Paying for senior care can be daunting, and many older adults must consider all their financial options to pay for the care they need. The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) offers the Aid and Attendance benefit to Veterans and their surviving spouses if they meet specific criteria. This benefit can provide qualified applicants up to thousands of dollars per month, which can go a long way.

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The VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit provides income to qualifying veterans and their spouses. More people may qualify than they realize, so it’s important to understand eligibility requirements.

There are multiple criteria to meet, and the application process can be complex; however, the benefit is valuable to those who qualify. Here, we’re breaking down the Aid and Attendance benefit, how much money a person can receive, eligibility requirements, and how to apply. 

What is the Aid and Attendance benefit?

The Aid and Attendance benefit is a pension program the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) offers to eligible U.S. Military Veterans and their spouses. It provides monthly, tax-free income to wartime Veterans and their surviving spouses who meet specific qualifications related to their military service, income, and health.

This pension program provides significant financial support to eligible Veterans and surviving spouses with non-service connected disabilities typically resulting from advanced age. To be eligible, individuals must meet military service, financial, and health criteria. Among the requirements is that they have a cognitive or physical impairment that causes them to need help with activities of daily living

The Aid and Attendance benefit can offer up to a certain monthly amount to eligible Veterans and spouses. The VA reviews the maximum amount and may change it annually. Historically, increases in maximum monthly benefits correlate to the Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA). The actual benefit awarded is based on the net income on one’s application.

The 2022 maximum Aid and Attendance monthly benefit amounts are

  • Married Veteran who needs care: $2,431 per month
  • Single Veteran who needs care: $2,050 per month
  • Married Veteran whose spouse needs care: $1,610 per month
  • Surviving spouse who needs care: $1,318 per month

On December 1, 2022, the VA will determine the maximum monthly amounts for 2023. They are expected to increase for 2023, as they historically correlate with the COLA, which has increased 8.7% for 2023. This helpful supplemental income can help pay for a wide range of senior care expenses.

What type of care does the Aid and Attendance benefit cover?

Aging adults often need increased help with activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, dressing, and transferring (such as to and from bed). They may also develop cognitive impairments, such as dementia, and require memory care services to live safely and comfortably. People with these care needs can get assistance in several settings, such as their homes or a variety of senior living communities; however, these senior care services come at a cost. The Aid and Attendance benefit provides additional income to qualifying Veterans and surviving spouses who incur these costs.

The Aid and Attendance benefit can help a recipient pay for senior care in various residential settings:

  • Assisted living. Because the pension program provides monthly supplemental income to those who need help with daily living activities, eligible parties can use the benefits toward an assisted living facility that offers such care.
  • Home care. The Veteran or surviving spouse can use the benefit to pay for assistance with daily living activities that they cannot perform on their own in their own home. 
  • Senior living with care. Eligible parties can use the benefits for senior living (with care) communities, which provide the recipient Veteran or surviving spouse with independent living options while still having dedicated assistance with tasks they may not be able to do alone.
  • Memory care. The Aid and Attendance benefit can also cover targeted care for those with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, known as memory care. A memory care community employs trained individuals to care for those with memory impairments and ensure the residents’ safety. Memory care often provides meals and activities catered to those experiencing unique needs when living with memory loss.
  • Adult day care. Older adults can attend adult day care centers, which offer engaging, supervised environments typically during normal business hours. The Aid and Attendance benefit can be used to pay for adult day care.
  • Nursing home. Eligible Veterans can put this benefit toward paying to live in a nursing home. These residential facilities care for people who require a higher level of personal care that they cannot receive in their homes or assisted living.

Am I eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit?

To qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit, you must meet certain criteria in the following areas:

  • You are a Veteran or surviving spouse of a Veteran.
  • The Veteran served qualifying military service of at least one day of active duty during a wartime period, such as World War II, the Korean Conflict, or the Vietnam Era.
  • The Veteran served at least 90 of active duty in a U.S. military branch and had an honorable, medical, or general discharge. If the Veteran served in the Gulf War, they must have served 24 months of active duty.
  • Your net worth is less than $138,489, as established by the VA in December of 2021. On December 1, 2022, this amount may also increase, as the VA has historically taken the COLA into account for this requirement. 
  • You meet at least one of the following health criteria:
    • You require assistance with at least two activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, dressing, and transferring (such as to and from bed).
    • You need to live in a senior living community that protects your safety due to physical or cognitive issues such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other health or medical issues.
    • You have vision impairment, such as macular degeneration, or are diagnosed as legally blind.

