· Published: February 17, 2021

Individuals who serve or have served in the U.S. military may qualify for certain monetary and medical benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2021, these benefits include a monthly pension, Aid and Attendance for help with the activities of daily living, Housebound allowances, and Specially Adapted Housing grants.

This guide helps veterans, their surviving spouses, and dependents determine their eligibility. It explains how to apply for benefits and covers the various veteran care options.

View From the Experts: The State of Veterans Affairs and Benefits

View From the Experts

What Types of VA Benefits Can Veterans Qualify For?

Veterans benefits fall into specific categories depending on the qualifying needs of service members or their survivors. These benefits include:

VA Pension Benefits

Wartime veterans meeting age or disability criteria could qualify for supplemental income. Their assets and countable income must also fall under congressional limits. Veterans’ maximum annual pension rate (MAPR) is based on the number of dependents, whether any disabilities qualify them for Aid and Attendance or Housebound, and whether they are married to another qualifying veteran. Veterans can receive the pension via direct deposit or a prepaid debit card.

 VA Aid and Attendance Benefits

Applicants who need the aid and attendance of a caregiver or those who are housebound might qualify for financial assistance on top of a VA pension. Some applicants can get Aid and Attendance or Housebound even when their income and assets disqualify them from a basic pension.

Housebound Benefits for Veterans

Individuals who are homebound can apply for the housebound benefit to supplement current compensation amounts. Income limits for this benefit are higher than for the basic pension. Thus, you may qualify for it even if you do not qualify for a basic pension.

You cannot receive both Housebound and Aid and Attendance. It is one or the other. Housebound allowances are for veterans or survivors who have a disability (or disabilities) leaving them housebound. However, they may still be able to leave their home, assisted living facility, or nursing home with a caregiver’s assistance. Typically, they leave primarily or only for medical appointments.

Specially Adapted Housing Programs

Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) and Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) programs assist certain veterans and service members who have service-related injuries or disabilities. They get grant funds to build, purchase, or remodel a home suitable for their specific needs. Below are the various types of VA grants.

Specially Adapted Housing Grants for Disabled Veterans

SAH grants give beneficiaries funds to create a barrier-free home environment to promote their daily independence and mobility. Those with service-specific disabilities could qualify for a maximum grant amount of $100,896 in fiscal year 2021 to build or modify a home with features helpful for their specific disabilities.

Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grants for Veterans and Servicepersons

With the same intention and basic qualifications as SAH grants, SHA grants have a maximum benefit amount of $20,215 in fiscal year 2021. Recipients can use the money to buy, build, or change their permanent home. Like with SAH grants, they can use the money as many as six times over their lifetime.

Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) Grants

Temporary Residence Adaptation grants are available if you qualify for an SAH or SHA grant and live temporarily in a family member’s home that needs adapting. Maximum TRA grant amounts for fiscal year 2021 are $40,637 if you qualify for SAH grants and $7,256 if you qualify for SHA grants.

Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) Grant

These grants pay for medically necessary home alterations and improvements. Examples include installing roll-in showers, lowering kitchen countertops, widening doorways, improving plumbing, and installing permanent ramping. For those with service-connected disabilities, lifetime grants up to $6,800 are available, while those with non-service-related disabilities can receive up to $2,000 in grants.

Maximum VA Benefit Amounts for Veterans and Survivors

Award amounts for those who qualify are based on income, assets, and needs. Below, we list the maximum annual and monthly benefits for each type of compensation.

