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Planning for Long-Term Care Benefits for Veterans and Surviving Spouses

Planning for Long-Term Care Benefits for Veterans and Surviving Spouses

Long-term care costs can add up quickly. 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. 

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 action, 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 meet certain minimum asset requirements. In addition, the veteran's income must be less than the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR). Following are the MAPRs for 2016:

Single Veteran$21,466
Veteran with one dependent$25,448
Single surviving spouse$13,794
Surviving spouse with one dependent$16,456

Income does not include welfare benefits or Supplemental Security Income. It also does not include unreimbursed medical expenses actually paid by the veteran or a member of his or her family. This can include Medicare and long-term care insurance premiums; over-the-counter medications taken at a doctor's recommendation; long-term care costs, such as nursing home fees; the cost of an in-home attendant that 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). The expenses should also be recurring, meaning that they should recur every month.

How it works. The amount a person receives depends on his or her income. The VA pays the difference between the veteran's income and the MAPR. 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. Subtracting his medical expenses from his income ($28,500 - $22,910), John's countable income is $5,590. John could qualify for $15,876 ($21,466 - $5,590) in Aid and Attendance benefits.

Sally Bergman is accredited by the Veterans Administration to represent Veterans and can assist Veterans and their families in qualifying to receive these benefits.


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