By Mitch Adel, Senior Partner, Cooper Adel & Associates
Every day, we are reminded that it is a dangerous world out there, with our nation focused on our troops returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and with looming conflicts such as Syria always on on the horizon. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to forget about the fact that some of our bravest soldiers, our seniors, veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, often do not take full advantage of the benefits available to them as they age. This year, on Veteran’s Day, let’s make sure veterans and their spouses know about the Aid & Attendance Benefit (A&A), an underutilized Veteran’s Administration (VA) program that provides financial support for in-home, assisted living or nursing home care.
For many seniors, the A&A program is one of the best ways to ensure that they have the resources and support they need to deal with the challenges of aging. Designed specifically for veterans and their surviving spouses, A&A provides a monthly stipend to help defray the cost of medical expenses associated with specialized in-home or long-term care for veterans or their surviving spouses who need assistance with the activities of daily living such as dressing, mobility or caring for themselves. Benefits range from a little over $1,100/month for a surviving spouse to over $2,000 for a veteran.
According to the New York Times, a shockingly small percentage of veterans take advantage of the A&A program: in 2011, only 38,076 veterans and 38,685 surviving spouses of the approximately 1.7 million living World War II veterans received the benefit. Many may not even be aware that the program even exists.
To qualify for the program, the veteran must have at least 90 days of active duty, and one of those days must have been during wartime. The veteran did not have to be “in theater”, however, he or she can qualify if their duty was stateside. Congress authorized the following qualifying timeframes:
- World War II: December 7th, 1941, through December 31st, 1946
- Korean War: June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955
- Vietnam War: August 5, 1964 (February 28, 1961, for veterans who served “in country” before August 5, 1964), through May 7, 1975
- Persian Gulf War: August 2, 1990, through a date to be set by Presidential Proclamation or Law.
The veteran or surviving spouse must also have verification from their doctor that they need assistance with the activities of daily living mentioned above, but the veteran did NOT have to be injured to receive benefits (that’s another program). There are also limits on income and assets to consider. Further, there have been recent laws introduced in Congress regarding lookback periods that may further complicate the planning process.
While A&A benefits can be significant, the application process can be somewhat daunting. Possibly the most burdensome part of the process is gathering the correct paperwork and documentation required to make a successful application. A&A applicants will need, among other things, proof of service, documentation regarding their net worth and income as well as recurring expenses.
While getting the paperwork together is sometimes no easy task, those veterans and/or their surviving spouses who do qualify will likely find it well worth the effort. You may not want to try this alone as you must consider how the planning you do for this benefit might affect other benefits down the road. Consider consulting with your elder law attorney as part of the process of applying to make sure all your ducks are in a row.
If you know a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran who might benefit from this program, take the time to share this information with them—it might just make life better, easier or more care-free for them. After all, with Veterans Day (Tuesday, November 11th) right around the corner, what better time than now to show our appreciation for the service and sacrifice displayed by the men and women who have served in the military on behalf of our nation?
Mitch Adel is senior partner at Cooper, Adel and Associates, A Legal Professional Association. With offices in Centerburg, Monroe, Sidney and Wilmington, Ohio, Cooper, Adel & Associates has clients statewide and offers regular seminars to educate seniors on critical legal and financial issues. For more information, visit http://www.CooperAndAdel.com..