Award Amounts for VA Benefits (2021)

BASIC PENSION FOR VETERANS MAX. ANNUAL PENSION RATE (MAPR) MONTHLY RATE

Single Veteran

$13,931

$1,160

Veteran w/ Spouse or Dependent Child(ren)

$18,2430

$1,520.25

2 Veterans Married to Each Other

$18,243

$1,520.25

BASIC PENSION FOR VETERANS + AID & ATTENDANCE MAX. ANNUAL PENSION RATE (MAPR) MONTHLY RATE

Aid & Attendance with No Dependents

$23,238

$1,936.50

Aid & Attendance with Spouse or Dependent Child(ren)

$27,549

$2,295.75

2 Veterans Married to Each Other Who Both Qualify for A&A

$36,861

$3,071.75

BASIC PENSION FOR VETERANS + HOUSEBOUND MAX. ANNUAL PENSION RATE (MAPR) MONTHLY RATE

Housebound without Dependents

$17,024

$1,418.66

Housebound with Spouse or Dependent Child(ren)

$21,337

$1,778.08

SURVIVING SPOUSES MAX. ANNUAL PENSION RATE (MAPR) MONTHLY RATE

No Dependents

$9,344

$778.66

No Dependents plus Aid and Attendance

$14,934

$1,244.50

No Dependents plus Housebound

$11,420

$951.667

Eligibility for Veterans Care: Who Qualifies for VA Benefits?

Determining eligibility for VA benefits can be challenging and time consuming. However, the rewards may be well worth the effort. Here is a list of the basic requirements to qualify for pensions, Aid and Attendance, Housebound, and the various types of Specially Adapted Housing Program grants.

Qualifying for VA Pension Benefits

The most important qualification for veterans, surviving spouses, or dependent children applying for a basic pension is that the individual whose name is listed must be a veteran who served a minimum of 90 days on active duty, with at least one of those days served during wartime as defined below. Veterans must also meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Being 65 or older with a limited income
  • Being totally and permanently disabled
  • Receiving Supplemental Security Income
  • Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance
  • Being a Patient in a Nursing Home or Long-Term Care Facility

What Qualifies as Service During Wartime?

Again, 90 days of active duty with at least one day falling during wartime is a primary criteria. However, those serving after September 7, 1980, need to have served at least two years of active duty or the entire period that they were called to active duty. Serving during wartime doesn’t mean that the veteran was involved in combat. Veterans could have served in any capacity, even stateside, during the time of war. The VA lists wartime dates as:

  • World War II: December 7, 1941—December 31, 1946
  • Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950—January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam War: February 28, 1961—May 7, 1975 for veterans serving in Vietnam; August 5, 1964—May 7, 1975 for veterans serving outside Vietnam
  • Gulf War: August 2, 1990—to be determined by the U.S. government. (The Afghanistan war and second Iraq/Gulf war have yet to be declared wartime periods, but such veterans may qualify for benefits since the Gulf War period is considered ongoing.)
  • Mexican Border period: May 9, 1916—April 5, 1917; veterans must have served at least one day in Mexico, on the border, or in the waters adjacent to qualify.
  • World War I: April 6, 1917—November 11, 1918 (or April 1, 1920, if serving in Russia). However, those who served in the Soviet Union post November 11, 1918 through July 7, 1921 will qualify for benefits so long as the active duty occurred during the basic period of WWI.

***Important: Veterans and survivors must apply for basic VA pension benefits prior to or when applying for other types of benefits including Aid and Attendance, Housebound, and certain housing adaptability programs. Other types of aid may be granted even if the criteria for basic VA pensions are not met or awarded.***

Eligibility Requirements for VA Aid and Attendance

Individuals might qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits if they meet one or more of the following conditions.

Applicant is bedridden due to illness with exception of leaving the home (with assistance) to receive medical treatments, therapies, and/or attend other essential appointments.

Applicant requires the aid of a caregiver or other individual to perform most of their activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, taking medications, grooming, toileting, adjusting prosthetic devices, etc.

Applicant resides in a nursing home due to physical or mental incapacities such as any form of dementia.

Applicant has severe eyesight limitations in one or both eyes under current VA guidelines.

Eligibility Requirements for VA Housebound Benefits

Veterans and survivors may be eligible for Housebound allowances if they get a pension and are restricted to their home most of the time due to permanent disability. They cannot also receive Aid and Attendance.

Qualifying for Specially Adapted Housing Grants

An SAH grant may be available due to one or more of the following situations:

Loss or loss of use of both lower extremities that prohibit locomotion without aids such as crutches, cane, wheelchair, or braces (after September 11, 2001).

