It’s no secret that the cost of long-term care has risen sharply in the last decade. In fact, according to Genworth’s annual Cost of Long-Term Care Survey, the average annual cost of a private room in a nursing home in the Boston area is $146,000. Especially for caregivers, these huge costs are a huge worry.
Another survey found that only 3% of those caring for someone 60 or older are confident in their ability to afford care as they age. And with approximately 44% of men and 55% of women likely to need nursing home care at some point, that’s a big financial burden.
For veterans or their surviving spouses, however, one veteran benefit may greatly reduce the financial hit of long-term care: Pension with Aid and Attendance. This largely unpublicized benefit is used by only an estimated 5% of eligible veterans or surviving spouses. A single veteran could receive as much as $1,788 monthly, a surviving spouse about $1,150, a married veteran $2,120 and a veteran couple as much as $2,837 monthly.
There are, however, rather stringent eligibility rules. A veteran over age 65 must have served during a designated wartime period and received an honorable discharge. Then, he or she must also need regular assistance with everyday activities (such as bathing, cooking, dressing or eating), be bedridden, in a nursing home as a result of some mental or physical incapacity or meet strict loss-of-eyesight requirements. There is also an asset test. While not a hard and fast rule, generally a veteran cannot have more than $80,000 in assets, though that does not include a home.
If you thought the eligibility requirements were complicated, then there’s the application process. While it usually takes between six and nine months to hear from the VA regarding your application, it can certainly take longer. A Next Avenue article discussing the Aid and Attendance benefit highlights the plight of one veteran who had waited over three years to hear from the VA regarding his application. There are also specific forms to submit, along with other required documentation. It’s not an easy process.
So what can you do to make it easier? Firstly, get some assistance from an experienced elder law attorney. He or she can help you with complicated paperwork and navigating the system. They can also take a look to ensure you receive all the benefits you’re eligible for.
Secondly, you should get your documentation in order and document everything. As we said, there is specific documentation the VA requires you to submit in your application. On top of that, the VA requires you to demonstrate monthly your in-home, assisted living, or nursing home care costs.
Finally, be aware that the process requires a lot of patience. While it can take a long time, the good news is that, once approved, your benefits are paid going back to the month after your application was submitted.
If you or someone you love may be eligible, be sure to contact an experienced elder law attorney to discuss your options and ensure you receive all your benefits.
Reference: Next Avenue (July 9, 2015) “The VA Program That Pays for Long-Term Care for Vets”