Question: I recently met with a couple where the husband is entitled to veterans’ benefits. I need advice about the benefits the couple could receive from the VA so I can design an appropriate long-term care (LTC) plan.

Answer: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays for some long-term care services for veterans needing long-term care due to service-related disabilities and for those who do not have service-related disabilities but who need care and are unable to pay for the cost of necessary care.

This pension benefit can assist veterans, their spouses and widows or widowers to assure a level of income above the minimum subsistence level.

There are three program levels: Basic, Housebound, and Aid and Attendance (A&A).

A&A assists veterans and their surviving spouses who require the help of another person to assist with activities of daily living (ADLs). It helps cover the cost of qualified non-reimbursed medical expenses, home care, assisted-living facility and nursing home care. In existence for decades, it is widely unknown and under-utilized.

These dollars are basically cash for whatever the needs are. Some recipients are using the money to pay a family member or friend for care. Here is a list of the benefits that can be provided:

Single Qualified Veteran

  • Basic Improved Pension: Up to $1,038 per month.
  • Pension with Housebound: Up to $1,269 per month.
  • Pension with A&A: Up to $1,732 per month.

Qualified Veteran with Spouse 

  • Basic Improved Pension: Up to $1,360 per month.
  • Pension with Housebound: Up to $1,590 per month.
  • Pension with A&A: Up to $2,054 per month.

Surviving Spouse (Death Pension) 

  • Basic Improved Pension: Up to $696 per month.
  • Pension with Housebound: Up to $851 per month.
  • Pension with A&A: Up to $1,113 per month.

Co-pays may apply depending on the veteran’s income and asset level. For more information, visit the website http://longtermcare.gov.

Applying for veterans benefits can be a long and complicated process. Frequently, even the VA department’s own staff is not well versed enough to explain to veterans and families the types of benefits available and criteria for qualifying.

How am I handling this with my own clients?

I give them a copy of Chapter 15 — “VA Benefits” — from the “The Essentials Of Long Term Care Planning,” a new booklet from the 3in4Association.

Another option is to suggest to the clients that they use the cash from the VA benefit to buy a LTCI policy.

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