Common misperceptions about eligibility requirements

There are multiple criteria to qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit, so understanding the details can be tricky. More Veterans and surviving spouses may be eligible than they realize. Here are some common misperceptions about eligibility requirements for the Aid and Attendance benefit:

Myth: The Veteran must have served in combat.

Fact: The Veteran does not have to have served in a combat zone. If a Veteran has at least one day of active duty anywhere during a wartime period, they may meet the first part of the service requirement, even if they did not serve in combat.

Myth: All 90 of the Veteran’s active duty days must have been during wartime.

Fact: If the Veteran served only one day of active duty during wartime and the other 89 days of active duty were during peacetime, the Veteran may still meet the service criteria.

Myth: Only certain military branches can qualify Veterans and their spouses for this benefit.

Fact: All military branches that existed during the approved wartimes qualify: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, and Merchant Marines. Reservists of any branch of the military may also qualify if they were called to active duty.

Myth: You have to be receiving Disability Compensation to apply for the benefit.

Fact: You do not need to receive Disability Compensation to meet health criteria for the benefit; however, you must have a cognitive impairment or need help with two or more activities of daily living.

Myth: A Veteran cannot receive the Aid and Attendance benefit along with any other pension.

Fact: A Veteran who already receives a VA career military pension may also receive the Aid and Attendance benefit if they meet the military service, financial, health, and income requirements.

Myth: A spouse needs to have been married to the Veteran during the time of service to be considered a “surviving spouse.”

Fact: A spouse doesn’t need to be married to the Veteran during the time of service to be considered a “surviving spouse.” The spouse must have been married to a Veteran for at least 365 days and at the time of his death to be considered a surviving spouse.

How to apply for the Aid and Attendance benefit

The program’s application review process became more complex in 2018 when it began to include a three-year look-back period and asset limits. Applicants must gather financial information about their household’s income, care expenses, and net worth.

People interested in applying for the benefit also need to gather information about their health to demonstrate they need help with daily living activities or have a cognitive impairment. The applicant’s health care professional must sign the application to verify these needs.

Lastly, applicants must also provide the Veteran’s discharge papers to certify that their service time qualifies them or their surviving spouse for the benefit. If an applicant doesn’t have a copy of these forms, they can order them through the National Archives or AidandAttendance.com.

The applicant, their doctor, and senior care provider (such as the senior living facility or another care provider) must sign the application forms. Then the applicant mails or faxes the application to the VA. 

Applications are typically processed in about six months or longer if the applicant completes it by hand. If the VA approves the application, the benefit recipient will receive retroactive payments starting the first month after they opened their claim. Opening a claim means submitting an Intent to File form or the entire application.

Get expert help with your application

Many successful Veteran families work with third-party companies because of the application’s long and complex process. In addition to preparing the required financial, health, and military service information, claimants must complete the application form — which is 30+ pages long.

This is where third-party companies that know the VA’s process and criteria come in. AidandAttendance.com, a technology company specializing in helping families apply for the benefit, simplifies the application process. The company’s software leads an applicant through the application and provides a completed document to print, sign, and send to the VA by fax or mail. The company also offers a premium service, when a specialist reviews the application before the Veteran family submits it. 

Assistance with the application process can save the applicant and their family time so they can begin receiving the benefit as soon as possible. Those who believe they are eligible may also apply on their own.

Complete the application on your own

The Aid and Attendance application consists of two primary application forms:

  • Form 21P-527EZ is for Veterans who are applying to receive the benefit. 
  • Form 21P-534EZ is for surviving spouses of Veterans who are applying to receive the benefit.

Depending on the applicant’s circumstance, they may also need to complete other forms. 

The applicant must also prepare to complete the application by gathering information about their health, monthly household income, monthly senior care expenses, countable net worth, and the Veteran’s military service.

After the applicant completes the application and any other supplemental forms their situation requires, their health care professional and senior care provider sign the application. The applicant then signs the application and mails or faxes it to the VA.