Caring for a loved one who needs help with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as dressing or bathing, often feels overwhelming — especially when it comes to cost. But for senior veterans and their surviving spouses considering or currently in assisted living, help may be out there.
Though only about a quarter of eligible seniors apply, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers benefits that may help pay for assisted living expenses. The VA’s Aid and Attendance program provides veterans or their surviving spouses extra financial help on top of their basic pension.
Find out whether you or your loved one qualify for veterans benefits and how they can help with assisted living costs.
VA benefits for assisted living: What are veterans’ options?
If your loved one is a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran living in a private assisted living facility, they may qualify for the VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit, which helps you pay for services.
Veterans enrolled in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) can apply to live in a VA 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.
Can I use VA benefits for assisted living?
Yes — veterans and surviving spouses who are eligible for a VA pension and who require the aid and attendance of another person may qualify for additional monthly payments above the normal pension amount. Those additional monthly payments are the Aid and Attendance benefits, and they can be used toward assisted living costs, including help with bathing, dressing, mobility, feeding, and other ADLs.
Keep in mind that the VA 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.
Monthly assisted living expenses averaged about $4,300 in the U.S. in 2020, according to Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey. However, a resident’s bills vary depending on the level of care needed, the types of services received, apartment size, as well as region and other location-related factors.
Who qualifies for veterans benefits for assisted living?
To qualify for the VA’s Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits, a veteran or surviving spouse must first qualify for the basic VA pension.
The VA lists many eligibility factors for the basic VA pension:
An honorable discharge
Age 65 or older (or permanently disabled)
Minimum service requirements (at least 90 days of active duty, with one of those days being during active wartime)
A monthly income and assets below the limits set by the VA (net worth must not exceed $130,773)
To qualify for Aid and Assistance, you must meet one of these additional medical requirements:
Need the help of another person for everyday tasks like bathing and dressing
Are in a nursing home, due to a mental or physical incapacity such as Alzheimer’s disease
Have specific eyesight limitations
It’s important to note that you must be a widowed, not-remarried spouse of a veteran to apply for and receive VA benefits on your own. Spouses and other dependents of living veterans may be eligible for other types of benefits, such as education, financial counseling, and basic health care.
How much will the VA pay for assisted living?
The amount of money a veteran or surviving spouse receives from the VA Aid and Attendance program depends on a figure called income for VA purposes (IAVP). IAVP is the income of the applicant and their spouse, minus the unreimbursed cost of health care, provided those expenses exceed 5% of the income.
The current maximum monthly VA Pension amounts including Aid and Attendance are:
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$1,937 for a single veteran
$2,296 for a veteran plus a spouse or one dependent
The application and approval process for the Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits can be frustratingly slow. It can take weeks for families to gather the necessary documents and complete the paperwork. The approval process itself averages almost nine months, but a complete and accurate application can be processed much more quickly. If you are 90 or older, you can request an expedited review in a cover letter with your application.
While the approval process averages nine months, it pays retroactively upon approval of eligibility. This means the first benefit payment includes a lump sum to cover the months that the application was pending. To receive retroactive payments, you must submit an “Intent to File” form with the VA.
How can I get help applying for VA benefits?
Veteran Service Officers, or VSOs, at a VA regional office may be able to offer free, basic guidance on the application process, and answer simple questions about available benefits. VSOs often volunteer across the country at American Legion halls and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) lodges.
Accredited VA consultants can help families assess eligibility for VA long-term care benefits and help with financial planning as you prepare your loved one’s application. Accredited VA consultants offer paid assistance to families whose benefit application has been denied. These consultants may be able to help determine why an application wasn’t successful and help make any changes before it’s resubmitted to increase the chances of approval. However, regulations prohibit consultants from charging families for help with an initial claim that hasn’t been denied.
Elder law attorneys can help families with financial planning and the VA benefits application process. When seeking advice, you should look for a reputable attorney who has experience with VA benefits.
Other veterans benefits resources
Here are some other helpful resources for learning about VA benefits:
VA-accredited claims specialists and attorneys — be sure to check the Better Business Bureau, references, and reviews before you sign any financial agreement
Your state’s Department of Veterans Affairs
If you need help from an accredited VA consultant, A Place for Mom has selected Patriot Angels as a trusted partner that can offer you and your family expert advice on veterans benefits. You can call them at 1-833-879-6017 or visit patriotangels.com/aplaceformom to learn more. As part of our partnership with Patriot Angels, we may be compensated for marketing their services to you.