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Individuals who serve within the United States Military may qualify for certain monetary and medical benefits through the US Office of Veterans Affairs. These may include a monthly financial pension, Aid & Attendance, Housebound benefits and/or Specially Adapted Housing grants. This guide is designed to help veterans and/or their surviving spouses determine their eligibility, explain how to apply for benefits and cover 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 are allotted and awarded in very specific categories depending on the qualifying needs of the military service person or their surviving spouse. These include:

VA Pension Benefits

Through the Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension programs, the VA assists former military personnel, surviving spouses and their families by providing them with a supplemental income. These benefits are invaluable to recipients, who must meet certain qualifications such as having an annual ‘countable’ income less than the limits currently in place through Congressional laws.

Veteran's Aid & Attendance Benefits

Veterans and surviving spouses who need the aid and attendance of a caregiver or those who are housebound might qualify for additional financial assistance beyond the standard VA pension amounts. While the qualifications financially are different for Aid & Attendance than they are for receiving a standard pension, those not currently receiving pension benefits must apply for them in order to qualify for Aid & Attendance. However, veterans who may not ultimately qualify for a basic pension might actually qualify for Aid & Attendance benefits.

Housebound Benefits for Veterans

Individuals who are eligible for the basic pension who are homebound can apply for an additional housebound benefit to supplement current compensation amounts. Veterans and surviving spouses with a permanent disability that leaves them primarily confined to their home may qualify for VA Housebound Benefits. These individuals typically require the assistance of a caregiver when they do leave home, and this is generally only for medically related appointments.

Specially Adapted Housing Programs

Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) and Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) programs aim to assist certain Veterans and current Service members with service-related injuries or disabilities with grant funds to ease their daily challenges around the home. These special grants are to be utilized to help recipients build, purchase or remodel an adapted home suitable for their specific needs. Below are the various types of grants that may be applied for through the VA.

Specially Adapted Housing Grants for Disabled Veterans

SAH grants are designed to 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 $81,080 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 an SAH grant, SHA grants have a maximum benefit amount of $16,217. However, these grants are intended to be used to adapt the current home of the Veteran or Service member or the family member they reside with.

Temporary Residence Assistance (TRA) Grants

Temporary grants for housing adaptation purposes may be awarded to SHA and SAH qualifying Veterans and Service members that will be residing for a period in a dwelling owned by a relative. With an SAH grant, the maximum benefit is $35,593. For those with an SHA grant in place, the maximum TRA grant allotment is $6,355.

Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) Grant

If home improvements are essential to continue treatments for the beneficiary’s condition or for adequate access to the home’s essential facilities, a qualifying Veteran or Serviceperson may apply for a HISA grant along with their SHA or SAH grant. For those with service-connected disabilities, 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 Surviving Spouses

Award amounts for those who qualify will be based upon their income, assets and needs. Below, we have listed the maximum annual and monthly benefits allowed for each type of compensation.

Award Amounts For VA Benefits

BASIC PENSION FOR VETERANSMAX. ANNUAL PENSION RATE (MAPR)MONTHLY RATE
Single Veteran$12,907.00$1,075.58
Veteran w/ Spouse or 1 Dependent$19,902.00$1,408.50
2 Veterans Married to One Another$16.902.00$1,408.50
BASIC PENSION FOR VETERANS + AID & ATTENDANCEMAX. ANNUAL PENSION RATE (MAPR)MONTHLY RATE
Aid & Attendance with No Dependents$21,531.00$1,830.00
Aid & Attendance with Spouse or 1 Dependent$25,525.00$2,170.00
2 Veterans Married to Each Other Who Both Qualify for A&A$34,153.00$2,846.08
BASIC PENSION FOR VETERANS + HOUSEBOUNDMAX. ANNUAL PENSION RATE (MAPR)MONTHLY RATE
Housebound Without Dependents$15,773.00$1,314.42
Housebound with Spouse or 1 Dependent$19,770.00$1,647.70
IF QUALIFIED ADD TO RATES ABOVEMAX. ANNUAL PENSION RATE (MAPR)MONTHLY RATE
Early War Vets - Mexican War Border or WW1$2,932.00$244.33
Each Additional Dependent$2,205.00$183.75
SURVIVING SPOUSESMAX. ANNUAL PENSION RATE (MAPR)MONTHLY RATE
Widow with No Dependents$8,656.00$721.33
Widow with No Dependents with Aid & Attendance$13,836.00$1,176.00
Widow with No Dependence Housebound$10,580.00$881.67
Widow with No Dependence Housebound$2,205.00$183.75

Eligibility for Veterans Care: Who Qualifies for VA Benefits?

