If you’ve researched assisted living options, you know the national average cost of care, according to the latest Genworth Cost of Care Survey, is $4,051/month. Of course, this rate varies depending on the region, the size of the apartment, and the needed level of care. If you’re one of the thousands of retired veterans or their spouses in need of care, did you know among the many veterans retirement benefits available is a program called Aid and Attendance that can help with the assisted living cost? This post will explain what Aid and Assistance covers, who qualifies and how to apply. It will also discuss other ways to pay for care.
What is assisted living?
In addition to more basic amenities like meals, housekeeping and activities, assisted living communities help with activities of daily living. This usually includes services that promote a higher quality of life, such as medication management, bathing, dressing, grooming, eating and more. Not all l residents require personal assistance in all these areas, so the care is tailored for each individual.
Benefits for senior veterans.
The Veterans Administration (VA) helps veterans and their families by providing supplemental income through the Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension benefit programs. Eligibility requirements include:
- An honorable discharge
- Age 65 or older (or permanently disabled)
- Minimum service requirements (at least 90 days of active duty, with one of those days being during active wartime)
- A monthly income and assets below the limits set by the VA (as of December 1, 2019, net worth must not exceed $129,094)
To receive Aid and Attendance, eligible veterans and surviving spouses must first qualify for the basic VA pension, and must also meet one of these additional medical requirements:
- Need the help of another person for everyday tasks like bathing and dressing
- Are in a nursing home, due to a mental or physical incapacity such as Alzheimer’s disease
- Are bedridden
- Have specific eyesight limitations
Aid and Attendance provide up to $1,881 per month to a veteran, $1,209 to a surviving spouse or $2,230 to a couple. The money, which is tax-free, can be used for in-home care, board and care, an assisted living community, or a private pay nursing home. These monthly payments are in addition to your monthly VA pension.
How to apply for veterans retirement benefits.
To apply for Aid and Attendance, you need to mail the completed VA forms to your pension management center (PMC), or you can apply in person at the nearest VA regional office.
The application and approval process can average six to eight months. Even gathering the necessary documents and completing the paperwork can take weeks, but a complete and accurate application can be processed much more quickly. The good news is the benefit pays retroactively upon approval of eligibility, so the first benefit payment will include a lump sum to cover the time your application was pending. If you’re over 90, you can request an expedited review in your application cover letter.
Other ways to cover assisted living costs.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, approximately 70% of American adults are likely to need some kind of long-term care, and they’ll need that care for an average of three years. Medicare and long-term care insurance can help cover some of those costs. To help you understand what’s available to you and your family, here’s a brief overview of each:
- Medicaid: This program covers short-term care for certain health services and nursing home care for people with low incomes and limited assets. To determine if you’re immediately eligible, take the Medicaid Eligibility Test.
- Long-term care insurance: Few people have enough money in savings to cover potentially years worth of long-term care costs at market value. A long-term care insurance policy will reimburse you for a percentage of care given not only at hospitals or assisted living facilities, but also in your home or adult day care centers. However, long-term care insurance won’t cover all your costs, and premiums can be quite high if you wait until later in life to apply for it. Because every situation is different, long-term care insurance may not be for everyone, so be sure to consult your doctor, tax advisor and financial advisor before deciding.
Explore your assisted living options.
When it comes to choosing an assisted living community, there are a lot of choices. To help, we offer the following resources: