Many veterans are surprised to learn that they, and certain family members, may be entitled to receive veterans’ retirement benefits through the VA pension or its Aid & Attendance (A&A) programs. Both programs provide financial support to low-income veterans aged 65 and above who served during specific periods of war. Surviving spouses of qualifying veterans may also be eligible to receive VA benefits.

In order to qualify for the VA pension, the veteran must have been on active duty for at least 90-days, including one day of active service during WWI or WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or the Persian Gulf War.  He or she must be at least 65, and must have a countable annual income that is less than the Maximum Allowable Pension Rate (MAPR) provided by Congress.  Countable incomes include social security benefits, annuities and retirement funds, and other taxable income sources.

To determine one’s countable annual income, the VA totals the applicant’s annual income, reduces it by “excessive” healthcare costs, and then subtracts that final amount from the applicable MAPR. Excessive healthcare costs include insurance premiums, uncovered prescription drugs, assisted living, long-term care and other healthcare expenses whose combined total is greater than five percent of the claimant’s MAPR.

For 2010, the VA pension’s MAPR for a single veteran is $11,830, for a surviving spouse is $7,933, and for a married veteran is $15,493. An eligible claimant is entitled to receive benefits that, when added to his or her countable income, do not exceed the applicable MAPR.  For example, if a single veteran’s countable annual income is $10,000, he or she is eligible to receive yearly VA pension benefits of $1,830.  

Through the A&A program, claimants who are eligible to receive the VA pension, but also need in-home care, assisted living or long-term care, may receive an even greater amount of monthly benefits.  For 2010, the MAPR for a single veteran receiving A&A is $19,736, for a surviving spouse is $12,681, and for a married veteran is $23,396.

Here’s an example:  Bill is a retired veteran who served in the Korean War, and whose annual income from all sources totals $20,000.  He is a single adult and needs assistance with bathing, dressing and incontinence support. Bill resides in an assisted living facility that charges him $3,000 each month.  Should he apply for the VA pension and A&A programs, he will be found eligible to receive A&A support.  

As a single person, Bill’s MAPR will be $19,736, and his five-percent deduction for healthcare costs will be $986. Because his yearly assisted living expenses will total $36,000, he will receive healthcare expense credit of $36,000 less $986, or $35,014.  Bill’s healthcare expense credit exceeds his countable income. He will therefore be eligible to receive the full MAPR of $19,736. That A&A benefit, combined with Bill’s other income, will enable him to afford continued residence in the assisted living facility.
 
Neither the VA pension nor A&A programs provide asset limitations that define a claimant’s financial eligibility.  However, in determining the value of countable assets, the VA does not include the claimant’s home, one automobile, or other household belongings. Assets are viewed by how long they will last given the life expectancy of the elder and the amounts spent on deductible medical expenses. According to current VA regulations, eligibility based on income alone will usually prevail when the net worth of a claimant’s countable assets is less than $80,000.  

In order to apply for Veteran’s retirement benefit programs, the claimant must file a statement of income and assets, evidence of existing or anticipated bills for medical expenses, and other VA forms.  He or she must also submit medical evaluations from treating physicians to ensure possible entitlement to A&A benefits. A Veterans Service Officer (VSO) is available at no cost to assist claimants in applying.  To locate a VSO in your area, contact the Veterans Administration at: 800-827-1000 or vba.va.gov.  If you reside in Los Angeles County, contact the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs at 213-744-4825.

Many veterans are surprised to learn that they, and certain family members, may be entitled to receive veterans’ retirement benefits through the VA pension or its Aid & Attendance (A&A) programs. Both programs provide financial support to low-income veterans aged 65 and above who served during specific periods of war. Surviving spouses of qualifying veterans may also be eligible to receive VA benefits.

In order to qualify for the VA pension, the veteran must have been on active duty for at least 90-days, including one day of active service during WWI or WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or the Persian Gulf War.  He or she must be at least 65, and must have a countable annual income that is less than the Maximum Allowable Pension Rate (MAPR) provided by Congress.  Countable incomes include social security benefits, annuities and retirement funds, and other taxable income sources.

To determine one’s countable annual income, the VA totals the applicant’s annual income, reduces it by “excessive” healthcare costs, and then subtracts that final amount from the applicable MAPR. Excessive healthcare costs include insurance premiums, uncovered prescription drugs, assisted living, long-term care and other healthcare expenses whose combined total is greater than five percent of the claimant’s MAPR.

For 2010, the VA pension’s MAPR for a single veteran is $11,830, for a surviving spouse is $7,933, and for a married veteran is $15,493. An eligible claimant is entitled to receive benefits that, when added to his or her countable income, do not exceed the applicable MAPR.  For example, if a single veteran’s countable annual income is $10,000, he or she is eligible to receive yearly VA pension benefits of $1,830.  

Through the A&A program, claimants who are eligible to receive the VA pension, but also need in-home care, assisted living or long-term care, may receive an even greater amount of monthly benefits.  For 2010, the MAPR for a single veteran receiving A&A is $19,736, for a surviving spouse is $12,681, and for a married veteran is $23,396.

Here’s an example:  Bill is a retired veteran who served in the Korean War, and whose annual income from all sources totals $20,000.  He is a single adult and needs assistance with bathing, dressing and incontinence support. Bill resides in an assisted living facility that charges him $3,000 each month.  Should he apply for the VA pension and A&A programs, he will be found eligible to receive A&A support.  

As a single person, Bill’s MAPR will be $19,736, and his five-percent deduction for healthcare costs will be $986. Because his yearly assisted living expenses will total $36,000, he will receive healthcare expense credit of $36,000 less $986, or $35,014.  Bill’s healthcare expense credit exceeds his countable income. He will therefore be eligible to receive the full MAPR of $19,736. That A&A benefit, combined with Bill’s other income, will enable him to afford continued residence in the assisted living facility.
 
Neither the VA pension nor A&A programs provide asset limitations that define a claimant’s financial eligibility.  However, in determining the value of countable assets, the VA does not include the claimant’s home, one automobile, or other household belongings. Assets are viewed by how long they will last given the life expectancy of the elder and the amounts spent on deductible medical expenses. According to current VA regulations, eligibility based on income alone will usually prevail when the net worth of a claimant’s countable assets is less than $80,000.  

In order to apply for Veteran’s retirement benefit programs, the claimant must file a statement of income and assets, evidence of existing or anticipated bills for medical expenses, and other VA forms.  He or she must also submit medical evaluations from treating physicians to ensure possible entitlement to A&A benefits. A Veterans Service Officer (VSO) is available at no cost to assist claimants in applying.  To locate a VSO in your area, contact the Veterans Administration at: 800-827-1000 or vba.va.gov.  If you reside in Los Angeles County, contact the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs at 213-744-4825.