Welcome to the first of our 3-part series on the Pension with Aid and Attendance Benefit. In Part 1, we’re taking a look at the prerequisites to qualify for the benefit.
But first, what is the Aid and Attendance Benefit?
It helps veterans and their spouses pay for home care services and assisted living costs. Often referred to as “Aid and Attendance,” it is the most widely known and talked-about benefit as it offers the highest possible monthly payment. An unmarried veteran can receive up to $1,830 per month, a married veteran can receive up to $2,170 per month, and a surviving spouse can receive up to $1,056 per month (with additional payments available if dependent children are present in the home).
Prerequisites To Receive Benefits
A veteran must first meet service and discharge requirements before being considered for pension benefits. A veteran must have served 90 days of active duty with at least one day beginning or ending during a period of war. After September 1, 1980, the active duty requirement increases to 180 days. In addition, the veteran must have been discharged under circumstances other than dishonorable.
To qualify for pension benefits, a claimant must also be 65 or older or be permanently and totally disabled. A claimant is the individual filing for benefits – either a veteran or surviving spouse.
Permanent and total disability includes a claimant who is:
- In a nursing home;
- Determined disabled by the Social Security Administration;
- Unemployable and reasonably certain to continue so throughout life; or
- Suffering from a disability that makes it impossible for the average person to stay gainfully employed.
Asset and Income Requirements
The financial eligibility requirements of any pension benefit address a claimant’s net worth and income. A married veteran and spouse should have no more than $80,000 in countable assets (less for a single veteran or surviving spouse), which includes retirement assets but excludes a home and vehicle. However, the $80,000 limit is only a guideline – it is not a rule set by the VA. The VA looks at a claimant’s total net worth, life expectancy, income and medical expenses to determine whether the veteran or surviving spouse is entitled to special monthly pension benefits.
Income for VA Purposes
A veteran or surviving spouse must have Income for VA Purposes (“IVAP”) that is less than the benefit for which he or she is applying. IVAP is calculated by taking a claimant’s gross income from all sources less countable medical expenses. Countable medical expenses are recurring out-of-pocket medical expenses that can be expected to continue throughout a claimant’s lifetime. If a claimant’s IVAP is equal to or greater than the annual benefit amount, the veteran or surviving spouse is not eligible for benefits.
Does the Claimant Require the Aid and Attendance of Another?
The claimant needs to show through medical evidence, provided by a physician, that to perform daily activities they require the aid and attendance of another person. If the veteran or surviving spouse can show this evidence they may qualify for an additional special monthly pension referred to as aid and attendance pension benefits.
The VA defines the need for aid and attendance as:
- Requiring the aid of another person to perform at least two activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, dressing or undressing;
- Being blind or nearly blind; or
- Being a patient in a nursing home.
Next Up: Check back in for part 2 of this 3-part series to see the Pension with Aid and Attendance Benefit at work with an illustration by our very own Brandon Thomson.