Aid & Attendance Provides Tax-Free Financial Assistance

Aid & Attendance is a federal pension benefit available to eligible veterans and surviving spouses through the Veterans Administration.   This is a tax-free, monthly pension.  Veterans/spouses with certain recurring  health/medical expenses may be able to financial assistance to help pay for homecare services.

Currently, there are less than 600,000 individuals actually receiving financial assistance. This figure represents only 5% of the population which may be eligible, and who would qualify at some level for Aid & Attendance. Under the right conditions, many seniors in this country could qualify to receive up to $2,019./month (husband & wife) in tax-free funds from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

To receive the financial benefits, a veteran must have served on active duty during a period of war and received an honorable discharge. Service in combat is not required, only that the veteran was in a branch of the military service during wartime and was discharged honorably. Single surviving spouses of such veterans are also eligible. Additional eligibility requirements include a medical/health condition (or documented medical disability) that requires regular assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s), and financial need.

Unfortunately, few people know where to turn for basic information about this pension – whether or not they might be eligible – and how to apply.

In a previous blog entry, I began to write about the “myths and misconceptions” concerning the Aid & Attendance pension benefit, the application process, and the subsequent proper use of benefit funds.  Below, I continue this discussion…

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Myth # 7:  I own my home. I have lived here for 35 + years. Won’t this disqualify me?

Answer:  Quite the contrary. The Aid & Attendance pension was put in place to help seniors remain in their homes, and provide them financial assistance to do so. The benefit was established back in the 1950’s…back when there were no assisted living facilities, nor nursing homes, available to help people as they naturally aged. People remained in their own homes as they grew older.  As we all know, a bi-product of aging is a deterioration of some skill and functionality, and the Veterans Administration provides some funds to pay for services to “aid and attend to” eligible recipients.

 Myth # 8:  I have no outstanding mortgage on my home, which is my primary residence. Does this eliminate my eligibility?

Answer:  No, not at all. Whether you currently carry a mortgage on your residence, or are debt free, has no effect on eligibility. Your home is not counted in defining your “liquid assets”. Now, if you own more than one home, this may disqualify you. But if you are like many seniors, and you live in one home (whether you own, or rent), you may be eligible to receive some financial help to stay there.

Myth # 9:  I have taken out a reverse mortgage on my home, and am using it for monthly cash flow. Am I still eligible for Aid & Attendance?

Answer:  Yes, for two reasons. Number 1:) the reverse mortgage is actually a loan, so even though you may be using it to provide funds for your daily living, it is not considered or counted as income. And Number 2:), your home is not counted as an asset – so the fact that you are using it to generate spending money is your decision, and your business. But it does not effect eligibility for Aid & Attendance.

Myth # 10:  I heard that the asset ceiling for my savings and estate portfolio is $40,000. Is this true?

Answer:  No. There are many figures being tossed around concerning “total liquid assets”, and this is yet another that is incorrect. The VA has set a ceiling on liquid assets at $80,000 or less. This means, for a veteran and spouse who are thinking about preparing an application, they must have combined household assets of $80,000 or less. Similarly, for a single applicant (i.e., veteran with no dependents, or a surviving spouse of a wartime veteran), the total liquid assets need to be less than $80,000. 

Some of the misinformation in the marketplace is due to positioning for estate and financial planning.  Since there is not look-back period for Aid & Attendance, personal savings and estate portfolios can/are managed to provide proof of assets below the $80,000 ceiling.  Unfortunately, some veterans have been misinformed, and were told of a required lower assets figure in an effort to gain a business advantage.

Myth # 11:  My father already receives medical benefits through the VA. Is he eligible for Aid & Attendance?  

Answer:  Yes, he is absolutely eligible. A veteran may be wise to have medical coverage through the substantial resources offered within the VA medical system. But this in no way precludes eligibility for Aid & Attendance. The former offers hospitalization, medical care and attention. The latter provides financial assistance to help defray costs related to homecare.

Myth # 12:  I’m healthy, but my wife requires significant care. Should I look more closely at this benefit?

Answer:  Aid & Attendance may provide some financial assistance. There are generally three categories for claim applicants: A) Veteran and Spouse; B) Veteran with no dependents; and C) Surviving Spouse of eligible wartime veteran. Each of these claim categories provides a different dollar amount as a maximum benefit. One criteria to determine eligibility is having a medical/health related need, effecting two or more of your “activities of daily living”, or ADL’s. Should the spouse require care, she and her husband should think about submitting an application for benefits.

Myth # 13:  I currently receive a monthly pension through Aid & Attendance. Can I expect my monthly pension to increase?

Answer:  The Aid & Attendance benefit, in all eligibility categories, is tied to increases in social security. This year in 2012, the benefit increased approximately 3%, as did social security. Therefore, the maximum benefit levels for recipients of Aid & Attendance did show a slight increase for those receiving the pension.

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