Veterans Benefits (VA)
Perhaps some of the least used benefits available to the elderly today are those from the Veteran’s Administration. Basically, there are four tests to determine if a veteran or surviving spouse might be eligible for a VA pension or VA death pension (if the veteran has died). First, a veteran must have served in the armed forces for at least 90 days with at least one of those days falling within a qualifying period noted below, or they must have entered active duty after September 7, 1980 and served their entire enlistment or at least 24 months. Additionally, the veteran must have received an honorable discharge. The qualifying periods are outlined below:
December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946.
June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955
August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975
August 2, 1990 to present
Additionally, the veteran household must meet the Medical Needs Test; this requires a veteran who is under age 65 to be blind or totally disabled. A veteran over age 65 does not have to be disabled to qualify. If a surviving spouse is applying for a death benefit there is no need that the surviving spouse be over age 65 or be disabled.
A veteran household must also meet a Medical Rating if they are not already living in nursing home, or are blind or nearly blind. If a veteran does not have a rating they will have to obtain one from the VA.
Lastly, the household must meet an income test; the total income figures change annually, and the total permissible income amount depends upon a variety of factors, so do not assume automatically that the veteran household is ineligible. If a veteran has a medical rating all of their unreimbursed nursing home expenses and assisted living costs can serve to lower the overall income.
Another source of income is a benefit called the “aid and attendance” allowance payable if the veteran or the surviving spouse is blind or nearly blind, is a patient in a nursing home or requires another person to assist them with basic daily functions. The aid and attendance allowance can be added to the basic pension.
Note that the rules for these benefits are in a state of flux, so it makes sense to consult with someone experienced in the area. You cannot be charged for help in applying, but you can be charged for appealing a decision made by the Veteran’s Administration.