Eastman & Smith Alert - Veterans Administration Benefits Often Overlooked


Many seniors are eligible for a little-publicized monthly benefit from the Veteran's Administration (VA), the Aid and Attendance Benefit. The maximum monthly benefit in 2010 is $1,644 for a single veteran, $1,949/month for a married veteran and $1,056/month for a widowed spouse of a veteran.

To be eligible, a veteran (i) must have served 90 days of consecutive active duty, at least one day of which was served in wartime, (ii) must not have been dishonorably discharged and (iii) must require assistance with personal functions required in everyday living. Generally a veteran living in an assisted living facility, and sometimes even a veteran receiving home care, will meet the above medical definition. The veteran must also have limited assets (generally less than $80,000, excluding the residence) and limited income after certain exclusions and deductions for medical expenses.

A veteran may immediately meet the asset limit by gifting away assets. This rule differs significantly from Medicaid rules, which assess a transfer penalty for gifts within the five-year look-back period. By gifting to an income-only irrevocable trust which pays all the income to the veteran, but provides no access to the principal, a veteran can obtain not only immediate eligibility for VA benefits, but also Medicaid eligibility five years after the last gift to the trust.

Application for the Aid and Attendance benefit is made on VA Form 21-526 (Form 21-534 for a surviving spouse), available online  or through a regional VA office or the county Veterans Service Commission.