The VA Aid And Attendance is a program available from the Department of Veterans Affairs that doesn’t get quite as much face time as better-known military benefits, but it is a very important one for qualified veterans who have wartime service and are qualified to receive a VA Pension.
VA Pension Benefits can be supplemented by Aid And Attendance payments for those who meet the basic qualifying criteria (including military service for at least one day during times of war), which includes the following according to the VA official site:
“Veterans and survivors who are eligible for a VA pension and require the aid and attendance of another person, or are housebound, may be eligible for additional monetary payment. These benefits are paid in addition to monthly pension, and they are not paid without eligibility to Pension.”
What Is The Difference Between Military Retirement Pay And A VA Pension?
This is one of the most important basic aspects of the VA Pension program that can be misunderstood, at least at first. Military retirement pay and VA Pensions are NOT the same thing. The VA Pension program is for qualifying veterans who have discharges not characterized as Dishonorable and have a qualifying financial need.
According to the VA official site, “VA helps Veterans with wartime service and their families cope with financial challenges by providing supplemental income through Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension benefits”.
Who Qualifies For A VA Pension?
In general, a qualifying veteran has a minimum of 90 days on active duty with at least one day during a time of war or hostilities as described by the VA to successfully apply for a VA Pension.
Those entering active duty on or after September 7, 1980 must in general have least 24 months of service or the full period the veteran was ordered to active duty (some exceptions apply) with at least one day during a time of war or hostilities.
Those who wish to qualify for a VA pension (and VA Aid And Attendance benefits) must also meet any one or more of the following requirements:
- Age 65 or older
- Permanently and totally disabled (not due to personal misconduct)
- Patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care
- Receiving Social Security disability benefits
In addition to these requirements there is a financial qualification to meet.
According to the VA the applicant’s “yearly family income must be less than the amount set by Congress to qualify for the Veterans or Survivors’ Pension benefit”. Current income limits and estimated benefit amounts are available at www.vba.va.gov.
VA Pensions And Aid And Attendance Benefits
The VA Aid And Attendance benefit requires the recipient to be eligible to receive the VA Pension. Some applicants will not qualify for the pension benefit due to “excessive income” but those who have qualifying medical conditions that make them eligible for Aid And Attendance (A&A) may be allowed to qualify for the VA Pension, also.
This may sound confusing to some, but an official VA summary of benefits pamphlet explains:
“If your income exceeds the threshold for basic pension, you may still qualify for pension if you are eligible for either the A&A or Housebound. Because Aid and Attendance and Housebound allowances increase the pension amount, people who are not eligible for a basic pension due to excessive income may be eligible for pension at these increased rates.”
What Are The Qualifying Conditions For VA Aid And Attendance Retirement Benefits?
Aside from what’s mentioned above, the Department of Veterans Affairs requires veterans to meet at least one of the following conditions to qualify for Aid And Attendance benefits:
- The veteran requires the aid of another “in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting yourself from the hazards of your daily environment.”
- The veteran is bedridden, defined by the VA as having a disability (or multiple disabilities) that keeps the patient in bed “apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment.”
- The veteran is a patient in a nursing home due to physical or mental impairment.
- Veteran’s eyesight is limited to “a corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less in both eyes; or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less” according to the VA.
The veteran is not required to meet all these conditions, just one of them is enough to justify consideration for Aid And Attendance payments.
Some surviving spouses and dependent children of veterans who have died may also be eligible for similar benefits through the VA Survivors Pension program.
Who Do I Contact To Apply For Aid And Attendance Payments?
Aid and Attendance benefits are not automatic and must be applied for. Contact either the nearest VA Pension Management Center or your nearest VA Regional Benefit Center for assistance and instructions on where to mail, fax, or electronically submit application data. You can also apply in person.
What Is The Housebound Allowance And Why Should I Know About It Before Applying For Aid And Attendance Benefits?
The Housebound Retirement Benefit is described by the VA as being specifically for pension-eligible veterans and “may be added to your monthly pension amount when you are substantially confined to your immediate premises because of permanent disability”.
Like Aid And Attendance, this benefit is not automatic and must be applied for; more importantly, veterans cannot receive both Aid And Attendance AND Housebound benefits. Only one or the other is allowed.
Do I Need A Special Form To Apply For Aid And Attendance?
For both Housebound and Aid And Attendance applications, the veteran should use VA Form 21-2680, Examination for Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance, which may be completed by a doctor.
Do I Need To Submit Other Documentation With VA Form 21-2680?
Yes. It’s very important to present supporting evidence including any doctor reports or related findings that show the applicant requires assisted care or otherwise meets the criteria of the Aid And Attendance or Housebound programs.
Personal statements about daily activities, personal care and other routines should also be included. Be sure to account for how the qualifying medical issues affect your abilities to do these things and overall quality of life.
Other Documentation That May Be Required For Pension Benefits, Aid And Attendance
You should expect to submit the following documentation in order to successfully apply for these VA Pension benefits:
- Social Security number
- VA file number (where applicable)
- Military history
- Personal financial information
- Employment history
- Direct deposit information (bank account numbers, routing numbers)
- Medical information
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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