Loss or loss of use in a lower leg plus long-lasting effects of natural disease or injury (use of locomotive aids may be necessary).

Loss or loss of use of both upper extremities at elbow level or above.

Complete blindness (20/200 visual acuity or less)

Severe burn injuries.

Qualifying for a Special Housing Adaptation Grant

An SHA grant could be available in one or more of the following situations:

The loss or loss of use of both hands or extremities below the elbow.

Severe burn injuries.

Breathing or respiratory injuries.

These housing grants can be very limited. For instance, as per Congress, only 120 veterans or service members are allowed to qualify based on the loss of one extremity per fiscal year. Veterans should apply anyway. If they qualify but no slots are left, they might be able to use the grant in subsequent years.

Eligibility Requirements for VA Benefits and How to Apply

Veterans or survivors can use the information in the tables below to find out how to apply for benefits and which forms they need. It can take several months for benefits to be approved or denied. However, those who receive approval get retroactive compensation in a lump sum equal to monthly allotments from the time that their application was received.

You can apply for basic pension benefits online if you are the veteran (mailed-in forms are fine, too). Many other benefit types require paper, and survivors must use paper for basic pension applications. Visiting an office in person may be an option, even with COVID-19. If applying through paper, remember to photocopy applications and all supporting documents. Keep your copies, and submit your applications to the closest Veterans Affairs process center near you. Send everything via return receipt to confirm that the applications have been received.

If you need help with your benefits claim (and any appeals), a Veterans Service Officer (VSO), claims agent, or accredited attorney can assist. Ask upfront about the fees they may charge. Groups such as the American Legion can step in, too.

APPLICATION INFO FOR VETERANS

APPLICATION INFO FOR VETERANS

DOCUMENT

FORM NUMBER

BASIC PENSION

AID & ATTENDANCE

HOUSEBOUND

Basic Pension Form for Veterans

21P-527EZ

Required

Required

Required

Section VIII – Medical Expense Report

21P-527EZ

Optional

Required

Required

Voided Check for Direct Deposit

————

Required

Required

Required

Request for Nursing Home Information in Connection w/ Claim for Aid & Attendance

21-0779

N/A

Required

N/A

Statement of Occupancy from any senior community you live in

————

N/A

Required

N/A

Letter from caregiver or home care agency

————

N/A

If Applicable

If Applicable

Examination for Housebound Status of Need for Aid & Attendance

21-2680

N/A

Required

Required

Authorization for Consent to Release Information to the VA from EACH physician

21-4142

N/A

Highly Suggested

Highly Suggested

Authorization to Disclose Information to a Third Party (such as family or spouse)

21-0845

If Applicable

Highly Suggested

Highly Suggested

Statement of Support of Claim

21-4138

If Applicable

Highly Suggested

Highly Suggested

DOCUMENT FORM NUMBER BASIC PENSION AID & ATTENDANCE HOUSEBOUND

DOCUMENT

FORM NUMBER

BASIC PENSION

AID & ATTENDANCE

HOUSEBOUND

Original Military Discharge Papers

DD-214

Required

Required

Required

Get copies of lost discharge papers by calling 314-801-0800 or online at the National Archives.

————

If Applicable

If Applicable

If Applicable

Copy of Current Social Security Award Letter

————

Required

Required

Required

Proof of income, assets, savings, stocks, bonds, retirement plans, etc.

