N.Y. Times: VA Program for Seniors’ Home Care an “Underused” Benefit

Not many aging veterans who wish to receive care in their homes or in senior care communities, but don’t have enough funds to do so, know about a Department of Veterans Affairs program that can help them afford those services.

The Aid and Attendance and Housebound Improved Pension benefit has managed to remain a little-know—and underused—supplemental payment option for aging veterans’ care, writes the New York Times’ The New Old Age blog, even though it has tremendous potential to help eligible seniors pay privately for their care at home, or in assisted living communities and nursing homes. 

The benefit is not insignificant: up to $2,019 monthly for a veteran and spouse, and up to $1,094 for the widow of a veteran.

Surprised that you’ve never heard of it? You’re not alone.

“It’s probably one of the lesser-known benefits,” said Randal Noller, a Veterans Affairs spokesman in Washington. Of the 1.7 million World War II veterans alive as of 2011, who were in need of caregiving assistance and thus eligible, only 38,076 veterans and 38,685 surviving spouses were granted the A&A benefit that year, according to Mr. Noller.

Mr. Noller is not the first to acknowledge A&A is a well-kept secret. Jim Nicholson, former secretary of Veterans Affairs, said in a December 2006 news release that “not everyone is aware of his or her potential eligibility” for the program, which he called an “underused” benefit.

To qualify, a veteran need not have suffered a service-related injury. He or she only had to have clocked at least one day of his or her 90-day minimum military service during a time of war and need caregiving for activities of daily living.

The A&A benefit can be more than 50 percent higher than the basic veteran’s pension ($24,239 annually for a veteran and spouse with A&A, versus $16,051 for a basic pension). The income and asset cutoffs are also higher than for A&A benefits.

Unlike Medicaid, Veterans Affairs doesn’t have a five-year lookback period on asset transfers and does not reveal maximum allowable assets in order for veterans (or their spouses) to qualify for the benefit. 

Read the full piece at The New Old Age blog.

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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