By Attorney Suzanne R. Sayward (July 2011)
Many veterans and surviving spouses of veterans are not aware there is a benefit that will provide monthly income to help them pay medical expenses. This benefit, often referred to as “Aid and Attendance” is especially beneficial to veterans residing in an assisted living facility.
Here are five facts to know about Aid and Attendance benefits:
1. A veteran need not have a combat- or service-related injury or disability to be eligible for this benefit.
In order to be eligible for Aid and Attendance benefits, a veteran must meet the following criteria:
•The veteran must have served 90 consecutive days active duty with at least one day having been served during a period of war
•The veteran must have been honorably or medically discharged
•The veteran must be 65 years of age or older or 100% disabled
•The veteran must demonstrate a financial need
A single veteran can receive up to $1,644 per month and a married veteran could receive up to $1,949 per month.
2. A surviving spouse of a veteran can be eligible for Aid and Attendance benefits.
The surviving spouse of a deceased veteran can be eligible to receive up to $1,056 per month if she meets the eligibility criteria. There is no age requirement for a surviving spouse but he or she will need to provide proof that certain income and asset tests are met, in order to receive the benefit.
3. Aid and Attendance benefits are income tax free!
What more is there to say?!
4. In determining eligibility for the benefit, an applicant’s income is reduced by his medical expenses, including assisted living expenses.
Although the income limitation for qualifying for Aid and Attendance benefits is relatively modest, an applicant’s income is reduced by medical expenses for purposes of determining eligibility.
For example, an unmarried veteran seeking Aid and Attendance benefits cannot have an annual income in excess of $19,736 ($1,644 per month). However, the veteran’s medical expenses, including the monthly assisted living fee, reduce his income dollar for dollar. As such, an eligible, unmarried veteran with $30,000 of annual income who pays $2,000 per month for assisted living would be deemed to have an annual income of $6,000 for purposes of determining eligibility for Aid and Attendance benefits ($30,000 – $24,000 annual assisted living charges = $6,000).
5. Although there is an asset test for eligibility, many veterans are able to meet the eligibility threshold with a little bit of planning.
In addition to an income limitation, there is also an asset test imposed in determining eligibility for Aid and Attendance benefits. However, even if assets exceed the guidelines set forth in the Veterans Administration regulations, there are many factors involved in determining actual countable assets for VA benefits purposes. Further, even if an otherwise eligible individual’s assets exceed the asset limitation, there are planning options available to many people that will allow them to meet the eligibility requirements.
If you are a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran who could use some additional income to meet your medical expenses, or if you are considering assisted living but concerned about your ability to pay for the cost, contact your local Veteran’s Service Officer or a VA accredited attorney to learn whether you are eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit.
Attorney Suzanne Sayward is a partner with the Dedham law firm Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC where she concentrates her practice in the areas of estate planning and elder law. She is an accredited attorney with the Veterans Administration. For more information, visit www.ssbllc.com.