This tax-free benefit is available to qualifying war-era veterans and to their surviving spouses. The benefit is for those veterans with a non-service connected disability who require the regular attendance of another person or caregiver. It is a cash benefit to help pay for in-home care, or for care in other settings such as nursing homes or in assisted living facilities.
If you are a low-income veteran who served during wartime, in combat or not, you may be eligible for the program. The pension provides a monthly check to bring your income up to a certain level. You do not need a VA disability rating. Low-income widows of veterans are eligible as well.
Eligibility is based on: 1. service during a period of war 2. any discharge status other than dishonorable 3. needing the assistance of another person for one or more activities of daily living.
There are asset and income thresholds, but your home and car don’t count as assets, and unrembursed medical bills can be deducted from your income. If you meet the eligibility requirements, you must then meet the qualification standards. There is no set standard for qualification. Each case is evaluated on its own merits.
Unfortunately you are not likely to hear about this benefit, even if you are receiving medical care from the VA. A personal experience–Last year I visited the VA booth in the exhibit hall at an American Library Association conference. I greeted the two young women staffing the booth, both with lap top computers open in front of them. After identifying myself as a veteran, I asked them if they had heard of the VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit. Seeing the blank look on both their faces I suggested that they enter the title in their lap tops. After a few moments one said: “Oh, there it is.” To be fair, the VA is large and it offers dozens, if not hundreds of programs. Who would know about them all?
Some helpful hints: At the VA’s website ” benefits.VA.gov/pensions/ ” you will find complete information, along with links to the application form, etc. You will need your DD-214 discharge form, and, if you are a widow, you will also need your marriage license and the veteran’s death certificate.
The process can daunting and lengthy, but benefits are paid retroactively to the date of the application. Commercial help is available through specialist law firms and other veteran advisors. One local specialist law firm is California Elder Law Center in Lakewood. Go to “calelderlaw.com” or call 800-615-7080. The firm has engaged in outreach events to publicize this important benefit—that is how I learned about it.
Norman W. Bernier, CLU, ChFC Norm is a US Army veteran (no combat) living in Los Angeles. He is an independent insurance agent officed in Santa Monica, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org