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The VA’s Best Kept Secret…

the-vaI have spoken with Matt Margolis, an Elder Law attorney with Heartland Law Firm recently about VA benefits to which people may not know they are entitled. In this posting, he shares some valuable insights that may expand your options for care cost coverage.

            One very common question that comes across my desk on a daily basis is “Are there any benefits, other than Medicaid, to help pay for the care of my ___________ (insert: mom, dad, husband, wife, brother, sister, etc.)?”  Typically, this is being asked because Medicaid is only available for someone in a Skilled Nursing Facility.  Because of this, we refer to Medicaid as “nursing home financial aid.”  My follow up question to this prospective client is usually asking whether the person they are calling about or their spouse was a Veteran.

            The Veterans Administration (VA) Aid and Attendance Benefit program is the benefit I will discuss with them.  In the overwhelming majority of situations, the prospective client has never heard of this benefit.  This benefit is actually classified as a “pension” by the VA and is a great source of funds for financially constrained wartime Veterans and/or their surviving spouses to use for their long term care costs such as living at home with a caregiver, adult day care, independent living with a caregiver, assisted living, and/or skilled nursing.

            While family income is one of the determining factors of eligibility, it is important to be aware that the VA allows individuals to deduct their unreimbursed medical expenses, which includes their health insurance premiums, home care, assisted living, adult day care, caregiver, and nursing home costs from their income. As a result, many Veterans who may not have previously qualified might now qualify if long term care has become necessary for them or their spouse.

As a general rule, to qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit, a family’s total assets (excluding their primary residence and vehicles) cannot exceed $80,000.  Fortunately, many clients I meet with have assets in surplus of this number.  The good news is that with the right strategies and planning, we can still position them to qualify.

            A few things worth mentioning:

    • Currently this benefit (unlike Medicaid), has NO look-back period as far as gifting/transferring assets is concerned;
    • The benefit ranges from a little over $1,100/month (for a surviving spouse) to a little over $2,000/month (for a Veteran with a dependent); and
    • The benefit is tax free.


            In the end, the VA Aid and Attendance pension is a heavily untapped, but much deserved, benefit for those Veterans and/or their surviving spouses who served and fought for our country.

Heartland Law Firm is a holistic elder law and estate planning firm.  Heartland Law Firm concentrates in assisting seniors and those in transition with understanding the landscape they are in and what protections and benefits are available to them and their loved ones. Visit their web site at: Heartland Law Firm.

Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  Please email your questions to


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