VA Aid & Attendance Benefits: What Veterans Should Know
Veterans who have difficulty completing daily activities on their own may be eligible for aid and attendance benefits. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers monthly benefits added to VA pension benefits for veterans who qualify. This is also true for housebound benefits.
If you are living at home with a caregiver or in an assisted living facility, you may be eligible for these benefits. This guide outlines the basics of aid and attendance.
What Is Aid & Attendance?
Aid and Attendance, commonly called A&A, is a form of special monthly compensation that a veteran can be eligible for beyond a 100% rating. Meaning, you can be compensated at greater than 100% rating. This is crucial for veterans who need extra assistance but are already being paid at the 100% rate.
Understanding Aid & Attendance Eligibility Requirements
There are several factors involved in aid and attendance benefit eligibility. Specifically, veterans need to prove active duty, clinical, and financial eligibility. Remember that this process can be complicated, so your pension management center may be a helpful resource when filing your application. To get you started, here are some of the categories that determine veteran eligibility.
Active Duty Eligibility Requirements
The first step in determining eligibility is proving that you served in active duty military service. According to the VA, veterans who served for at least 90 consecutive days in active duty, including one full day during wartime, may be eligible.
The VA defines wartime service for veterans pensions and A&A as service that occurred during these dates:
- World War II: December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946
- Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955
- Vietnam Era: February 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975, for veterans who served in Vietnam; August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975, for veterans who served outside of Vietnam
- Gulf War: August 2, 1990 – a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation
Keep in mind that veterans do not have to have served in a combat zone to qualify. Surviving spouses of eligible veterans may also qualify if they haven’t remarried and also meet the clinical and income requirements outlined by the VA.
Clinical Eligibility Requirements
According to the VA, at least one of the following requirements needs to be present in order for a veteran to be eligible:
- The individual needs another person to help them perform daily activities of daily living, like feeding, bathing, or dressing, or
- The individual needs to stay in bed for the whole day, or a large portion of the day due to illness, or
- The individual is a patient in a nursing home due to a mental or physical disability, or
- The individual has limited eyesight (even with glasses or contact lenses they have only 5/200 or less in both eyes; or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.
CFR §3.352 explains the general requirements for aid and attendance. The following will be accorded consideration in determining the need for regular aid and attendance (§3.351(c)(3):
- The inability of the claimant to dress or undress himself (herself), or to keep himself (herself) ordinarily clean and presentable
- Frequent need of adjustment of any special prosthetic or orthopedic appliances which by reason of the particular disability cannot be done without aid (this will not include the adjustment of appliances which normal persons would be unable to adjust without aid, such as supports, belts, lacing at the back, etc.)
- The inability of the claimant to feed himself (herself) through the loss of coordination of upper extremities or through extreme weakness; inability to attend to the wants of nature;
- Incapacity, physical or mental, which requires care or assistance on a regular basis to protect the claimant from hazards or dangers incident to his or her daily environment.
Here are some key questions to ask yourself to help determine if you need the regular aid and attendance of another person. Keep in mind these are not the only questions that can help you determine if you need A&A.
- Do I need assistance bathing, showering, or dressing? Either physical assistance or constant reminders to do so?
- Am I able to prepare, manage, and take my medications by myself and without constant reminders?
- Am I able to prepare food without endangering myself? (i.e. burning yourself, leaving the stove/oven on, using sharp kitchen tools like knives, etc.)
- Did my spouse/caretaker have to stop working or work less in order to take care of me?
- Does someone regularly check on me to make sure I haven’t fallen or had a mental health episode?
Financial Eligibility Requirements
Veterans should note that there are countable income limits for aid and attendance benefits. Currently, this limit is $1,644 per month or $19,736 per year. These limits determine whether an individual or family has a financial need for aid and attendance benefits.
There is also a net worth limit of $129,094 up to December 1, 2020. Keep in mind that the net worth limit increases each year with inflation. For the purpose of pension and aid and attendance eligibility, the VA defines net worth as assets plus income for VA Purposes (IVAP).
What Are Housebound Benefits?
Household benefits are similar to aid and attendance benefits. Individuals who receive a VA pension and spend most of their time in their home due to a permanent disability may be eligible.
Applying veterans should note that you cannot receive aid and attendance and household benefits at the same time.
Who Can Be Considered A Caretaker?
Veterans applying for aid and attendance benefits likely have a caretaker at home to help with daily tasks. The VA does not have limits or requirements on who can be considered a caretaker. It is whoever provides your regular care. Oftentimes this is a spouse for married veterans, but it is not limited as such. Children, parents, siblings, friends, neighbors or even hired help are acceptable. This means that skilled nursing aides and other home care workers can be considered a caretaker.
What Are Some Common Misconceptions About Aid & Attendance?
It should be noted that when referring to aid and attendance, the word “regular” is often omitted from the beginning. VA standards require regular aid and attendance. Meaning, the veteran only needs someone to regularly aid and attend them. This is often confused with “constant” or “continuous” aid and attendance.
To be entitled and compensated for A&A with the VA, you need only require the regular aid and attendance of another person NOT their constant aid and attendance. You do not have to be fully dependent on another person. For example, if your spouse is your caretaker and they work full time, simply because they are not with you most of the day does not exclude you from aid and attendance benefits. This is a common misunderstanding by veterans, doctors, and C&P examiners. Regular aid and attendance could mean someone checks in on you even just once a day.
Another important thing to note is that this regular aid and attendance must be required in order to be compensated. This means that aid and attendance will not be granted simply because you receive assistance. Many people receive help from a spouse or alike in preparing food, medications, etc. You are only eligible for aid and attendance if you require this assistance, not simply because someone assists you. Ask yourself—if my caretaker wasn’t here to make my meals, give me my medications, remind me to shower, etc.—would I be physically and mentally able to do so?
Aid and attendance benefits can relieve a huge financial burden for veterans and their caretakers. Speak with someone from our firm today to receive more information about A&A benefits.
How Can You Apply For Aid & Attendance Benefits?
Veterans who believe they meet the criteria for aid and attendance benefits can apply by filling out VA Form 21-2680. This form is called the Examination for Housebound Status of Permanent Need for Regular Attendance). Once complete, veterans can send the form to their closest pension management center (PMC). You can also apply by bringing your information to your VA regional office.
Disabled veterans living in a nursing home should also fill out VA Form 21-0779, which is the Request for Nursing Home Information Connection with Claim for Aid and Attendance form.
The VA recommends that applicants include evidence to support their claim. This evidence can include medical records, a report from a health care provider, details about how you go about daily life, and other information about your illness or disability.
If you have any questions about service requirements and eligibility for VA aid and attendance benefits, be sure to reach out to your local pension management center. When it comes to pension and add-ons, details like the maximum annual pension rate (MAPR) and other eligibility specifics can be challenging. This is why it’s important that veterans ask questions and take advantage of local veterans’ aid services.
Veterans who had their aid and attendance benefits denied or need additional help building a claim can contact the team at Hill & Ponton. Our law firm focuses on social security and veterans’ disability, assisting our clients with veterans’ aid claims. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.