How to Secure VA Benefits for Elderly Home Care

A little-known benefit from the Veterans Benefits Administration called Aid and Attendance Pension is available to help eligible veterans and their spouses receive assistance with daily living tasks to age safely in place.

The benefit is a tax-free monthly monetary payment available to certain financially needy veterans and their survivors. It is designed for veterans who do not have a service-connected disability as a result of their military service and is available to those who need the “aid and assistance” of another person with their routine activities of daily living on an ongoing basis.

These five basic activities of daily living, or ADLs, include eating, bathing/grooming, dressing, continence (using the bathroom), and mobility (moving, walking). Home care agencies provide aides who can help those who need help with activities of daily living. Aid and Attendance helps war veterans and their spouses pay for that assistance.

To qualify, a veteran, or the surviving spouse of a veteran, must meet three levels of criteria or what we call the three “M’s.”

Military service is the first consideration.. A veteran, or the surviving spouse of a veteran, must have served at least 90 days on active duty, at least one day during the war. This must include an honorable or general discharge. (Veterans of the Persian Gulf War must have two years of active duty or the full period for which they were called to active duty.)

A medical condition is the second criteria.. A non-service-connected medical problem that causes individuals to require assistance with activities of daily living is also required.

Money is the third consideration. Individuals (or married couples) must have a net worth of less than $130,773. (limit established by Congress 12.1.2020). The primary residence and the value of the car are not counted as part of the net worth. Ongoing unreimbursed medical and long-term care expenses can also reduce a person’s countable income.

Service during one of the VA-defined periods of war is also required. These dates include World War II, from December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946; The Korean conflict, June 27, 1950 to January 31, 1955; The Vietnam Era, August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975; Veterans who served between February 28, 1961 and August 5, 1964 must have served “in the country” (Vietnam). And the Persian Gulf War, August 2, 1990 – date yet to be determined.

Social workers play a key role in helping veterans and their families understand the nuances of obtaining the Aid and Assistance Benefit. Typically, the trigger involving social workers is a hospital stay. When older patients transition from a hospital or rehabilitation center to a home setting, they often need help with daily activities.

A successful example of a veteran who was able to secure and use these benefits was Albert Warren, a Korean veteran. He was a patient at a rehab center in Texas. A widower, he was referred to home care through the VetAssist Program. He was able to live in his house for seven years before he passed away at the age of 86.

A 90-year-old woman, Catherine DeNova, and her daughter were also able to obtain Aid and Attendance pension benefits through VetAssist as well. DeNova had a pacemaker and suffered from congestive heart failure. She was the surviving wife of a World War II veteran. She had relied solely on her daughter to manage her care. They secured home care, improving Catherine’s quality of life and providing respite care for her daughter. Ms. DeNova continued to receive her VA benefits for private home care for almost two years before she passed away.

A social worker can help veterans, their surviving spouses, and their families get the right information to determine if a person qualifies for the Aid and Attendance Pension. They can also help refer the patient to an agency to help with paperwork processing to ensure a positive result in the shortest amount of time.

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