Veterans are one of our greatest assets in the United States. The courageous men and women who put aside their own lives to protect our country are all heroes. But while their service for our country took courage, navigating today’s healthcare systems as they age takes stamina.
According to a 2021 Pew Research study, 37% of veterans are 70 and older and 36% are between 50 and 69 years of age. There is no significant decline expected in that demographic among veterans over the next 25 years. Our veterans are living longer, and health care costs have skyrocketed. The Veterans Administration is doing its best to keep up. Turning to medicare or private insurance is not always enough to cover the care aging veterans need. However, there are options available.
Aid & Attendance
The Veterans Administration (VA) offers a program called Aid and Attendance (AA) to support those who have served our country. This special benefit is largely unknown among the veteran community. Only an estimated quarter of eligible veterans apply for it. The AA benefit provides additional monetary benefits to veterans and surviving spouses who require regular assistance to stay at home. AA also includes benefits for individuals who need care in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility.
The AA program is a pension benefit and does not require you to have service-related injuries or ailments. You could be eligible for up to $1,788 per month and your surviving spouse could be eligible for up to $1,149 per month on top of your VA Pension or Survivors Pension to help cover the cost of long-term senior care.
You must already have an in-home caregiver to apply for AA. You must also receive the basic VA pension, or you must apply for the VA pension along with AA.
For the basic VA pension you must meet the following requirements:
- You have not been dishonorably discharged.
- You served on active duty before Sept. 8, 1980, for at least 90 days, with at least one day during wartime, or served on active duty after Sept. 7, 1980, for 24 months, with at least one day during wartime.
- You are at least 65, have a permanent disability, live in a nursing home due to a disability, or receive Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income.
In addition to these VA pension requirements, you must fit one of the following health condition descriptions to be eligible for the additional AA benefit:
- You need a caregiver to assist with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), like dressing, showering, or toileting.
- You are bedridden as the result of an illness.
- You live in a nursing home due to a physical or cognitive disability.
- Your vision is 5/200 or less in both eyes or you have a visual field of 5 degrees or fewer.
AA Financial Eligibility
The AA program is a needs-based benefit. To be eligible you must meet a financial test. The VA uses a net worth test that calculates your annual income and adds your countable assets. This is known as net worth.
Your annual income includes salary, bonuses, commissions, tips, Social Security benefits, retirement payments, and any income a spouse or dependents may receive. Your assets include personal property like land and investments but exclude your primary home and vehicle.
However, some expenses may be deducted from your income and assets when calculating net worth. These expenses include medical expenses that aren’t reimbursed, Medicare premiums or Medicare supplemental premiums, or medical products or services prescribed by a doctor.
For 2022 your net worth must be no more than $138,489 to qualify for AA.
AA Eligible Home-Based Services
AA can pay for either a relative or a hired caregiver to help you at home with the Activities of Daily Living (ADL). These are a series of basic activities necessary for independent living at home or in the community. They are typically performed daily.
There are many variations on the definition of ADLs, but most organizations agree there are five basic categories. They are:
- Personal hygiene – showers or baths, hair washing and grooming, brushing teeth, and nail care.
- Dressing – choosing appropriate clothing and physically being able to put clothes on and take them off
- Eating – the strength and dexterity to feed yourself. Does not include the ability to prepare food.
- Maintaining continence – the ability to use a restroom, including getting on and off the toilet.
- Mobility– being able to physically get up from a sitting position, get in and out of bed, and walk from one location to another with no help.
Your level of independence is based on whether you can perform these activities on your own or if you need help. If you need help with any one of these five tasks, you are eligible for home care.
VA Housebound Benefits
These benefits are designed to help permanently disabled veterans receive care at home. Similar to AA benefits, you must first meet VA pension eligibility requirements and be receiving that pension to qualify for Housebound benefits. Please note these benefits cannot be granted along with AA benefits.
These are the eligibility requirements for housebound benefits:
- You receive a monthly VA pension
- You have a permanent, service-related disability
- You spend nearly all your time at home for health reasons
This pension does not have any spending requirements and can be a great option for you if you are seeking care at home.
There are plenty of resources to help you navigate the process of applying for AA or Home Housebound Benefits. The links in this article will take you to the VA website for more information. Locally the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center can also provide information and medical services to any veteran and their spouse. We thank every veteran for your service and your sacrifice.
Rocky Mountain Regional Veterans Administration Medical Center‘s Our expert health care team is here to focus on the needs of every Colorado veteran, their families, and caregivers. We promise to comprehensively assess your medical condition and provide outpatient geriatric services that work for you and your family. Our team of specialists provides geriatric services that include medicine, nursing, psychology, psychiatry, social work, and physical and occupational therapy.