Paying for Senior Care with Veteran Benefits
The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs helps veterans and their families by providing supplemental income through Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension benefits.
There are three tiers of benefits that veterans or their families can take advantage of, as long as they meet the requirements. The three tiers of benefits are the basic veteran pension, aid & attendance, and household benefits.
Seniors can use VA Benefits to help supplement the cost of senior care including assisted living, skilled nursing care, memory care, most residential care homes licensed by the state, in-home care, and adult day services.
VA Pension Benefit Eligibility
To qualify for the basic Veteran pension, a veteran must have been discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions, and served 90 days or more of active duty, with at least one day during a period of war.
The family’s countable income needs to be below the limit set by Congress and have a net worth that is not excessive. Countable income includes earnings, disability and retirement payments, interest and dividend payments from annuities, and net income. Unreimbursed medical expenses may reduce countable income.
A summary of VA Pension Benefits can be found online. Veterans and Survivors can view the current Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) on the VA website.
Qualifying for Basic VA Pension
Along with those requirements, to qualify for VA Pension, they must also meet at least one of the following requirements:
- Age 65 or older
- Totally and permanently disabled
- Be a patient in a nursing home
- Be receiving Social Security disability benefits
One thing to note about these requirements is that the VA does not differentiate between nursing homes and assisted living. In most states, residents in assisted living communities still qualify for VA Pension benefit.
Qualifying for Aid & Attendance
For veterans or survivors, they may be eligible for an increased monthly pension on top of their basic pensions, and receive aid & attendance benefit if one of the following conditions is met:
- Veteran or survivor requires the aid of another person in order to perform some tasks of everyday living
- Veteran or survivor is bedridden, apart from a prescribed course of treatment or therapy
- Veteran or survivor is a patient in a nursing home, due to a mental or physical incapacity; this includes Alzheimer’s and Dementia
- Veteran or survivor has eyesight limited to a corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less in both eyes
Qualifying for Housebound Benefits
If a veteran or survivor is eligible for the basic pension, they can qualify for housebound benefits if they are confined to their immediate premises due to a permanent disability.
Eligible Wartime Periods
To determine eligibility for VA Pension benefits, the VA recognizes the following wartime periods. This does not include the Mexican Border Period, or World War I, as there are no longer any surviving veterans.
Also important to note is that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been officially declared wartime by Congress, but totally disabled vets may still qualify for benefits.
- World War II (December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946)
- Korean Conflict (June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955)
- Vietnam Era (August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975); However, those that served in the Republic of Vietnam as early as February 28, 1961, are also eligible
- Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – a future date set by Congress)
Applying for Pension Benefits
For veterans looking to apply for pension benefits, they will need to complete an “Application for Pension”, or VA Form 21-527EZ.
For survivors, they will need to fill out the “Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits”, or VA Form 21-534EZ.
These forms will need to be mailed or dropped off at your local regional benefit office.
The VA recommends that you appoint an accredited Veterans Service Officer to help you. You can find an accredited officer using the National Resource Directory.