most veterans are familiar with the Veteran’s Administration (VA) program for service connected disability.  However, one of the VA’s best kept secrets is the program for non-service connected disability pension or “Aid & Attendance” as it is commonly called.  Aid & Attendance is a program available to veterans or their dependents regardless of whether the veteran’s or dependent’s disability was service connected.  The program gets its name from the requirement that the veteran or their dependent (includes spouse) must need the “aid and attendance” of another for their care.  This program can be a real life- saver when the veteran or their dependent is in need of home health care, assisted living, or nursing home care.

To qualify the following requirements must be met:

  1. Obviously the applicant must be a wartime veteran (38 USCS Section 1521j) or a dependent of a wartime veteran including a surviving un-remarried spouse.  Basically, the veteran must have served at least one day during wartime and have been discharged under any condition other than dishonorable.
  2. The applicant must be determined to be “permanently and totally disabled”.  Generally, a letter from the applicant’s personal physician stating that the applicant has an incapacity that requires care or assistance regularly to protect the applicant from danger in their daily environment.  This is a fairly easy standard to meet.
  3. As a general rule of thumb, the net worth of the applicant cannot exceed $80,000 for a married couple.  The home and a car are not counted.  There currently is no “look back” period or transfer penalty as there is with Medicaid programs.  However, if the applicant may need Medicaid in the future, remember that any transfer to qualify for Aid & Attendance may have repercussions in the form of penalty periods for Medicaid.  Consult with an elder law attorney for information about Medicaid.
  4. For Aid & Attendance, the applicant’s income cannot exceed $1,794 per month for a single veteran, and $2,127 for a veteran with a dependent spouse.   These are the maximum “countable” income rate numbers.  “Countable” income is all income attributable to the veteran (38 CFR Sections 3.262 and 3.27 1).  Unreimbursed medical expenses can be deducted from the veteran’s income (Manual M21-1, Part IV, Section 16.3 1b [6] [a]).  A surviving spouse may be eligible to receive $1,153. Again, consult with an elder law attorney for more information and to ensure all eligibility requirements are met.

The maximum pension award amount available to the veteran or their spouse is based on a formula.  The formula for calculating the pension amount is the maximum pension rate minus the sum of current monthly income less unreimbursed medical expenses.  Aid & Attendance payments do not count as income for Medicaid qualification purposes.  However, if the applicant is in a nursing home and on Medicaid, the pension amount is reduced to $90 a month by law.

There are proposed rule changes coming to VA Aid & Attendance in 2017.  These changes would increase the maximum amount of assets to near the Medicaid level ($122,900 for 2017 excluding house and car), would create a three year “look back” period for transfers and create penalties for uncompensated transfers (gifts) within the “look back” period.  The current “best guess” is that the new rules will come out sometime around April 2017.

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wjohnsonThis month’s Senior Partner spotlight article was brought to you by William A. Johnson, P.A.  He is an Attorney at Law that specializes in Elder Law, Medicaid, and Estate Planning.