Determining a Veteran or Serviceperson’s eligibility for VA benefits can be challenging and time consuming, but most applicants find the rewards to be well worth the effort. Here is a list of the basic requirements to qualify for VA Pensions, Aid & Attendance, Housebound benefits and the various types of Specially Adapted Housing Program grants. In the next section, we will discuss more about the financial and clinical eligibility requirements for VA benefits.

Qualifying for VA Pension Benefits

The most important qualification for Veterans or surviving spouses applying for a basic VA Pension is that the individual whose name is being claimed under must be a Veteran that has served a minimum of 90 days on active duty, with at least one of those days being served during wartime as defined below. Before exploring that requirement, Veterans must meet at least one of the following criteria as well including:

  • Being aged 65 or older with a limited income
  • Being totally and permanently disabled
  • Receiving Supplemental Social Security Disability Income
  • Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance
  • Being a Patient in a Nursing Home or Assisted Living Community

What Qualifies as Service During Wartime?

Again, 90 days of active duty with one during wartime is a primary criteria. However, those serving after September 7, 1980 need to have served as least two years of active duty or the entire period that they were called for duty. One should note, that serving during wartime doesn’t mean that the Veteran was involved in combat. They could have served in any capacity—even if it’s a position stateside during the time of war. The VA lists the dates of wartime as:

  • World War II: December 7, 1941—December 31, 1946
  • Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950—January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam War: August 5, 1964—May 7, 1975 (Veterans present in the country of Vietnam as early as February 28, 1961 could qualify.)
  • Gulf War: August 2, 1990—TBD by the US government. (Please note that the Afghanistan and Iraq War have yet to be declared as wartime periods by US Congress, but such Veterans may likely qualify for benefits.)
  • Mexican Border War: May 9, 1916—April 5, 1917 (Veterans in this situation must have served at least one day in Mexico, on the border, or amid the waters adjacent to the country to qualify.)
  • World War I: April 6, 1917—November 11, 1918. 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.
***It’s important to note that Veterans and surviving spouses must apply for basic VA pension benefits prior to or when applying for other types of benefits including Aid & Attendance, Housebound and certain housing adaptability programs. However, 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 & Attendance

Individuals who do qualify for basic VA pension benefits might also be qualified to receive Aid & Attendance benefits if they meet one or more of the following conditions.

Applicant is bedridden 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, toilet needs, adjusting prosthetic devices, etc.

Is a patient in an assisted living facility or nursing home due to physical or mental incapacities such as any form of dementia.

Suffers from severe eyesight limitations in one or both eyes within the limitations of current VA guidelines.

Eligibility Requirements for VA Housebound Benefits

Veterans and surviving spouses who qualify for basic pension may also be eligible for Housebound Benefits so long as they are confided to the home due to a permanent disability. Essentially, as with the Aid & Attendance benefit, these individuals will only leave the home for medically related appointments and require the assistance of another when doing so. However, it’s important to note that one cannot receive both Housebound Benefits and Aid & Attendance.

Qualifying for Specially Adapted Housing Grants

An SAH grant is available to specific Service members and Veterans who qualify for VA disability compensation 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.

Loss or loss of use of one lower extremity combined with: the loss of one upper extremity, a subsequent disease or injury with either requiring the applicant to utilize locomotive aids.

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

Complete blindness in addition to the loss of one lower extremity.

Severe burn injuries.

Qualifying for a Special Housing Adaptation Grant

An SHA grant is available to specific Service members and Veterans who qualify for VA disability compensation due to one or more of the following situations:

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

Severe burn injuries.

Blindness in both eyes with levels of or less than 20/200 visual acuity.

Other forms of housing grants such as temporary residence assistance (TRA) and home improvements and structural alterations (HISA) grants are very, very limited and only awarded to a specific number of qualifying individuals annually. Learn more about these benefits at the Veterans Affairs website.

Eligibility Requirements for VA Benefits and How to Apply

Veterans or surviving spouses who believe they qualify for basic pension or other benefits should use the following information to discover how to apply and which forms they will need to have prepared to get the process started. It can take several months in order for benefits to be approved or denied. However, those who receive approval will receive retroactive compensation in a lump sum equal to monthly allotments from the time that their application was received.

