Peacock Tales • Fall 2011

Understanding the Veterans 'Aid and Attendance' Pension Benefit

By Susan Mondik Key

“Aid and Attendance” is the commonly used term for financial assistance available to veterans or their surviving spouse to help pay for care if they are housebound and require a caregiver or live in an assisted living facility. Many people are aware of the Veterans Administration (VA) health system for medical services. Most, however, are surprised to learn that Aid and Attendance is available to war-time service vets, their surviving spouses, and their surviving dependent children who meet the eligibility rules.

These benefits are not based on a veteran’s term of service. Instead, the VAAid and Attendance benefit is a “needs based” program. Any war-time veteran with ninety days of active duty, one day beginning or ending during a period of war, is eligible to apply. A surviving spouse of a war- time veteran may also apply. The applicant must qualify both medically and financially.

To qualify medically, the applicant must need the assistance of another person to perform activities of daily living. Residing in a nursing home or in an assisted living facility qualifies.

To qualify financially, the applicant must have on the average less than $80,000.00 in assets. However, the applicant’s principal residence, household goods and motor vehicles are excluded. Eligibility is a question of fact determined on a case-by-case basis considering such factors as income, unreimbursed medical expenses, the applicant’s life expectancy, etc.

Unlike Medicaid, the VA does not penalize individuals who have transferred assets to a family member. Assets can be retitled to meet the asset qualifications. Since there is no “lookback” period with the VA Aid and Attendance benefit, unlike Medicaid, families have flexibility in planning.

Another advantage is that veterans eligible to receive Aid and Attendance are also eligible to receive free pharmacy and other health benefits. Often an applicant who is not eligible to receive Aid and Attendance may be eligible to receive discounted VA prescription medications.

Veterans service organization are available to assist veterans and their families with completing the appropriate forms for “Aid and Attendance.” In Washington County, information is available through the office of Veterans Affairs, Courthouse Square, 100 West Beau Street, Suite 703, Washington, PA 15301; phone 724-228-6865 or in Allegheny County through: VFW Department Svc Ofcr, 1000 Liberty Avenue, Room 1601, Pittsburgh, PA 15222; phone 412-395- 6259.

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