All Dollar Amounts Are 2015 Amounts Based On December 1, 2014 Increases
Updated February, 2015
Are you a veteran or the widow of a veteran?
Do you need help covering long term care and medical expenses?
If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, then you may be eligible for as much as $2,120 a month. Read on . . .
Most people believe that veterans’ benefits are only for those who retired from the military or were injured during active duty. For years that was the common belief. Until recently. Buried beneath layers of bureaucratic and regulatory red tape there is another important benefit that many are just now discovering.
An Important Benefit That Most Veterans (and Fewer Widows) Know Nothing About
The Department of Veterans Affairs administers a variety of programs for veterans. Most people know about the VA Health System (hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics). Many are aware that the VA administers monetary programs such as educational benefits, home loan guaranties and compensation for service-connected injuries.
But a huge number of veterans (and widows of veterans) are simply unaware of a program under the VA heading of “Special Monthly Pension” (or SMP). Because they don’t know about SMP, or because they don’t know how to access it, millions of veterans and the widows of veterans who qualify will never see a dime.
This pamphlet explains the basics and will tell you whether you might qualify. If financially you do not qualify now, after the right planning you might qualify – so don’t give up! If physically and medically you do not qualify now, you may want to start planning now if you think you may need the help later.
Answer These Simple Questions
SMP is divided into two basic benefits: “Housebound” benefits and “Aid and Attendance” benefits. Take a moment to see if you might qualify.
STEP 1 First things first. Make sure each of the following apply to you (or your veteran):
- The veteran must have served at least 90 days active duty, and just 1 of those days needs to have been in a War Time Period. The War Time Periods are:
|WWII||12/7/1941 thru 12/31/1946|
|Korean Conflict||6/27/1950 thru 1/31/1955|
|Vietnam||8/5/1964 thru 5/7/1975 (back to –2/28/1962 if time served in Vietnam)|
|Gulf Wars||8/2/1990 – current|
- The veteran must not have received a Dishonorable Discharge
- The veteran must be either disabled or over age 65
STEP 2 Next, determine if you might qualify for the higher benefit of Aid and Attendance. If any of the following apply, you might.
- Is the veteran, spouse or widow blind?
- Is the veteran, spouse or widow living in a nursing home or assisted living facility?
- Does the veteran, spouse or widow have some incapacity or limited ability that requires regular assistance from others in order to remain safe and clean?
STEP 3 If nothing in STEP 2 applies to the veteran, spouse or widow, the person may still qualify for the lower “Housebound” benefit if the person is essentially confined to the home and cannot leave without the assistance of others.
STEP 4 If STEP 1 and either STEP 2 or STEP 3 apply, determine if you might meet the income requirements. The veteran’s (or widow’s) family income, as adjusted, cannot exceed the following for Housebound benefits:
|veteran with dependent||$1,642|
|widow(er) with no dependents||$877|
For Aid and Attendance, the adjusted income limits are higher
|veteran with dependent||$2,120|
|widow(er) with no dependents||$1,149|
IMPORTANT: The income limits apply to adjusted income. Medical expenses not paid by insurance can reduce total gross income: doctor’s fees, dentist’s fees, prescription glasses, Medicare premiums, prescription drugs, nursing home expenses, home health care, and assisted living facility costs.
For example, a veteran with $2,000 monthly income, living in an assisted living facility or perhaps at home with the help of a home health agency will likely have no (zero) income after adjusting for expenses. He might qualify for the maximum $2,120.
There are plenty of planning options available if you have access to expert assistance.
STEP 5 If you might qualify under STEP 4, determine if you meet the asset/resource requirements. The VA uses a “gray” standard of whether a person has “sufficient means” to pay for his or her own care.
You will need to have less than “sufficient means”. Generally, for a married couple “sufficient means” is around $80,000 or more. A single person might be held to a lower standard. An older single person might be held to an even lower standard. A residence and an automobile are not counted as resources for determining asset levels.
Again, the good news is there are plenty of planning options available if you have expert guidance.
STEP 6 A properly prepared application with all supporting documents must be submitted to the VA. By law, only the following can assist with an application
- A state veterans affairs office
- A veterans service organization (such as VFW)
- A licensed attorney
- Other certified advisor
While no one can charge a fee for actually preparing and submitting an application, an expert can charge a fee for assisting you to qualify for VA Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits. Very few persons understand the “ins and outs” of the process.
A BIG DANGER, BUT A BIG OPPORTUNITY Most veterans, their spouses or perhaps their widows have other concerns. These concerns may involve Medicaid planning and conserving (or stretching) assets for themselves and their families.
Without expert care, a veteran who applies for VA benefits with no thought to his or her overall situation might create incredible hardship and perhaps jeopardize other important nursing home or assisted living benefits.
On the other hand, in the hands of an expert, VA benefits might provide a tremendous boost when properly integrated with other planning options.
The bottom line: VA benefits can be a wonderful piece (one that has been missing) to a planning puzzle, but without expert help fitting the pieces together, putting the puzzle together might be impossible.
The time to start working on the puzzle is now. We can help you with that puzzle!