Long-term care can be very expensive in Florida. Assisted living facilities can cost between $2,000 and $7,000 per month and nursing homes/skilled nursing can easily exceed $9,000 per month in Pinellas County. Very few people can afford these costs for a very long time. Luckily the government has a social safety net for our elderly and disabled population, which includes certain benefits for our veterans and his or her surviving spouse. The most popular government program to help with the elderly is the VA Pension program.
VA Pension, Aid and Attendance
The VA Pension benefit program provides a monthly, tax-free, “needs based,” monetary payment for:
1. Low-income veterans with wartime service. (Veteran’s Pension)
2. The low-income, un-remarried surviving spouse and/or unmarried child(ren) of a deceased veteran with wartime service. (Survivor’s Pension)
- Are age 65 or older, or
- Show evidence of a permanent and total non-service-connected disability, or
- Reside as a patient in a nursing home, or
- Receive Social Security disability benefits.
Generally, the claimant would need assistance with his or her activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, feeding, dressing, or attending to the wants of nature. Other requirements are that the veteran must meet wartime service requirements, be financially eligible and able to meet an asset (net worth) and income test, and have been discharged for a cause other than dishonorable.
Wartime service is defined as having served at least ninety days of active military duty with at least one day served during a time of armed conflict in the following:
World War II Dec. 7, 1941 – Dec. 31, 1946
Korean conflict June 27, 1950 – Jan. 31, 1955
Vietnam era Feb. 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975 (for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam)
Otherwise: August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975
Gulf War August 2, 1990 – (undetermined future date)
Veterans who began active duty after September 7, 1980, are required to have at least 24 months of active duty service, or, if less than that, to have completed his/her entire tour of active duty.
VA Benefits for your Elder
The big picture is that VA pension benefits can help needy veterans and their surviving spouse with the high costs of medical, including long-term care. The highest level of pension, known as “aid and attendance,” can provide cash benefits of up to the following amount per month (2017):
Married Veteran $2,127/month
Single Veteran $1,794/month
Widowed Spouse $1,153/month
Pension is “Needs-Based”
Applying for a VA pension to assist with your loved one’s long-term care can be a very daunting process. Countable assets are taken into account. Veterans and spouses will generally need to own less than $80,000 in countable assets, but this amount varies based upon the applicant’s age and other factors. For instance, it is likely that a 90 year old veteran can only have some $30,000 in countable assets and still receive pension.
VA v. Medicaid for the Elderly
When helping an elderly loved one deal with long-term care issues, families will often get conflicting and confusing information about Medicaid and VA benefits. Your loved one can have both VA and Medicaid benefits, but there are a lot of potential problems in getting both. For the most part, we generally look to the VA to help pay assisted living and in-home costs and to Medicaid to pay for the high cost of nursing home care.
Applying for Pension
You may or may not need an attorney’s assistance to apply for VA pension benefits. If your countable assets are above the legal limit an attorney’s assistance may be integral to the process. Importantly, attorney D. “Rep” DeLoach, III is accredited by the Veterans Administration to assist assessing your specific situation and helping you apply, when appropriate.
You may also want to read
Getting VA benefits for your loved one can be very difficult. We have some more articles that may help assist you in the decision making process:
- Medicaid v. VA Benefits for the elderly
- My loved one just went to the nursing home - what should happen next?
- Sign up for a free seminar on VA and Medicaid Benefits.