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V.A AID & ATTENDANCE

For those of you who are veterans or the spouse of a deceased veteran, Harris & Plottel, LLP can discuss potential eligibility for the Federal Veteran’s Administration program commonly referred to as Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefits.  We can navigate the various eligibility requirements for Veteran’s and Medi-Cal Planning because quite often they don’t go hand-in-hand.  Most people do not take into consideration the conflicting requirements between Veterans and Medi-Cal Planning, nor do they consider the adverse effects improper planning can have on one’s estate plan, financial plan, or tax plan.  Do not fall victim to unaccredited insurance salesmen requiring the purchase of an annuity in order to qualify.  Each of the partners at Harris & Plottel, LLP are accredited attorneys by the Veteran’s Administration and can provide sound advice and strategies for you to qualify for these valuable benefits.

WHAT IS THE AID & ATTENDANCE PENSION?

The Veteran’s Administration (VA) Non-Service Connected Pension with Aid & Attendance (A&A) provides benefits for eligible veterans and/or their surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing and undressing or taking care of the needs of nature.  Individuals who are blind or are in an Assisted Living Facility may also qualify.  Aid and Attendance is for applicants who need financial help for in–home care, to pay for an assisted living facility or a nursing home.  It is a non–service connected disability benefit, meaning the disability does not have to be a result of service.

WHAT IS THE BASIC ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA?

  • Active Duty: ninety days of active service, one day of which must have been during wartime
  • Wartime: WWI, WWII, Korean Conflict, Vietnam Era, & Gulf War/War on Terror
  • Discharge:  Other than dishonorable
  • Medical Evaluation: Physician’s evaluation of medical issues
  • Financial Limitations: Limited income and assets available; Demonstration of unreimbursed medical expenses

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

The pension is paid to wartime veterans who have limited or no income and who are at least 65 years old or, if under 65, are permanently or totally disabled.  There are also “Death Pensions,” which are needs based for a surviving spouse of a deceased wartime veteran who has not remarried.

WHAT ARE THE SERVICE REQUIREMENTS FOR AID AND ATTENDANCE?

A veteran or the veteran’s surviving spouse may be eligible if the veteran:

  • Was discharged from a branch of the United States Armed Forces under conditions that were not dishonorable AND
  • Served at least one day (did not have to be served in combat) during the following wartime periods and had 90 days of continuous military service:
  • World War I: April 6, 1917, through November 11, 1918
  • World War II: December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946
  • Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam Era: August 5, 1964 (February 28, 1961, for veterans who served “in country” before August 5, 1964), through May 7, 1975
  • Persian Gulf War and the War on Terror: August 2, 1990, through a date to be set by Presidential Proclamation or Law.

If the veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally he/she must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty (there are exceptions to this rule).  Most National Guard service does not qualify as active service, although there are limited exceptions. 

WHAT ARE THE DISABILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR AID AND ATTENDANCE?

Veterans, spouses of veterans or surviving spouses can be eligible for Aid and Attendance benefits if they meet the following disability requirements:

  • The aid of another person is needed in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting himself/herself from the hazards of his/her daily environment; OR
  • The claimant is bedridden, in that his/her disability or disabilities require that he/she remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment; OR
  • The claimant is in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity; OR
  • The claimant is blind, or so nearly blind as to have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less, in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.

WHAT ARE THE INCOME REQUIREMENTS FOR AID AND ATTENDANCE?

The claimant’s countable family income must be below a yearly limit set by law.  Countable Income means income received by the claimant and his or her dependents.  It includes earnings, disability and retirement payments, interest and dividends, and net income from farming or business.  A claimant must report all income, but the VA will exclude any income that the law allows.  Public assistance, like SSI, is not counted as part of countable income.  The annual income limits for the Aid and Attendance program are higher than those set for the basic pension.  

UNREIMBURSED MEDICAL EXPENSES

A portion of unreimbursed medical expenses paid by claimants may reduce the countable income.  Unreimbursed medical expenses include: cost of a long term care institution or assisted living, health related insurance premiums (including Medicare premiums), diabetic supplies, private caregivers, incontinence supplies, prescriptions and dialysis not covered by any other health plan. 

WHAT ARE THE ASSET REQUIREMENTS FOR AID AND ATTENDANCE?

Net Worth (the value of your assets) also affects eligibility.  VA pensions are a need–based benefit, and a large net worth might affect your eligibility.  All personal goods are exempt from the net worth.  These goods include the home you live in, a vehicle used for the care of the claimant, and household goods and personal effects such as clothes, jewelry and furniture.  An asset limit is set by law each year.

HOW DOES AID AND ATTENDANCE AFFECT MEDI-CAL BENEFITS?

In the community:  Aid and Attendance payments are not counted as income for Medi-Cal or IHSS purposes for those beneficiaries who reside at home (not in an institution). However, the basic pension does count as income.

In a Nursing Home:  If you are in nursing home under Medi-Cal, you are allowed to keep $35 out of your monthly income for personal needs.  If you receive Aid and Attendance benefits, you will be allowed to keep an additional $90 ($125 total) for the monthly personal needs allowance; the remaining Aid and Attendance payments will be counted as income and will need to be paid as part of your monthly share of cost, unless there is a community spouse or dependent child at home.