Veterans A&A pension eligibility requirements expected to change

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Kaylin Ray Gilkey
Kaylin Ray Gilkey

On this coming and every Veterans Day, we honor all those who have served in the name of our country. As many veterans age, one of the most significant ways we can give back to this community is to help them plan for senior living and care.

For more than 10 years, VeteranAid.org has presented information and resources to educate vets and their families about the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension, a little-known allowance offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs that helps low-income veterans and their spouses with senior living and care expenses. As the community engagement manager at VeteranAid.org, I personally have answered a range of questions on the site's forums, where users come to learn about and share experiences with the A&A application process.

The benefit can be essential in financing senior care options for families of veterans and their spouses who have limited budgets. In fact, the A&A pension can make high-quality assisted living a reality for many seniors who otherwise may have struggled to pay for the costs of basic care. It is estimated that only 30% of potentially eligible veterans are aware of the benefit, however, and fewer still realize that eligibility requirements for the pension are anticipated to change in the coming year.

(It's too early to tell whether the next presidential administration will affect the proposed changes. The VA hasn't commented on the matter to date, and the president-elect never discussed it.)

About the A&A pension

The A&A pension supplies financial support to qualifying veterans and their spouses who need assistance with everyday activities, such as meal or care support and medication management.

To be entitled to the benefit, a veteran (and his or her spouse, if applicable) must have $80,000 or less in assets, excluding one home and one vehicle. The veteran also must have been discharged honorably and have served 90 consecutive days, at least one of which was during an approved period of war.

Senior housing and in-home care both are covered by the A&A pension, which can provide up to $1,788 per month to a veteran, $1,149 per month to a surviving spouse, $2,120 per month to a couple or $1,406 per month​ to a veteran with a sick spouse.

Proposed amendments to eligibility requirements in 2017

Under today's standards, the VA only considers the past year of a veteran's current income, assets and expenses at the time of application. Anticipated changes taking place in 2017, however, would require the VA to examine the past three years of an applicant's financial history to determine eligibility for the pension. The new guidelines potentially may disqualify many prospective applicants who are eligible under the current version of the A&A pension. The discharge and service rules are projected to stay the same.

For example, a veteran who has grown ill during the past year likely will not be able to work and, subsequently, will see his or her financial situation decline significantly. In the years before, this veteran may have been a healthy member of the workforce, producing higher levels of income. Thus, a three-year financial examination possibly could render the applicant ineligible for the A&A pension, even if he or she recently has come to need it. Because the current version of the pension looks at financial conditions going back only one year, it's important that those who quality now apply for this benefit soon.

According to Sue Johanson, regional director at A Place for Mom, VeteranAid.org's parent, it is imperative that veteran families take advantage of the A&A pension while it is still more widely accessible. “Applying before changes take place can make the difference between getting help from caregivers or going it alone,” she said.

A&A pension online resources

Not sure how to help seniors navigate the application process? The experts at VeteranAid.org can answer all of your questions about this benefit. You also can download the "VA Benefits & Long-Term Care" eBook on APlaceForMom.com.

Kaylin Ray Gilkey is community engagement manager at VeteranAid.org, a resource for information on the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension. She helps veterans and their family members on the forums, answering questions about the application process and facilitating discussions about personal experiences with the A&A application.

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