As we celebrate Memorial Day, it is a good time to once again let all wartime veterans and their surviving spouses know that a benefit is available through the Veterans Administration to help them with the costs of their long-term care. It is officially called Improved Pension but more commonly referred to as Aid and Attendance.
Aid and Attendance, like other long-term care assistance programs such as Medicaid, has eligibility requirements that have to be satisfied. For Aid and Attendance the eligibility requirements are 1) qualifying wartime service, 2) being disabled or over age 65, 3) income limits and 4) asset limits.
Income is one of the most misunderstood eligibility requirements. This is because for eligibility purposes, income is not gross income but net income after deductions for allowable expenses such as unreimbursed medical expenses. Unreimbursed medical expenses are in general, the costs of long-term care that are not covered by the person’s income or the person’s health or long-term care insurance.
Assets or net worth is the most difficult eligibility requirement to define because the VA does not have a maximum asset threshold. For example, unlike Medicaid, the Aid and Attendance program’s asset limit is not a defined maximum number, like for instance the person can’t own more than $2,000 or $15,000 or $25,000 in assets.
Instead of a defined asset maximum, the VA just offers as guidance that the assets owned by the person are not sufficient to meet the costs of their long-term care needs. In addition, the VA reminds applicants that the Aid and Attendance program is designed as a safety net program and not as an asset protection or estate preservation program.
Despite the gray area in the asset eligibility requirements, Aid and Attendance remains a benefit program that many wartime veterans or their surviving spouses grappling with the costs of long-term care should know about and consider exploring further.