Like many benefits offered by the VA, the Aid and Attendance Benefit is filled with intricate details and can be difficult to understand. It’s common for vets with a service-connected disability to have questions about the Aid and Attendance Benefit, especially if they are determining whether or not they qualify.
Far too many veterans and their spouses fail to realize they are eligible for the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit that helps with long-term care. It’s a pension provided by the Department of Veteran Affairs available to veterans and provides supplemental income. It is available to both honorably discharged military vets and their surviving spouses, provided the veteran was involved in 90 days of active duty service, assuming they meet certain physical and financial criteria.
To qualify for the benefit, a physician must establish the need for help with daily tasks including bathing, dressing, cooking, eating, and other things. Veterans and their surviving spouses who meet these requirements are entitled to per month:
- Up to $1,758 for a veteran
- Up to $1,130 for a surviving spouse
- Up to $2,085 for a couple
- Up to $1,380 for a veteran filing with a sick spouse
Applying for the Aid and Attendance Benefit can be complicated, but another issue related to the benefit is that many veterans don’t even realize they qualify for it. These five frequently asked questions can help you determine if you qualify, how the benefit could help you and your family, and what you need to do to begin the process of applying for the benefit.
1. What Is the Aid and Attendance Pension?
The VA Aid and Attendance Benefit is a pension payment program that provides financial support to assist with the cost of senior care for veterans and their spouses. The benefit is only available to veterans who served active duty time in the military or were married to someone who did so. To qualify, you must have served during wartime and had at least 90 days of active duty service or be married to a veteran who fits this description.
2. How Do I Apply for the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit?
Applying for the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit is simple but like many processes related to veterans’ benefits, it can seem complicated when you initially begin.
The process includes a few steps. First, you’ll need to gather all of the information and documents needed to verify your military service, as well as your current financial and health status. Next, you’ll fill out the paperwork provided by the VA. Finally, you’ll mail your documents to the VA pension center.
Approval varies from case to case and will take longer if there is a problem with your application. In most cases, applications are approved within six to eight months, but some requestsare completed in a shorter period of time—some as little as six weeks.
Keep in mind, benefits are paid retroactively; therefore, even if it takes some time to get approval, you’ll be paid as of the date listed on your application.
3. Are there Requirements Related to Living Arrangements?
Many veterans and their families are concerned they will not qualify for the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit because they are or are not living in a senior community. Where a person lives usually isn’t an issue. Instead, it’s the level of care needed on a daily basis.
To qualify, the veteran or their spouse must show help is needed with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). This can happen in an assisted living community, nursing home, or via home care. You can live at home and qualify for the benefit, but you must show that you or the veteran’s spouse is receiving daily care fortheir needs.
Long-term care for a service-connected disability can be provided by a family member or loved one and need not be given by a professional. In this case, if it’s a family member providing care, the applicant would pay the caregiver just the same as any non-family caregiver.
4. What Happens if My Application Is Denied?
It depends. If your application is denied, you’ll know because you’ll receive a letter explaining the reason for denial. Appealing the denial is not the best option in the case of this benefit. You’re better off filing an additional form that further explains your situation and your reason for believing your request was justified.
5. Should I Pay Someone to Help Me Fill Out the Paperwork for the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit?
No, you shouldn’t pay someone to assist you with filling out any forms. In cases where you might want to appeal a VA benefit ruling, which isn’t the case with the Aid and Attendance Benefit, you might need to invest a bit in someone who has experience with the appeals process. However, this extra guidance isn’t needed in every case and many vets successfully file appeals on their own.
Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous services out there who claim to speed up the process of getting approved for the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit by charging you money to fill out your paperwork. This is not legal and it will have no effect on the length of time it takes to receive approval of your benefits. The VA offers support and guidance for applying for any of the benefits it provides.
Determining whether you are eligible for the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit or any other benefit available to you can be a daunting task. In many cases you’ll realize applying for benefits is easy once you’ve gotten the process started, but if you’ve never applied for benefits and you haven’t worked closely with the Veterans’ Administration in the past, the initial first steps can seem overwhelming.
Despite feeling as though you have no idea where to begin, it’s important to learn about the benefits available to you and take advantage of any programs that can help you lead a fuller, happier, healthier, and more independent life. As a veteran, you’ve earned the right to receive support and assistance when needed.