APPLICATION INFO FOR VETERANS

DOCUMENTFORM NUMBERBASIC PENSIONAID & ATTENDANCEHOUSEBOUND
Basic Pension Form for Veterans21-527EZRequiredRequiredRequired
Section X - Medical Expense Report21-527EZOptionalRequiredRequired
Voided Check for Direct Deposit————RequiredRequiredRequired
Request for Nursing Home Information in Connection w/ Claim for Aid & Attendance21-0779N/ARequiredN/A
Statement of Occupancy from any senior community you live in————N/ARequiredN/A
Letter from caregiver or home care agency————N/AIf ApplicableIf Applicable
Examination for Housebound Status of Need for Aid & Attendance21-2680N/ARequiredRequired
Authorization for Consent to Release Information to the VA from EACH physician21-4142N/AHighly SuggestedHighly Suggested
Authorization to Disclose Information to a 3rd Party (such as family or spouse)21-0845If ApplicableHighly SuggestedHighly Suggested
Statement of Support of Claim21-4138If ApplicableHighly SuggestedHighly Suggested
DOCUMENTFORM NUMBERBASIC PENSIONAID & ATTENDANCEHOUSEBOUND
Original Military Discharge PapersDD-214RequiredRequiredRequired
Get copies of lost discharge papers by calling 314-801-0800 or online at the National Archives website.————If ApplicableIf ApplicableIf Applicable
Copy of Current Social Security Award Letter————RequiredRequiredRequired
Proof of income, assets, savings, stocks, bonds, retirement plans, etc.————RequiredRequiredRequired
Proof of medical bills, insurance premiums, medications and medical costs not covered by your providers————If ApplicableRequiredRequired
Certified copy of marriage certificate if married————If ApplicableIf ApplicableIf Applicable

APPLICATION INFO FOR SURVIVING SPOUSES

DOCUMENTFORM NUMBERBASIC PENSIONAID & ATTENDANCEHOUSEBOUND
Basic Pension Form for Surviving Spouses21-534EZRequiredRequiredRequired
Section X - Medical Expense Report21-527EZN/ARequiredRequired
Voided Check for Direct Deposit————RequiredRequiredRequired
Examination for Housebound Status of Need for Aid & Attendance21-2680N/ARequiredRequired
Request for Nursing Home Information in Connection w/ Claim for Aid & Attendance21-0779N/ARequiredN/A
Statement of Occupancy from any senior community you live in————N/ARequiredN/A
Letter from caregiver or home care agency————N/AIf ApplicableIf Applicable
Authorization for Consent to Release Information to the VA from EACH physician21-4142N/AHighly SuggestedHighly Suggested
Authorization to Disclose Information to a 3rd Party (such as family or friends)21-0845If ApplicableHighly SuggestedHighly Suggested
DOCUMENTFORM NUMBERBASIC PENSIONAID & ATTENDANCEHOUSEBOUND
Statement of Support of Claim21-4138If ApplicableHighly SuggestedHighly Suggested
Original Military Discharge PapersDD-214RequiredRequiredRequired
Get copies of lost discharge papers by calling 314-801-0800 or online at the National Archives website.————If ApplicableIf ApplicableIf Applicable
Copy of Current Social Security Award Letter————RequiredRequiredRequired
Proof of income, assets, savings, stocks, bonds, retirement plans, etc.————RequiredRequiredRequired
Proof of medical bills, insurance premiums, medications and medical costs not covered by your providers————If ApplicableRequiredRequired
Copy of Marriage Certificate————RequiredRequiredRequired
Certified Copy of the Qualifying Veteran’s Death Certificate————RequiredRequiredRequired

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.

Benefit applications and all supporting documents and forms should be photocopied and then submitted to the closest Veterans Affairs process center near you. Be certain to send these documents via return receipt to confirm that it has been received.

Financial and Clinical Eligibility for VA Benefits

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

Financial Eligibility

A Veteran or their widow must meet certain financial eligibility requirements to qualify for VA benefits, which are generally around $80,000 maximum in combined assets and income. When making this calculation, the VA’s representatives consider various types of income such as:

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

There are a number of things that may reduce one’s countable income such as Medicare Supplemental Insurance Premiums, unreimbursed medical costs and Medicare Premiums.

Income Considerations for VA Benefits

Again, only countable income after deductions determine the qualification status of an applicant concerning finances and assets. It is actually possible with enough deductions for certain Veterans and widows to have a $0 income stated on their application. In such cases, one would qualify for the maximum benefit level so long as all other requirements are met.

