Many older adults want to continue to live in their own homes, but have difficulty qualifying for home care. Thinking Medicare will cover the cost of home care and not meeting the financial and/or functional requirements for Medicaid, older adults sometimes find themselves struggling to stay in their own homes.
Veterans, who have been honorably discharged after serving at least 90 days of active duty with one day served during a declared time of war and the surviving spouse may be eligible for the Aid and Attendance pension program through the Department of Veterans Affairs if they meet the service, financial and physical criteria.
To meet the service criteria, a veteran or the surviving spouse must have served during one of the following war periods: World War II (December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946); Korean War (June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955); Vietnam War (August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975; February 28 1961 for veterans who served "in country"); Gulf War (August 2, 1990 through a date to be set by law of Presidential Proclamation).
Financial eligibility includes countable income that is less than the pension amount of $18,654 per year for a single veteran and $22,113 per year for a veteran with a dependent. For a surviving spouse the annual countable income is $11,985 and $14,298 for a surviving spouse with a dependent. Countable income is the amount received after all non-reimbursed, recurring health care expenses such as assisted living costs, home health care, insurance premiums, Medicare premiums, on-going prescriptions and more.
In addition to countable income, the Veterans Administration must determine that the individual’s net worth is such that it will probably not support the veteran, dependents or surviving spouse through the reminder of his or her life. The primary residence and vehicles are exempt. Net worth includes assets such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and any property other than the residence and a reasonable lot area. There is no set limit on the amount of the net worth an individual may have, but it can not be excessive. A general guideline that is sometimes used is between $60,000 and $80,000 depending on the age of the claimant
The third criteria for eligibility is the need for daily assistance. The individual does not need to be bedridden, nor does he/she need to be in an assisted living or home health care situation. A physician must confirm the need for a claimant a) to dress or undress or to keep one’s self ordinarily clean and presentable, b) to adjust any special prosthetic or orthopedic appliances which by reason of the particular disability cannot be done without aid; c) to require assistance for feeding through the loss of coordination of upper extremities or through extreme weakness; d) to be unable to attend to the wants of nature; or e) who has a physical or mental incapacity which requires care or assistance on a regular basis to protect the claimant from hazards or dangers incident to his or her daily environment. Individuals who reside in a nursing home or who experience a visual acuity of 5/200 or less, in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less are also eligible.
Veterans will need a copy of the DD214. Spouses may need marriage and birth certificates as well as the veterans copy of the DD214.
The amount of the aid and attendance payment is the difference between the countable income and the yearly income limit. In 2008, a veteran with no dependents and no countable income can receive up to $18,654 per year and with one dependent is $22,113. The surviving spouse with no countable income can receive up to $11,985 annually; while the surviving spouse with one dependent and no countable income can receive up to $14,298.
Individuals can apply through the local Veterans Administration by completing VA Form 21-534, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by Surviving Spouse or Child. For more information, call the Veterans Service Officer at the county department of social services, any veterans’ organization, the Colorado Department of Veterans Affairs at (303) 343-1268 or the Veterans Administration Regional Office in Lakewood, Colorado at 1-800-827-1000 or visiting http://www.va.gov.
Eileen Doherty, M.S. is the Executive Director of Senior Answers and Services and the Colorado Gerontological Society. She has 30 years of experience in gerontology in administration, research, training and education, and clinical practice.