Long-Term Care Benefits for Veterans and Surviving Spouses

I recently learned that there are benefits that can help veterans and their spouses with long-term care costs. One of my parents is a veteran and recently moved into a memory care facility, and my other parent will likely need care in the future. What resources are available?

The Veterans Administration’s (VA) Aid and Attendance benefit program can help wartime veterans and their surviving spouses pay for a variety of long-term care costs. Aid and Attendance is a monthly benefit for eligible veterans and surviving spouses that is in addition to any existing VA pension. In 2024, the benefit pays a maximum of $2,727 per month to married veterans, $2,300 per month to single veterans or $1,478 per month to a surviving spouse. The money is tax free and can be used to pay for assisted living, memory care, nursing home or in-home care services.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify, a veteran must meet certain service requirements and not have been discharged dishonorably. Single surviving spouses of wartime veterans are eligible if their marriage ended due to death.

To medically qualify, a veteran must be either disabled, or over the age of 65 and need help performing activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, or dressing. Veterans who are blind, residing in a nursing home due to disability or receiving Social Security Disability or SSI also qualify. Single surviving spouses have no age restrictions, but must need assistance with activities of daily living to be eligible.

Veterans and their spouses must also meet certain thresholds for financial need to be eligible for benefits. To financially qualify, an applicant’s net worth, which includes assets and annual income combined, must be below $155,356 in 2024.

To calculate net worth, add up all assets including real property, investments and personal property but do not include the primary home or vehicle. Next, add up the applicant’s income over the past year (including Social Security, pensions and interest income from investments and annuities) minus any out-of-pocket medical expenses, prescription drugs, insurance premiums and long-term care costs over that same period. The total net annual income combined with the asset total is the applicant’s net worth.

The VA has a three-year lookback period to determine if an applicant transferred any assets before filing the claim. If assets were transferred during that period for below market value and those assets would have disqualified the applicant, a penalty period of up to five years may apply.

How to Apply

To apply for Aid and Attendance, you will need to fill out VA Form 21-2680 and mail it to the appropriate Pension Management Center (PMC). A health care provider will need to prepare the examination information section. Applications can also be submitted in person at a VA regional office.

For more information or to download application forms see VA.gov/pension/aid-attendance-housebound. The VA can also be reached at 800-827-1000 if there are additional questions. If you need assistance, a Veteran Service Officer (VSO), a VA-accredited attorney or claims agent can be appointed to represent your interests. To locate accredited representatives, visit VA.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp.

It can take months for an application to be processed. Once the application is approved, the VA will send a lump sum retroactive payment covering the time from the date of filing to the date it was approved. After receiving any retroactive payment, regular monthly payments will be made.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

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