A VA pension may provide income to make life more secure for veterans and their loved ones. Knowing that their loved one has assistance to pay for long-term care can be a tremendous relief for the families of veterans. But the process can be complicated.

This guide will help you navigate the process of accessing the health benefits you deserve for your military service.

Understanding Pension Benefits

VA pension can provide some level of income security for economically disadvantaged wartime veterans and their survivors.

This pension benefit provides tax-free monthly payments for wartime veterans age 65 or older. It’s needs-based, meaning veterans with limited or no income and who have a non-service-related permanent disability are eligible.

Veterans who establish eligibility for a basic pension may qualify for that pension at an increased rate (Special Monthly Pension) if they are housebound or require the aid and attendance of another person in order to perform the personal care activities of daily living.

Annual Pension Rates

View current VA pension rates for veterans, including VA Aid and Attendance rates. If you qualify for these benefits, your payment amount will be based on the difference between your countable income and a limit that Congress sets (called the Maximum Annual Pension Rate, or MAPR).

Your countable income reflects how much you earn, including your Social Security benefits, investment payments, retirement payments, and any income your dependents receive. Some expenses, such as non-reimbursable medical expenses (medical expenses not covered by your insurance provider) may reduce your countable income.

Your MAPR amount is the maximum amount of pension payable. Your MAPR is based on how many dependents you have, if you’re married to another Veteran who qualifies for a pension, and if your disabilities qualify you for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits. MAPRs are adjusted each year for cost-of-living increases. You can find your current MAPR amount using the veterans’ pension rate tables.

Does Medicare Pay for Long Term Care?

Does Medicare pay for long-term care? The answer is yes and no. Medicare Part A will cover up to 100 days of “skilled nursing” care for every incident of illness. However, there are very strict requirements that must be met if you want your visit to be covered. You can learn more about these requirements in this blog post .

Do VA Benefits Cover Long-Term Care?

Aid & Attendance

The Veterans Administration (VA) has an underused pension benefit called Aid and Attendance (or A&A benefit). This benefit offers tax-free money to veterans and their spouses who need assistance performing self-care tasks that occur every day, such as dressing or bathing.

Aid and Attendance ensures that vets who need help like in-home care, board, and care, an assisted living facility or a private-pay nursing home have the money they need to fund their care. 

Additionally, the surviving spouse of a veteran is eligible for long-term care benefits.

How Long Is the Look-Back Period for A Veteran?

Additionally, the latest regulations have established a three-year look-back provision. Applicants are required to disclose any financial transactions they were involved in for three years prior to the application; this helps determine if the veteran transferred assets in order to qualify for benefits.

Your Income

Previously, you were permitted to transfer any assets that put your income over the VA’s limit prior to applying for the benefits. These transfers wouldn’t have an impact on your eligibility. Today, this is no longer permitted.

Now, a veteran (or spouse) who hopes to qualify must have a net worth limit of $127,061. This amount increases each year with cost-of-living adjustments.

An applicant’s house (up to a two-acre lot) doesn’t count as an asset, even if the applicant is currently living in a nursing home. Additionally, applicants can now deduct medical expenses from their income.

This can include:

  • Medicare, Medigap, and long-term care insurance premiums
  • over-the-counter medications taken at a doctor’s recommendation
  • long-term care costs (such as nursing home fees)
  • the cost of an in-home attendant providing medical or nursing services, and/or the cost of an assisted living facility.

Insurance can’t cover these medical expenses, and they should also recur every month.

How to Apply for Benefits?

If you’re interested in applying for VA health benefits, visit VA Geriatrics and Extended Care.

On average, it can take between six to eight months to get approval. However, some applicants might wait for more than a year. As soon as the application is approved,  these benefits are applied retroactively to the date of application.

You can find more information about how to apply for VA long-term care services on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

If you’re not currently enrolled in the VA health care program, you can apply for benefits now. If you’ve got questions, you can contact your local VA office.

To find out how to access these services, contact your VA social worker. Or, call our toll-free hotline at 877-222-8387.

Consider a trust sooner rather than later.

A revocable living trust will place your assets into a trust that is you can utilize throughout your lifetime. After your death, your beneficiaries will have access to the assets in this trust.

A living trust eliminates the necessity for probate, unlike a will. At Port Legal, we’ve got the knowledge and experience you need to answer any questions related to any type of trust.

Let’s Talk About VA Planning

If you’re searching for assistance with your VA planning, Port Legal is here to help. We want all wartime veterans and their spouses to find the financial assistance from the Veterans Aid & Attendance Pensions Benefit program they require in order to feel safe and well cared for in their later years.

Veterans or their spouses who believe they could be impacted by the new rules should contact an attorney immediately. Contact us for a consultation and speak an attorney for free.