————

Required

Required

Required

Proof of medical bills, insurance premiums, medications and medical costs not covered by your providers

————

If Applicable

Required

Required

Certified copy of marriage certificate if married

————

If Applicable

If Applicable

If Applicable

APPLICATION INFO FOR SURVIVING SPOUSES

DOCUMENT

FORM NUMBER

BASIC PENSION

AID & ATTENDANCE

HOUSEBOUND

Basic Pension Form for Surviving Spouses

21P-534EZ

Required

Required

Required

Section IX – Medical Expense Report

21P-527EZ

N/A

Required

Required

Voided Check for Direct Deposit

————

Required

Required

Required

Examination for Housebound Status of Need for Aid & Attendance

21-2680

N/A

Required

Required

Request for Nursing Home Information in Connection w/ Claim for Aid & Attendance

21-0779

N/A

Required

N/A

Statement of Occupancy from any senior community you live in

————

N/A

Required

N/A

Letter from caregiver or home care agency

————

N/A

If Applicable

If Applicable

Authorization for Consent to Release Information to the VA from EACH physician

21-4142

N/A

Highly Suggested

Highly Suggested

Authorization to Disclose Information to a Third Party (such as family or friends)

21-0845

If Applicable

Highly Suggested

Highly Suggested

DOCUMENT FORM NUMBER BASIC PENSION AID & ATTENDANCE HOUSEBOUND

Statement of Support of Claim

21-4138

If Applicable

Highly Suggested

Highly Suggested

Original Military Discharge Papers

DD-214

Required

Required

Required

Get copies of lost discharge papers by calling 314-801-0800 or online at the National Archives.

————

If Applicable

If Applicable

If Applicable

Copy of Current Social Security Award Letter

————

Required

Required

Required

Proof of income, assets, savings, stocks, bonds, retirement plans, etc.

————

Required

Required

Required

Proof of medical bills, insurance premiums, medications and medical costs not covered by your providers

————

If Applicable

Required

Required

Copy of Marriage Certificate

————

Required

Required

Required

Certified Copy of the Qualifying Veteran’s Death Certificate

————

Required

Required

Required

Applying for Specially Adapted Housing Benefits: Complete VA Form 26-4555 — Veterans Application in Acquiring Specially Adapted Housing or Special Home Adaptation Grant. To obtain a copy of the form or to apply online, visit the Veterans Portal on the VA website.

Financial and Clinical Eligibility for VA Benefits

Here we discuss the financial and clinical eligibility requirements for VA benefits. The level of the applicant’s qualifying disability also typically plays a role in the financial level of compensation they receive annually.

Financial Eligibility

Veterans or survivors must meet certain financial eligibility requirements to qualify for VA benefits. In 2021, the net worth limit is $130,773. The VA considers various types of income and assets such as:

  • Disability and Retirement Payments
  • Dividend and Interest Payments from Annuities
  • Net Business Income
  • Income from Eligible Dependents
  • Total Assets (Not including the beneficiaries' residence or vehicle)
  • Annual Income

Some things such as Medicare Supplement Insurance premiums, unreimbursed medical costs, and Medicare premiums can reduce applicants’ countable income.

Income Considerations for VA Benefits

Countable income after deductions determines an applicant’s qualification status, at least as far as finances and assets. It’s possible to have enough deductions for countable income to equal $0. In such cases, applicants should qualify for the maximum benefit level as long as they meet all other requirements.

Asset Limitations

While there is no set limit on what an applicant’s net assets can be, the amount the VA generally allows in 2021 is about $130,773. This doesn’t include the applicant’s home (as long as they or a spouse resides there) and primary automobile. Applicants with more than $130,773 in assets such as stocks, cash, savings, and 401k distributions are typically denied.

However, having liquid assets under this amount does not necessarily mean an applicant will be approved. Furthermore, if an applicant is approved and eventually moves into a senior care facility, the house is reconsidered as an asset unless their spouse still resides in the home.

Clinical Eligibility for VA Benefits

Those seeking Aid and Attendance, home adaptation grants, or Housebound benefits must meet specific clinical requirements. To receive Aid and Attendance, the applicant generally must require the assistance of another person to perform activities of daily living such as performing hygiene routines, cooking, eating, toileting, taking medication, dressing, altering or adjusting prosthetic devices, protecting themselves from hazards in their current environment, etc.

Homebound applicants need assistance when leaving the home, which they typically do only for medically related appointments, emergencies, or other special circumstances. Applications are much more likely to be approved if this type of care is already in place along with documentation of such services and their costs. Those seeking home adaptation grants can find the requirements here and here.

