One of the most common questions asked by those who are considering assisted living – either for themselves or a loved one – is “can we afford it?”
You should also ask: Are there government benefits that can help pay for assisted living? The answer is “yes” if the potential resident is a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran.
VA Benefits that Cover Assisted Living Costs
Aid and Attendance is a non-service-connected pension benefit for qualified veterans and/or spouses. This benefit is for those who need help with activities of daily living, like bathing, feeding, grooming, and dressing.
VA Pension Eligibility
According to current information from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, you must meet the following requirements to qualify for the Veterans Pension program:
Both of these must be true:
- You didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge, and
- Your yearly family income and net worth meet certain limits set by Congress. Your net worth includes all personal property you own (except your house, your car, and most home furnishings), minus any debt you owe. Your net worth includes the net worth of your spouse.
One of these must be true about your service or that of a loved one. You:
- Started on active duty before September 8, 1980, and you served at least 90 days on active duty with at least one day during wartime, or
- Started on active duty as an enlisted person after September 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months or the full period for which you were called or ordered to active duty (with some exceptions) with at least one day during wartime, or
- Were an officer and started on active duty after October 16, 1981, and you hadn’t previously served on active duty for at least 24 months
One of these must be true. You:
- Are at least 65 years old, or
- Have a permanent and total disability, or
- Are a patient in a nursing home for long-term care because of a disability, or
- Are getting Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security
The pension program is needs-based, meaning that veterans don't need a disability or disability rating to qualify for benefits.
What Counts as Service During Wartime?
Under current law, the following are the dates the VA considers wartime service for the purposes of eligibility:
- Mexican Border Period: May 9, 1916 – April 5, 1917, for veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders, or in adjacent water
- World War I: April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918
- World War II: December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946
- Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955
- Vietnam Era: November 1, 1955 – May 7, 1975, for veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period, or August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975 otherwise
- Gulf War: August 2, 1990 – a future date to be set by law
VA Widows and Widowers Benefits
A surviving spouse may be entitled to a veteran’s pension if he or she was married to the veteran at the time of their death. The veteran must have met all of the service criteria outlined by the VA. There is no age restriction for the surviving spouse, and the benefit amount is based on the surviving spouse’s income.
If the surviving spouse remarries after the death of the veteran, they are no longer eligible. The surviving spouse cannot have been divorced from the veteran. Also, they must have been married for at least one year before the veteran’s death.
VA Aid and Attendance 2022 amounts
This amount is based on need and income. Applicants will need to document their income, including Social Security, and expenses. They also need to include their medical expenses and assisted living costs. Veterans and spouses in assisted living typically qualify for the maximum benefit.
As of December 1, 2021, the 2022 maximum VA Aid and Attendance amounts are:
- Single veteran who requires care – up to $2,050 monthly
- Married veteran who requires care – up to $2,431 monthly
- Surviving spouse who requires care – up to $1,318 monthly
Comparing Assisted Living Costs
Veterans and spouses might need to take care when planning their estate to qualify for VA benefits. Families must also be mindful of look-back and penalty periods during planning.
If you’re considering assisted living for yourself or a loved one, set aside some time to research and understand what you’ll pay. Review these common questions about assisted living and costs, or download our free Cost Comparison Guide.