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Guide to Veteran’s Benefits

Benefits for Older Wartime Veterans

Last Updated: March 16, 2014

Veteran's Benefits 101

Veteran's benefits provide those who have served their country, as well as their spouses, financial assistance during their retirement years. Veterans who are at least 65 years-old* and who served during war time (though not necessarily in actual combat) may be eligible for financial assistance through the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) that can be used to help pay for care. Spouses and surviving spouses of wartime veterans are also often eligible. Veteran's benefits can make all the difference for families who struggling to pay for care.

*Veterans who are under 65 but rated 100% disabled may qualify for the VA Pension described in the article.

Have more questions?

Download our Guide to Paying for Assisted Living With Veteran's Benefits

The Service Requirement

The foremost eligibility requirement is the service requirement. The veteran must have served at least 1 day during wartime. The dates that the VA considers wartime are below:

World War II:12/7/1941 through 12/31/1946

Korean Conflict:6/27/1950 through 1/31/1955

Vietnam War: 8/5/1964 through 5/7/1975, although veterans who served in Vietnam itself ("in country") as early as 2/28/1961 may also qualify.

Gulf War: 8/2/1990 to date to be determined by U.S. government

Dates of service can be established from discharge papers. Copies of lost discharge papers can be requested from the National Archives, or by calling 314-801-0800.

Three Tiers of the VA's Improved Pension

There are three tiers of VA benefits for older wartime veterans and their dependents. Basic Pension can be considered the first tier, Housebound the second tier, and Aid and Attendance the third tier. Award amounts increase as the tier increases, and the tiers are based on the needs of the applicant:

  • Basic Pension: Basic Pension is designed to function as cash assistance for low income veterans and their dependents, so applicants may be healthy, but must have a very low income.
  • Housebound Benefit: For the second tier, Housebound, assistance with day to day activities must be needed "regular basis."
  • Aid and Attendance: Assistance must be required on a "daily basis."

Financial Eligibility

Assistance from the VA is "means tested," which means that only people who seem to genuinely need these benefits will receive an award. It also means that benefits are determined based on the applicant's income, assets, and needs.  

Applicants whose countable incomes are over maximum thresholds, including their homes, may still qualify, depending on their age and the amount of their monthly allowable medical benefit. In situations that are borderline, it can't hurt to apply, as decisions are largely made on a case-by-case basis:

This countable income formula can help you determine what is an allowable medical deduction, and how to arrive at what the VA is determining as "countable income."

How to Apply

To apply for VA health care or determine eligibility, call the VA's Health Benefits Service Center at (877) 222-VETS, or contact a Veterans Benefits Office or VA health care facility (find the nearest location at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs).

Assistance

VA benefits can be extraordinarily complex, so consider speaking with a Veteran Services Officer (VSO). Veteran Services Officers volunteer throughout the United States, frequently at hubs for veterans like American Legion halls Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) lodges. You can locate a VA accredited attorney or VSO/Benefits representative here: http://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/

You can also visit our  Veteran's Benefit Expert Question and Answer to see answers to common VA benefit questions.

A Place for Mom Senior Living Advisors, who work throughout the country, can answer basic questions about VA benefits, and refer local veteran aid experts for more intensive assistance. They can also help you identify senior communities where Veteran's Aid and Attendance can be used.

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