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Veterans Benefits
The Aid and Attendance Benefit for Veterans

Veteran Care
Veteran Care

As veterans age, very few are familiar with a benefit that help pays for assisted living, a nursing home, or care at home. It's called "Aid and Attendance" a Pension Benefit and is not dependent upon service-related injuries.

The Aid and Attendance is a Pension Benefit designed and offered by the Veterans Administration which allows for Veterans and surviving spouses who need the help of another person for regular attendance to assist in eating, bathing, dressing, undressing, taking medication, or needing help with toileting to obtain financial benefits. The Aid and Attendance includes care received in assisted living facilities, a nursing home, or at home, and it applies for persons who are blind.

A Veteran qualifies for up to $1,732 per month, while a surviving spouse is eligible for up to $1,113 per month. A Veteran with a Spouse is eligible for up to $2,054 per month and a Veteran with a Sick Spouse is eligible for up to $1,360 per month. Note: The veteran must show countable income of $0 to receive the maximum benefit.

What are the Qualifiers?

The Veteran's pension program provides monthly benefits to certain wartime Veterans with financial need, and to surviving spouses. A Veteran is eligible if s/he:

  • Was discharged from service (NOT under dishonorable conditions), and served 90 days or more of active military, naval or air service with at least 1 day during a period of war. (Qualifying wars are: Indian Wars - January 1, 1817, through December 31, 1898, Spanish-American War - April 21, 1898, through July 4, 1902, Mexican Border War - May 9, 1916, through April 5, 1917, World War I - April 6, 1917, through November 11, 1918, World War II - December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946, Korean Conflict - June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955, Vietnam Era - August 5, 1964, through May 7, 1975, Persian Gulf War - August 2, 1990)
  • AND has a countable income below the maximum annual pension rate,
  • AND meets the net worth limitations, (To qualify financially, the applying Veteran or surviving spouse must have on average less than $80,000 in assets, excluding home and vehicles.) Other factors that determine countable income include: earnings, disability and retirement payments, interest and dividends, and net income from farming or business. Public assistance, like SSI, is not counted as part of countable income. The maximum Aid and Attendance benefit that pays monthly to a single veteran is $1,704, but the veteran must have countable income of $0 to receive the maximum benefit.
  • AND is age 65 or older, OR shows by evidence to permanent and total non-service-connected disability, OR is a patient in a nursing home, OR is receiving Social Security disability benefits.
  • Veterans who entered active duty after September 7, 1980, must have served at least 24 months of active duty service. If the total length of service is less than 24 months, the Veteran must have completed his/her entire tour of active duty.

The Aid and Attendance Benefit is an increased monthly pension amount paid to a Veteran or surviving spouse. You are eligible for the increased Aid and Attendance amount if:

  • You are eligible for basic pension benefits AND
  • You require aid to perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting yourself from the hazards of your daily environment, OR
  • You are bedridden--the disability or disabilities require that you remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment, OR
  • You are a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity, OR
  • You have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.

Eligibility is proven by filing the proper Veterans Application for Pension or Compensation. This application requires a copy of DD-214 or separation papers, Medical Evaluation from a physician, current medical issues, net worth limitations, and net income, along with out-of-pocket Medical Expenses. Request a copy of a DD-214.

How Many Veterans are in Assisted Living?

The 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities found that 16% of the residents they inquired about were veterans and 17% of the residents were spouses or widow/widower of a veteran of the U.S. Military.

Is the resident a veteran of U.S. Military service?
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (4%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)
Is the resident the spouse, or widow/widower, of a veteran of U.S. Military service?
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (15%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

How to Apply for the Aid and Attendance Benefit

Prepare ahead of time before filing; there is a lot of information that's needed. The application process is long and detailed, so be equipped with knowledge before speaking with a Veterans' Affairs Office.

To apply you need the following documents. Prepare and complete before filing.

  • Discharge or Separation Papers (DD-214). Request a copy of your military records
  • A copy of the Death Certificate (surviving spouses)
  • Copies showing your Net Worth information; include bank accounts, CDs, Trusts, Stocks, Bonds, Annuities, etc.
  • Copy of your Marriage Certificate
  • Copy of current Social Security Award Letter - the one you receive at the beginning of each year from the Social Security Administration showing the monthly amount for the year
  • Copies of all income statements from pensions, retirement, interest income from investments, annuities, etc.
  • Copies of your insurance premiums, medications, medical bills and/or medical expenses not reimbursed by insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.
  • Banking information for Direct Deposit of Aid and Attendance monthly payments (enclose a voided check).
  • Employment history (does not apply if you are over 65).
  • If you are a court-appointed guardian of the veteran or surviving spouse, you must show a certified copy of the court order of the appointment.
  • A physician statement that includes current diagnosis, medical status, prognosis, name and address, ability to care for self, ability to travel unattended, etc. Get a copy of a physician statement. If you are a veteran in a nursing home, or a surviving spouse in a nursing home, use this form.
  • List of all doctors and hospitals visited in the last year.

How to Use Aid and Attendance to Pay for Assisted Living

The Veterans Administration does not categorize assisted living facilities as nursing homes. The veteran or surviving spouse must qualify or be rated to qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit to pay for medical costs and costs of room and board at the assisted living facility. To learn more about ratings, go to Who is eligible for the aid and attendance Pension benefit?

Once a person is "rated" or qualifies for having a need for the "aid and attendance," VA allows for reasonable costs to count for medical expenses as long as some of the costs point to medical care. The care providers are not required to have a license. When applying for Alzheimer's care, a physician's statement must show that the person needs a protective environment; otherwise, only medical costs count. The reasonable costs include room and board and other un-reimbursed billable services. Learn more about the special annualized treatment of un-reimbursed long-term care costs and insurance premiums - go to this article Understanding the special case of long-term care medical costs.

The Director of the assisted living facility must sign a statement verifying the type of care given; showing the person receiving the care will remain a resident at the facility. Submit the form Care Provider Report that shows evidence of recurring medical expenses. Include a copy of the services contract and invoices and statements from the assisted living facility with the Care Provider Report form.

A non-veteran spouse of a living veteran may receive annualized credit for recurring costs of non-nursing home facility care. In those cases, VA allows deduction of non-medical costs in an assisted living facility, if the physician shows (via a letter) that the person requires a "protected environment."

Because the non-veteran spouse of a living veteran is not "rated" or qualifies as a veteran, the VA benefit is less. On the other hand, if the veteran is no longer alive, then the surviving spouse can receive a rating.

View the Maximum Annual Pension Rates. For more information, contact the VA at 1-800-827-1000 or online.

Other Options for Veterans

DAV Assisted Care

The Department of Veterans Affairs does provide some long-term care to veterans in VA operated residences. Vacancies in these VA facilities are limited.

State Veterans' Homes

State veterans' homes are another option for veterans who may not qualify for A&A benefits or DAV assisted care residence. According to the National Association of State Veterans Homes (NASHV), state vet homes are one of the largest providers of long-term care in the industry with 133 facilities in 49 states.

If you are a veteran and you need help with care, the NASHV might be able to help. The group works with the federal government, state governments, and service organizations in an effort to help vets. The group's goal is to make sure every veteran receives care that meets or exceeds the highest standards.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.