It’s important to plan for long term health costs such as paying for assisted living communities, specialized home care services, skilled nursing care, or adult day care services. For veterans, Veterans Aid (VA) benefits can help cover extra fees and relieve some of the costs associated to care. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, disabled or sick veterans may receive help paying for these care services:
- Physical therapy
- Caregiver support
- Pain management and comfort care
- 24/7 medical and nursing assistance
- Help with daily activities like dressing, bathing, meal preparation and medication reminders
Because there are a variety of services to choose from, you or your spouse can use the care options that fit around your needs and abilities. This helpful guide explains how VA benefits affect you, eligibility requirements, and where to find tools and resources that help during the application process.
Paying For Senior Living Communities
Whether you plan to age in place or prefer a housing option that caters to your interests, you can use VA benefits to pay for it. But, there are three requirements you must meet:
- You’re signed up for VA health care.
- The long-term care services are available near you.
- The VA determines whether you need a specific service for assistance with personal care and ongoing treatment.
The VA also provides Aid and Attendance (A&A) benefits, as well as Housebound allowance for qualified veterans and surviving spouses who need assistance. In addition to that, Veterans’ Pensions may also be used to pay for housing options like senior living communities. The money provides monthly payments to wartime veterans who have a specific disability or age requirement and have annual income within certain regulatory limits.
Who Is Eligible for VA Benefits?
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) offers a wide range of medical, operative, and postoperative benefits. Like other military aid programs, the VA will determine if your particular discharge was deemed as “honorable.”
You can qualify for VA health care benefits if you:
- Served in the active air, naval or military service before September 7, 1980, and did not receive a dishonorable discharge.
- If you began active duty after October 16, 1981, or enlisted after September 7, 1980, you must have served the full period for which you were called to active duty or 2 consecutive years unless any of the following applies:
- You were discharged for a disability that was caused or was made worse by your active-duty service.
- You were discharged for “early out” or a hardship.
Members who currently or formerly served in the U.S Reserves or National Guard must have been called to active duty by either their branch or a federal order. However, if you have or had an active-duty status for training purposes only, you may not qualify for VA health care.
Veterans who received an other than honorable, bad conduct or dishonorable discharge, can apply for a discharge upgrade. And if you’re not able to get a discharge upgrade, you can still qualify for some VA benefits through the Character of Discharge review process. Remember to submit documents supporting your case to help with the application process, which could take up to one year.
To be eligible for VA pension, you must not have received a dishonorable discharge during your service and need to maintain a yearly family income and net worth that meets Congress limits. You should also be at least 65 years old, have a permanent disability, be residing in a nursing care setting for long-term care because of a disability, or have Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income.
Veterans Aid & Attendance
To qualify for VA Aid and Attendance, you must get a VA pension and meet at least one of the following requirements:
- You need another person to help you perform daily activities, like dressing, feeding, and bathing.
- You have to stay in bed or spend a large part of the day at home because of illness.
- You are a patient in a nursing home due to the loss of physical or mental abilities related to a disability.
- You have a concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less, or your eyesight is limited to only 5/200 or less in both eyes, even with glasses or contact lenses.
In order to be eligible for Housebound benefits, you must get a VA pension and spend the most time at home because of a permanent disability.
For more information about eligibility requirements, please visit the VA Health Care page.
Applying For VA Benefits
You can apply for VA health care benefits online. Be sure to have your Social Security number, a copy of your military discharge papers (DD214 or other separation documents), your most recent tax return, account numbers for any health insurance you currently have and your personal and dependents’ financial information before enrolling.
Veterans could also qualify for enhanced eligibility status and be placed in a higher priority group if they meet at least one of the below requirements.
- You have received a Purple Heart.
- You have received a Medal of Honor.
- You get a VA pension.
- You are a recently discharged combat Veteran.
- You were discharged for a disability that occurred because of something that happened in the line of duty or you were discharged for a disability that got worse in the line of duty.
- You receive financial compensation from the VA for a service-connected disability.
- You are a former prisoner of war (POW).
- You qualify for or receive Medicaid benefits.
- You served at Camp Lejeune at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
- You served in the Gulf War in Southwest Asia between August 2, 1990, and November 11, 1998.
- You served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975.
There are still ways you may be eligible for care based on your income if none of these criteria apply to you. Learn more about how annual income limits affect health benefits.
Lastly, you can send in a completed VA Form to a pension management center, or you can apply in person at a VA regional office to apply for VA Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits. You must include evidence, including a doctor’s report, details about your daily life, and information that shows how your physical ailments affect your abilities.
Finding Tools & Resources For VA Benefits
The first step to getting VA benefits is to apply online using the eBenefits program. In the case that you need further instruction, you can get additional help from a representative at a nearby VA office or work with an accredited representative or agent.
Here are some other tools and resources you can use when enrolling for VA benefits:
- The VA provides information on financial benefits for geriatrics and extended care, including compensation, veteran’s pension, and aid and attendance.
- The VA has a website explaining what residential settings and nursing homes veterans might be eligible for care in and how they can pay for care in each one.
- The VA also has a website on assisted living facilities, including information on eligibility and services available for veterans.