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How to secure VA benefits for senior in-home care

As we approach veterans day, we want to make our friends aware of a little-known benefit from the Veterans Benefits Administration called the Aid and Attendance Pension is available to help qualifying veterans and their spouses receive assistance with the chores of daily living to age safely in place.

The benefit is a tax-free, monthly, monetary payment available to certain wartime veterans with financial need, and their survivors. It is designed for veterans who do not have a service-connected disability resulting from their military service and is available for those who need the “aid and attendance” of another person for their routine daily living activities on a permanent basis.

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

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

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 wartime. This must include an honorable or general discharge. (Persian Gulf War veterans must have two years of active duty or the full period for which they were called for active duty.)

A medical condition is the second criteria. A non-service connected medical issue that causes the individuals to need 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 Dec. 1, 2020). A primary residence and value of automobile are not counted as part of the net worth. Ongoing non-reimbursable medical and long-term care expenses may also reduce one’s countable income.

Service during one of the VA defined war periods is also required. These dates include World War II, Dec. 7, 1941–Dec. 31, 1946; the Korean conflict, June 27, 1950–Jan. 31, 1955; the Vietnam era, Aug. 5, 1964–May 7, 1975. Veterans who served from Feb. 28, 1961–Aug. 5, 1964, must have served “in country” (Vietnam). The remaining period is the Persian Gulf War, Aug. 2, 1990– date yet to be determined.

Securing benefits

Social workers play a key role in helping the veterans and their families understand the nuances of securing the Aid and Attendance Benefit. Typically, the trigger that gets social workers involved is a hospital stay. When older patients transition from a hospital or rehab facility back into a home environment, they often need help with daily activities.

One successful example of a veteran who was able to secure and utilize these benefits was Albert Warren, a Korean veteran. He was a patient at a rehabilitation center in Texas. A widower, he was referred to in-home care through the VetAssist Program from