Senior veteran saluting the Unites States flag

Veterans Benefits: What You Need to Know When Looking at Senior Living

If you’re a veteran, there may be more financial aid options available than you realize to help with senior living, assisted living and long-term care. You may qualify for thousands of dollars in veterans retirement benefits. A little-known government-funded pension program called Veterans Aid & Attendance was designed to help retired veterans and their spouses pay for senior living, and it can be used to help pay for services such as in-home care, assisted living, skilled nursing and more. Here’s a brief review of federally funded benefits for senior veterans and how to apply for them.

A bit of background

Veterans enrolled in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) can apply to live in a VHA community living center, Armed Forces Retirement Home, or state veterans home — all of which offer care services typically found in assisted living communities. The VHA also offers the Veteran-Directed Care program to help veterans remain independent. The VHA doesn’t directly pay a veteran’s assisted living bills. Instead, you can use the money added to your pension to cover assisted living costs any way you want. Extended care — also known as long-term care — includes programs for veterans of all ages who need daily support and assistance. Elderly veterans can receive geriatric and long-term care programs at home, at VA medical centers, or in senior living communities for veterans. You can find information here about each topic listed below. 

  • Geriatrics Program
  • Long-Term Care
  • Eligibility for Long-Term Care
  • Home-Based and Community Services
  • Nursing Home and Residential Care
  • Geriatrics Research

It’s important to remember that each state classifies assisted living and nursing homes in a different way, with different rules and regulations. The Federal and State Nursing Home & Assisted Living Regulations provides detailed information for all 50 states.

A little-known Veterans Administration program

The Aid & Attendance benefit covers some expenses for in-home care, nursing homes and assisted living for honorably discharged wartime veterans over 65 and their widowed spouses. It’s intended for those who are housebound and require the “aid and attendance” of another person. Though the benefit has been around for more than 60 years, just 5 percent of these assistance funds are even applied for, because people simply don’t know about them.

This lifetime veterans pension reimburses senior veterans and surviving spouses for long-term care. Sometimes referred to as an “enhanced pension” or “Special Monthly Compensation (SMC)”, the Aid & Attendance benefit includes both the VA’s Basic Pension for veterans and surviving spouses, as well as an additional monetary payment to help reduce the financial burden of long-term care. The money, which is tax-free, can be used for in-home care, board and care, an assisted living community or a private-pay nursing home. For 2021, these are the dollar amounts qualifying veterans may receive:

  • Veteran with no spouse or dependent children: $1,936
  • Surviving Spouse of a Veteran: $1,244
  • Married couple where the veteran requires care: $2,295
  • Veteran is healthy but spouse requires care, veteran qualifies for Income Improvement Pension: $1,520

Who qualifies?

Like private insurance, there are certain eligibility qualifications you’ll have to meet before you can apply for the Aid & Attendance benefit. These include:

Wartime service. Veterans who served on active duty for at least 90 consecutive days, including at least one full day during a time of war, may be eligible for Aid & Attendance if they also qualify for the basic Veterans Pension and meet the clinical and financial requirements. Service in a combat zone is not a requirement, though an honorary discharge is. Congress defines the wartime dates that the VA uses to decide which veterans qualify. Widowed spouses of eligible veterans may also qualify if they meet the clinical and income requirements and have not remarried.

Medical requirements. To qualify, one of these must apply to the applicant:

  • Require assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as dressing, undressing, bathing, cooking and eating
  • Be bedridden
  • Be a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity
  • Have eyesight limited to a corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less in both eyes, or have concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less

Financial need. The VA looks at monthly income from all sources, as well as total assets, and determines financial eligibility based on a rate table. Veterans can deduct unreimbursed monthly medical expenses from their total income and assets, and at least 75% of the cost of an assisted living community and 100% of a nursing home monthly payment is considered a monthly medical expense. In some cases, even if you don’t meet the financial criteria for a maximum pension, you may be entitled to a partial award.

The application process

Be advised: The process takes time and is somewhat complicated. You apply by writing to a Veterans Administration regional office and submitting evidence to support your application. The VA says it takes 156 days (roughly five months), on average, for an Aid & Attendance claim to be processed. Other experts say it takes six to eight months to get approved, and some applicants wait more than a year. Still other frustrated applicants have run into infuriating red tape and much longer waits. But once the application is approved, it’s applied retroactively to the date of application. The assistance of an elder law attorney may well be worth investigating.

The A&A benefit is something you’ve earned

All wartime veterans and their spouses can find a senior living community for veterans where they can feel safe and happy in their later years and can get the financial assistance they deserve from the Veterans Aid & Attendance pensions benefit program. Visit the Veterans Administration website for more detailed information.

Check in with Chesapeake resident Leroy Hubbard

This World War II veteran and Virginia native chose The Chesapeake and is happy and thriving today. You can read more about his personal story here.  If you visit The Chesapeake, you can also meet Navy veteran and community team member Keith Watkins. Learn more about our team here.

A welcoming environment for veterans, and all seniors. 

The Chesapeake in Newport News, VA, has a special Veteran’s Honor Benefit that provides an exceptional monetary thank-you on the cottage or apartment of choice for veterans and their spouses. In addition to Independent Living, we also offer a seamless progression of care, all available on one campus. Care levels begin with minimal personal assistance with certain aspects of daily living, and the level of service will gradually increase to match your needs, including rehabilitation therapies, long-term skilled nursing care and our Cornerstone Memory Care program. If you’re not currently a resident of The Chesapeake, you have the option of moving directly into any level of care, including assisted living, with no entrance fee. We have options and strategies to help keep the costs of assisted living within reach, and we’d love to offer any assistance we can.

For more information, please contact us now or call 757-602-0827.