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Aid and Attendance Benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is reaching out to inform wartime veterans and surviving spouses of deceased wartime veterans about an under-used, special monthly pension benefit called Aid and Attendance.

“Veterans have earned this benefit by their service to our nation,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson. “We want to ensure that every veteran or surviving spouse who qualifies has the chance to apply.”

Although this is not a new program, not everyone is aware of his or her potential eligibility. The Aid and Attendance pension benefit may be available to wartime veterans and surviving spouses who have in-home care or who live in nursing-homes or assisted-living facilities.

Many elderly veterans and surviving spouses whose incomes are above the congressionally mandated legal limit for a VA pension may still be eligible for the special monthly Aid and Attendance benefit if they have large medical expenses, including nursing home expenses, for which they do not receive reimbursement.

To qualify, claimants must be incapable of self support and in need of regular personal assistance.

The basic criteria for the Aid and Attendance benefit include the inability to feed oneself, to dress and undress without assistance, or to take care of one’s own bodily needs. People who are bedridden or need help to adjust special prosthetic or orthopedic devices may also be eligible, as well as those who have a physical or mental injury or illness that requires regular assistance to protect them from hazards or dangers in their daily environment.

For a wartime veteran or surviving spouse to qualify for this special monthly pension, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active military service, one day of which was during a period of war, and be discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

Wartime veterans who entered active duty on or after September 8, 1980, (October 16, 1981, for officers) must have completed at least 24 continuous months of military service or the period for which they were ordered to active duty. If all requirements are met, VA determines eligibility for the Aid and Attendance benefit by adjusting for un-reimbursed medical expenses from the veteran’s or surviving spouse’s total household income. If the remaining income amount falls below the annual income threshold for the Aid and Attendance benefit, VA pays the difference between the claimant’s household income and the Aid and Attendance threshold.

Burial Benefits

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Aid & Attendance FAQ

How do I know that I qualify for Aid & Attendance?

the VA will require that your physician fill out a form establishing that the claimant requires daily assistance from others in order to dress, bathe, cook, eat, leave home, etc. The claimant does NOT have to require help in ALL these areas. There simply must be adequate medical evidence that the claimant cannot function alone.

How do I know that I qualify for Housebound?

A physician’s statement is also required for Housebound (and the VA will automatically consider it if the claimant does not fully qualify for A&A). The criteria for Housebound require that the claimant need regular assistance, but is not as limited as the A&A recipient.

How do I know that I qualify for Basic Pension?

A veteran who served in the military 90 days, one of which was during the eras outlined in Question 2 is eligible for a basic pension if he meets the net worth and income criteria. The same is true for the surviving spouse. Please visit the Veterans Pension Program Site

Is there a “look back” period for Improved Pension?

No, the VA looks at the assets in hand the day the forms are filed.

I am my father’s Power of Attorney; how is that handled?

the VA does NOT recognize a POA unless they have approved the individual for that designation. If you are simply a POA for convenience purposes, it is much quicker to have your parent manage and sign the forms themselves. If your parent is not capable of managing his/her own affairs in that manner, then the VA will want to set up an interview with you in order to determine if you are the appropriate fiduciary for the claimant.

What happens if my claim is denied for excessive income?

Denial is often only the beginning of the process. You then have one year to collect receipts etc. on your medical expenses. At the end of that year you file what is known as an EVR – a two-page sheet that establishes your income and expenses for the year. If the VA reviews it and determines that you are now eligible for the pension, you will receive a lump sum check, retroactive back to the date you originally filed.

Can I send the claim to any VA office?

No, the claim package must go to the Regional VA Office that serves the area in which the claimant resides.  Do not send claim packages to VA medical centers or other facilities. They must go to the regional office that serves your region.

My mother is applying for the surviving spouse’s A&A, does she need to have a marriage license?

Actually, she needs the marriage certificate, not license. The certificate establishes that the wedding did indeed take place. If you cannot find the certificate, you may need to contact the Clerk of Courts office in the county where your parents were married. You do need to have this document so the VA can establish that your mother has a legitimate claim to the benefits earned by your father’s service.

My father was married before he married my mother; does the VA need any of that information?

Yes, you will need to provide the following: where the marriage took place, when, to whom, what date it ended? Where? And how? The VA needs to be able to establish that the previous marriage ended through the appropriate legal channels in order to establish the legitimacy of your mother’s claim to the benefits.

What portion of assisted living expenses is considered deductible?

If the VA determines that the claimant is deserving of Aid & Attendance or Housebound benefits, then ALL of the costs are deductible. The VA Operating Manual states: “Allow all reasonable fees paid to the facility as long as the facility provides some medical or nursing services for the disabled person. These services do not have to be furnished by a licensed health professional.”

If my mother sells her house before moving into Assisted Living, does she have to count that money as income?

No, it does not count as income, but as soon as she puts it in the bank, it will become part of her net worth. If you mother has plans to sell her house, then it is always best to take care of these issues before applying for A&A. How she disperses the money from the sale is between her and her financial advisor, but any money she retains in savings accounts, CDs, IRAs etc. will be considered part of her net worth. As previously noted, there is no “look back” on Aid & Attendance.

Burial Benefit FAQ 

What Are VA Burial Allowances?

VA burial allowances are partial reimbursements of an eligible veteran’s burial and funeral costs. When the cause of death is not service-related, the reimbursements are generally described as two payments: (1) a burial and funeral expense allowance, and (2) a plot interment allowance.

Who Is Eligible?

You may be eligible for a VA burial allowance if:

  • you paid for a veteran’s burial or funeral AND
  • you have not been reimbursed by another government agency or some other source, such as the deceased veteran’s employer and
  • the veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

In addition, at least one of the following conditions must be met:

  • the veteran died because of a service-related disability or
  • the veteran was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death or
  • the veteran was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation, but decided not to reduce his/her military retirement or disability pay or
  • the veteran died in a VA hospital, in a nursing home under VA contract, or while in an approved state nursing home.

How Much Does VA Pay?

Service-Related Death:

VA will pay up to $2,000 toward burial expenses for deaths on or after September 11, 2001. VA will pay up to $1,500 for deaths prior to September 10, 2001. If the veteran is buried in a VA national cemetery, some or all of the cost of transporting the deceased may be reimbursed.

Nonservice-Related Death:

VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses, and a $300 plot-interment allowance for deaths on or after December 1, 2001. The plot-interment allowance is $150 for deaths prior to December 1, 2001. If the death happened while the veteran was in a VA hospital or under VA contracted nursing home care, some or all of the costs for transporting the deceased’s remains may be reimbursed.

How Can You Apply?

You can apply by filling out VA Form 21-530, Application for Burial Benefits. You should attach proof of the veteran’s military service (DD 214), a death certificate, and copies of funeral and burial bills you have paid.