Caring for a Veteran at Home - VA Benefits May Cover Cost
The Veteran's Administration provides a wonderful pension benefit for those individuals who served at least one day during a period of wartime and are now disabled due to non-service connected reasons (aging related issue, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, and/or other physical disabilities). This pension, referred to as "Aid and Attendance Allowance", will pay not only for the long term care provided in a nursing home or assisted living facility, but will also pay for care provided to the veteran in their own home. So, for those veterans and widows (widowers) who are eligible, these benefits will allow family members to be paid for the care they are providing a loved one, so long as certain criteria are being met.
The "Aid and Attendance" (A and A) benefit is available to a veteran who is disabled and requires the aid of another person to perform the personal functions required in everyday living. A veteran can show they are eligible if they have a substantial need for assistance with the activities of daily living. Such activities include bathing, dressing, eating, etc. A veteran would also qualify for this pension if they can show they need the attendance of another person in order to avoid the hazards of his or her daily environment. The need for assistance does not have to be permanent.
A family member can provide in-home care for a veteran who is applying for aid and attendance. In order to meet the disability criteria, the care services provided by an unlicensed relative must be prescribed by a health care professional (ex. doctor, RN, LPN, or licensed physical therapist). In addition, there must be a valid care contract in place and the caregiver must be receiving no more than fair market value for services he or she is providing.
Simplified Example: Harry Smith is a 67 year old veteran and, due to his health needs, his doctor has stated he needs assistance with bathing, meal preparation, medication administration and other activities of daily living in order to remain at home. He and his daughter, Jane, consult with the doctor and agree that she will spend 5 hours a day with Harry, 7 days a week. The fair market value for her services is $12 per hour and they enter into a contract reflecting those terms.
Harry's income is $1800/month, his Medicare and health insurance premiums are $300/month and he is paying his daughter $1680/month. Rather than deplete his savings of $45,000, he applies for a service pension through the VA. The VA considers the $300/month for Medicare and health insurance premiums and the $1680/month he is paying to his caregiver daughter un-reimbursed medical expenses and subtract these amounts from his income. In other words, when calculating his pension, the VA considers his income to be negative. He applies for benefits and is eligible for $1794.25/month to help cover the cost of his health insurance premiums and care contract!
If you or someone you know is a Veteran receiving care in their home, please encourage them to file a claim for this benefit. It would be prudent to seek the guidance of an experienced elder law attorney who is familiar with veteran's benefits. An attorney skilled in elder law can provide a veteran and the veteran's family with pre-filing consultations to determine the appropriate steps that must be taken and determine if it would be right to apply for this benefit.