Veterans Benefits to Help Your Parents
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides three types of long term care benefits for veterans.
VA Health Care
The first type is benefits provided to veterans enrolled in VA health care who have substantial service-connected disability. These medically necessary services include home care, hospice, respite care, assisted living, domiciliary care, geriatric assessments and nursing home care.
Some of these services may be offered to veterans in the health care system who do not have service-connected disabilities but who may qualify because of low income or because they are receiving Pension income from VA. These recipients may have to provide out-of-pocket co-pays or the services may only be available to these non-service-connected disabled veterans if the regional hospital has funds to cover them.
Currently, veterans desiring to join the health care system may be refused application because their income is too high or they do not qualify under other enrollment criteria. Increased demand in recent years for services and lack of congressional funding have forced VA to allow only certain classes of veterans to join the health care system.
The second type of benefit is state veterans homes. The US Department of Veterans Affairs in conjunction with the states helps build and support state veterans homes. Money is provided by VA to help share the cost of construction with the state, and a subsidy of $71.42 a day is provided for each veteran using nursing home care in a state home. These facilities are generally available for any veteran and sometimes the non-veteran spouse and are run by the states, often with the help of contract management. Most state veterans homes offer nursing home care but they may also offer assisted living, domiciliary care and adult day care. There may be waiting lists for acceptance into veterans homes in some states.
State veterans homes are not free but are subsidized; however, the cost could be significantly less than a comparable facility in the private sector. Some of these homes can accept Medicaid payments. A complete list of state veterans homes can be found at http://www.longtermcarelink.net/ref_state_veterans_va_nursing_homes.htm
The third type of benefits for veterans is disability payments. These include Compensation, Pension and survivors death benefits associated with Compensation and Death Pension.
Compensation is designed to award the veteran a certain amount of monthly income to compensate for potential loss of income in the private sector due to a disability or injury or illness incurred in the service. In order to receive compensation a veteran has to have evidence of a service-connected disability. Most veterans who are receiving this benefit were awarded an amount based on a percentage of disability when they left the service.
However, some veterans may have a military record of being exposed to extreme cold, having an in-service non-disabling injury, having tropical diseases, tuberculosis or other incidents or exposures that at the time may not have caused any disability but years later have resulted in medical problems. In addition, some veterans may be receiving compensation but their condition has worsened and they may qualify for a higher disability rating. Veterans mentioned above may qualify for a first-time benefit or receive an increase in compensation amount. Applications should be made to see if they can receive an award. There is no income or asset test for compensation and the benefit is nontaxable.
Aid and Attendance Benefit
Pension is available to all active duty veterans who served on active duty at least 90 days during a period of war. There is no need to have a service-connected disability to receive pension. To be eligible the applicant must be totally disabled if he or she is younger than 65. Proof of disability is not required for applicants age 65 or over. Apparently, being old is evidence in itself of disability. Pension is sometimes known as the “aid and attendance benefit.”
Veterans’ service to qualify for Pension would include World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam Conflict Period and the Gulf War conflict. The veteran did not have to serve in combat but only had to be in the service during that period of time and only one day of the 90 days of service had to occur during the period of war.
The purpose of this benefit is to provide supplemental income to disabled or older veterans who have a low income. If the veteran’s income exceeds the pension amount then there is no award.
Submission of Claims
Compensation and Pension claims are submitted on the same form and VA will consider paying either benefit. Generally, for applications associated with the cost of home care, assisted living or nursing home care, the Pension benefit is a better option.
Pension can pay up to $1,843 a month to help offset the costs associated with home care, assisted living, nursing homes and other unreimbursed medical expenses. The amount of payment varies with the type of care, recipient income and the marital status of the recipient. There are income and asset tests to qualify.
VA claims this benefit is only for low income veterans but a special provision in the way the benefit is calculated for recurring medical expenses (long term care costs associated with home care, assisted living or nursing homes) could allow veteran households earning between $2,500 and $5,000 or more a month to qualify.
There are also death benefit payments associated with Compensation and Pension that are available to surviving spouses of veterans or surviving dependents.
The National Care Planning Council estimates that up to 33% of all Americans over the age of 65 might be eligible for a Pension benefit under the right circumstances. That’s how many war veterans or their surviving spouses there are in this country. If your mother or father served in the armed forces it is definitely worthwhile to check into the benefits that may be available to them.