Paying for long-term care is rarely easy. When it comes to affording in-home care, assisted living or nursing home care, most people will need to think creatively about their financing options.

For Veterans and their surviving spouses, this could mean taking advantage of long-term care benefits offered by the Veterans Administration. Many people aren’t aware that Veterans and their surviving spouses can qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits, even if the Veteran does not have a service-connected disability.

Qualifying for Aid and Attendance

Aid and Attendance benefits are available to Veterans, and the surviving spouses of Veterans, if the Veteran served 90 consecutive days of active duty, with at least one day during a period of war. The periods of war include WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

To qualify, Veterans and surviving spouses must meet certain net worth and income requirements. The recipient’s home, one vehicle and personal property are not counted when determining net worth. It is important to have a VA accredited attorney review the application for eligibility determination prior to submitting it to the VA.

To income qualify for the full Aid and Attendance benefit, the Veteran or surviving spouse must be spending more on monthly unreimbursed medical expenses than they make in monthly income. However, the VA will prorate the benefit if the Veteran or surviving spouse is spending slightly less than their monthly income on unreimbursed medical expenses, which, again is why it is important to have the application reviewed prior to submitting it to the VA.

Additionally, the Veteran or surviving spouse must need assistance with two or more activities of daily living. These include things like needing assistance with bathing/using the bathroom, dressing, feeding, transferring out of a bed or chair, and walking. This assistance can be provided in the home by a caregiver or family member, in an assisted living facility, adult family home or nursing home.

Most who qualify don’t seek benefits

According to data from the Senior Veterans’ Service Alliance, more than 95 percent of people who qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits do not receive them. This is largely because people are either unaware of the benefit, or because they wrongly assume they do not qualify.

This is why getting help planning for long-term care is so important. In many cases, an experienced elder law attorney, who has been accredited by the VA, will be able to identify options you may not have been aware of.