Long-term medical care, whether in-home or in a nursing home, can be very expensive. The Veterans Administration (VA) has programs available to help. The VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit provides money to low-income veterans and surviving spouses who require daily assistance for necessary activities such as eating, bathing and dressing.
Aid and Attendance is a pension benefit. This means that in order to qualify, veterans need to have served at least 90 days, with at least one day during war time. They also need to have been honorably discharged. A service-related disability is not necessary to qualify.
Qualifying individuals must have less than $80,000 in assets, not including their home and vehicle. Their income must not exceed the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR). MAPR figures for 2012 are as follows:
Single veteran: $20,447
Veteran with one dependent: $24,239
Single surviving spouse: $13,138
Surviving spouse with one dependent: $15,673
You might look at these numbers and think your income level disqualifies you, but the details of the rules make qualifying easier than it may seem.
Income from welfare benefits and Supplemental Security Income does not count toward the MAPR.
Unreimbursed medical expenses actually paid by veterans or family members are deducted from actual income to determine eligibility. “Unreimbursed” means the expenses were not covered by insurance. Examples include health insurance premiums (Medicare, Medigap, and private), over-the-counter medications, and fees from services such as assisted living facilities, nursing homes and in-home care. Expenses should be recurring to count against income.
The Aid and Assistance benefit pays qualifying individuals the difference between their countable income and the MAPR. Take a look at the following example situation:
Joe is an unmarried veteran with Social Security income of $15,000 per year and a pension of $13,000 per year. His total income is $28,000 per year. He yearly unreimbursed medical expenses are $19,000 for home health care, $1,300 for Medicare, and $1800 for supplemental insurance, for a total of $22,100. Joe subtracts his medical expenses from his income (28,000 – 22,100) to get a countable income of $5,900. Joe subtracts this number from his applicable MAPR (20,447 – 5,900) to determine that he is eligible for $14,547 per year in Aid and Attendance benefits.