By Jason M. Gray, Esq.
Paying for long-term care for a loved one can be very challenging. Fortunately, programs like Medicaid are available to help families with the cost of long-term care. In addition, Veterans and their spouses may be entitled to additional long-term care benefits through the Veterans Administration (VA).
Qualifying for Long-Term Care VA Benefits
Long-term care benefits for Veterans and their spouses are commonly referred to as Aid and Attendance benefits. In order to qualify for assistance to pay for long-term care, such as in-home care or skilled nursing care, the Veteran must have served for at least 90 days during a period of “wartime.” This does not mean that the Veteran had to serve overseas or in combat. The Veteran must have also received an honorable discharge or a discharge that was other than dishonorable. The Veteran does not need to have a service-related disability in order to qualify.
If the active duty requirements are met and there is a medical necessity for long-term care, the next step in determining eligibility for Aid and Attendance benefits is determining the amount of countable assets. Typically, the Veteran or surviving spouse must have a maximum net worth of $138,489 based on current VA regulations.
What to Know About Income and Asset Limits
After determining that the Veteran or their spouse is under the income limit, the applicant’s assets will be considered in determining the amount of the benefit. Monthly expenses such as medical insurance, long-term care costs, and other recurring costs will also be factored in when calculating the benefit amount. Assuming that the applicant is under the asset and income limits, they should be able to utilize the Aid and Attendance benefit in order to help pay for long-term care.
The VA has a three year-look back period for determining whether assets were transferred for less than fair market value in order to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits. If any assets, including money, were gifted or if any assets were sold for less than fair market value in order to get below the asset limit, the benefits will be subject to a penalty period based on a mathematical formula that is applied. During the penalty period, the applicant will be ineligible to receive Aid and Attendance benefits.
Know Your Veterans Benefits
VA Aid and Attendance benefits are often underutilized because the family is unaware that these benefits exist or they believe that the applicant would not qualify when they actually would be eligible. The VA has many useful resources available regarding Aid and Attendance benefits. However, you should also consider speaking to an attorney with experience in long-term care planning before you apply for these benefits if you have any questions regarding eligibility.
Jason M. Gray is an Estate & Long-Term Care Planning, Business Law, and Land Use Attorney with Smith + Malek, PLLC in Coeur d’Alene. If you have questions about these areas of law, contact Jason at 208-215-2411, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This has been presented as general information and not as legal advice. Do not engage in legal decision-making without the advice of a competent attorney after discussion of your specific circumstances.