Asset Limitations

While there is no set limit on what an applicant’s net assets can be, the amount the VA generally allows one to have is around $80,000. This doesn’t include the applicant’s home (as long as they or a living spouse resides there), primary automobile or personal property. Applicants with more than $80,000 in assets such as stock, cash, savings or a 401-K are typically denied. However, it’s important to point out that having liquid assets under this amount will not necessarily mean an applicant will be approved. Furthermore, if one is approved and eventually moves into a senior care facility, the home will be reconsidered as an asset unless their spouse still resides in the home.

Clinical Eligibility for VA Benefits

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

Homebound applicants must require assistance when leaving the home, which should generally only be for medically related appointments, emergencies or other special circumstances. While it’s not required, applications are much 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 will find the requirements listed in the section above concerning HSA, HAS and HISA eligibility.

Assisted Living

Assisted living establishments provide a bit more care than independent living communities. In addition to housing, meals, and light housekeeping they also 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 around $3,700, but this varies depending on demographics, location and the amenities available. VA Aid & Attendance can be used to cover costs associated with assisted living.

Senior Care Options and VA Benefits Coverage

In many situations the basic VA pension, Aid & Attendance and Homebound benefits can be helpful paying for senior care once a Veteran or surviving spouse transitions into a senior care community. However, Aid & Attendance and Housebound benefits cannot be utilized to pay for independent living facilities, as some type of regular care must be required to qualify for such benefits to begin with.

If one was denied benefits while residing in an independent facility and has the need to transition into some type of assisted living or home care situation, the individual can be reconsidered for benefits. It’s also important to understand that having care in place when applying is very useful in determining clinical qualification, and out of pocket expenses for such care can be deducted from the gross income reported on any applications for benefits. Explore common types of qualifying senior care, average costs and coverage benefits below.

Adult Day Services

Also known as adult day care, this facilities provide daytime supervision and assistance amid a safe environment. There are generally age-appropriate activities, socialization opportunities and meals provided at adult day services. This is an ideal solution that allows primary caregivers to take a respite, continue to work or have a break to run errands, etc. Depending on the provider and the adult’s needs, the average daily cost of adult day care ranges from $50-$70. These amounts may be deducted as medical expenses on an applicant’s VA Benefits forms.

In-Home Care

Ideal for those who are homebound, in-home caregivers often assist beneficiaries with ADLs, housekeeping, cooking, medication reminders, run errands in addition to offering supervision and companionship. The average cost for in-home caregivers ranges from $15-$20 per hour and will cost more for live-in or 24-hour home care. Those using a certified private caregiver or using the resources of licensed home care agency can deduct these amounts when applying for Aid & Attendance and Housebound benefits in addition to the basic VA pension.

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 within a home environment with 10 or less residents at any given time. Because of their small size, many seniors and their families feel more comfortable and can receive more attentive care compared to a larger facility. Cost can vary dramatically for residential home care and often range between $2,500 and $5,000 per month. Aid & Attendance benefits may be used for such facilities, but the home must be licensed by the state the beneficiary resides in.

Memory Care

Memory care is often available in most types of senior living communities, and they are equipped with the staff and facilities to assist residents with various forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease and others. However, these facilities may be designed specifically for memory care patients and include specific precautions such as secure premises to prevent ‘wandering’ by residents. Staff is trained to handle common behavior patterns and problems that may arise in addition to other issues common with memory care patients. On average, memory care facilities cost $4,600 monthly and qualified applicants residing such communities will likely qualify for Aid & Attendance due to this status.

Nursing Home Care

Nursing homes are known for offering high levels of supervision and medical care, making them a popular option for bedridden patients, those with intense medical needs or those who require feeding tubes or tracheostomies. The cost of nursing homes average about $6,000 a month nationally. Because of its exorbitant costs, many of those in nursing homes are on Medicaid. If you plan to enter a nursing home and have Medicaid, your VA Aid & Attendance benefits will top out at $90 per month, making Medicaid a better option to pay for care. However, those just on the cusp of being able to afford the care via their income may find these benefits to be 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 & Attendance and Housing Adaptation Grants. Organizations such as the American Legion, the VFW and the group Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the offers at regional VA locations should be able to assist applicants by answering questions about benefits and tips for filling out the original application. Those seeking online advice and tips should visit VeteranAid.org for more information.

Hiring Paid Consultants

There are accredited VA consultants that are trained to assist applicants, however there are strict guidelines concerning their ability to provide certain services. These professionals cannot assist applicants with their initial application whatsoever beyond advice. Furthermore, they cannot charge a fee to assist with the application at all unless the person has been previously denied at least once. At this time, they may be able to step in and make necessary changes that address the