Assisted Living

Assisted living establishments provide more care than independent living communities. In addition to housing, meals, and light housekeeping, they offer assistance with ADLs, medication management, and some medical care such as physical, speech and occupational therapies. The national average monthly cost for traditional assisted living facilities is about $4,000, but the amount varies depending on demographics, location, and the amenities available. VA Aid and Attendance can go toward costs associated with assisted living.

Senior Care Options and VA Benefits Coverage

In many situations, the basic VA pension, Aid and Attendance, or Homebound benefits help pay for care in a senior care community. However, Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits cannot pay for independent living facilities, as some type of regular care is required in the first place.

Applicants denied benefits while residing in an independent facility can be reconsidered after transitioning into some type of assisted living, nursing, or home care situation. It truly is useful to have care in place when you apply since it helps prove clinical qualification. You can also deduct out-of-pocket expenses for care from your gross income. Explore common types of qualifying senior care, average costs and coverage benefits below.

Adult Day Services

Also known as adult day cares, these facilities provide daytime supervision and assistance in a safe environment. There are generally age-appropriate activities, socialization opportunities, and meals. Adult day services allow primary caregivers to take a respite, continue to work, or have a break to run errands. Depending on the provider and the adult’s needs, the average daily cost of adult day care is about $70. Applicants can deduct these costs as medical expenses.

In-Home Care

In-home caregivers assist seniors with ADLs, housekeeping, cooking, medications, and errands. They also provide valuable socialization and companionship. The median pay for personal care aides in 2019 was $12.15 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Location and whether the caregiver is hired directly or through an agency play big roles in how much seniors end up paying. Live-in or 24-hour caregivers cost more.

Applicants using certified private caregivers or a licensed home care agency can deduct these costs when applying for benefits.

Residential Care Homes

Also referred to as adult family care homes, senior group homes, adult foster homes, or board and care homes, these types of care communities are typically in a home environment with no more than 10 residents. Because of the homes’ small size, seniors may receive more attention than at a larger facility. Costs vary widely for residential home care and often range between $2,500 and $5,000 per month. Aid and Attendance benefits may be used for such facilities if the home is licensed by the state the beneficiary resides in.

Memory Care

Memory care is available in many types of senior living communities. Such places should have the staff and facilities to assist residents with various forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. Some facilities are designed specifically for memory care patients and include precautions such as extra-secure premises to prevent “wandering.” Staffers are trained to handle behavioral patterns and problems common among memory care patients. On average, memory care facilities cost about $5,000 monthly. Applicants residing in such communities will likely qualify for Aid and Attendance.

Nursing Home Care

Nursing homes offer high levels of supervision and medical care, making them ideal for bedridden patients, those with intense medical needs, or those who require feeding tubes or tracheostomies. The cost of a nursing home semi-private room averages about $7,441 a month nationally. Many nursing home residents are on Medicaid due to the exorbitant costs. If you are single, plan to enter a nursing home and already have Medicaid, your VA Aid and Attendance benefits will top out at $90 per month, making Medicaid the better option to pay for care. However, those who are married or just on the cusp of being able to afford the care via their income may find Aid and Attendance benefits more helpful.

Finding Help Navigating the VA Application and Appeals Process

Free Assistance for VA Benefits Applicants

Free help is available for those wanting to apply for VA benefits such as Homebound, Aid and Attendance, and Housing Adaptation grants. Organizations such as the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) have staffers available for that purpose. Officers at regional VA locations can also answer questions about benefits and provide tips for filling out applications. For online advice and tips, head to VeteranAid.org

Hiring Paid Consultants

There are accredited VA consultants trained to assist applicants. However, their ability to provide certain services depends on strict guidelines. These professionals can offer advice only with initial applications. Further, they cannot charge a fee to assist with the application unless unusual expenses apply or the person previously has been denied at least once. Ask at the beginning about any fees you may be charged to reduce the chances of surprises down the road.