Aid and Attendance Benefits for Veterans

Are Veterans and their survivors ever eligible for benefits over and above their VA pension?

Many veterans and their families are unaware that they may be eligible for payments in addition to their monthly pension if they are housebound or require the aid and attendance of another person in order to perform everyday tasks. These additional benefits, ranging from $1,100 to $2,800 a month, are only payable to those eligible for military pensions, that is, those who have made the military their career choice.

How does a veteran qualify for A & A Benefits

In order for a veteran to qualify for VA Aid & Attendance (A& A) benefits, the individual's household assets cannot exceed $40,000; if the veteran is married, the couple's assets cannot exceed $80,000. A home and its property, and a personal use automobile, are excluded from these asset amounts.

Many veterans never apply for Aid & Attendance benefits because they feel they will not qualify. An astute estate planning attorney, however, can help them to navigate the bureaucratic waters by assisting them in establishing an irrevocable trust.  Such a trust allows the veteran or spouse to transfer assets so that the asset limit for benefits is maintained.

An irrevocable trust, so named because it can't be amended or revoked, is a very helpful estate planning tool. Such a trust removes property from the estate, providing protection for spouses and other beneficiaries. One great advantage of the irrevocable trust is that, unlike Medicaid, it does not have a long "look back" period. This means that while Medicaid examines 5 years worth of financial transactions to evaluate assets, VA Aid & Attendance only looks back for a very short time.

Nonetheless, the trust document has to be carefully worded so that the beneficiary is not denied A & A just because they are also the beneficiary of a trust.  If a veteran is receiving A & A benefits that cover several hours of home care, for example, but not enough to entirely serve the individual's needs, there has to be special language in the trust allowing the veteran to withdraw sufficient funds to pay for the additional needed hours of care. In situations like these, and in many others associated with Aid & Attendance Benefits, the services of a qualified estate planning attorney are invaluable.

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