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By Daniel A. Burzynski

Many Veterans are not aware of the benefits they have access to by virtue of their service. Specifically, Veterans who served during war-time may be entitled to a monthly pension amount to help pay for their unreimbursed medical expenses.

The benefit is called Aid and Attendance, because it is designed to help Veterans afford the help they need for daily activities. In most cases, the surviving widow of a Veteran is also able to receive this benefit.

The eligibility requirements include at least ninety days of consecutive active duty. Therefore, in most cases a national guard member will not qualify, unless he was activated for 90 consecutive days. If at least one day of the minimum ninety days was during a period of war, the service requirement is met.

There is no requirement that the Veteran actually enter the field of battle. There is also no requirement for injury by the Veteran, since this benefit is not service connected. However, the Veteran cannot have been dishonorably discharged. The Veteran must have, at the time of making application, limited assets and income. The income test is easy to meet, because the VA offsets against income from all sources such expense items as the cost of home care or assisted living facility charges. Further deductions include insurance premiums, medication copays, dental charges, and costs for glasses or hearing aids. In short, the VA deducts off income all out-of-pocket costs that are medical-related. In the case of a married Veteran, all income and medical costs for both husband and wife are counted.

The asset test applied is whether the Veteran has sufficient private assets to pay for his care for his expected life expectancy. Therefore, a Veteran in his 70’s would be allowed to have more assets than a Veteran in his 90’s due to the difference in life expectancy. There is no clear cut-off for being “over asset”, but it is advisable to apply with no more than $80,000 in countable assets if you are at the very youngest end, and substantially less as you age.

Countable assets include cash, stocks, mutual funds, retirement accounts, and real property except your residence. Your home will not count against you, nor will certain accounts such as annuities if they are paying income to you and otherwise qualify. When applying, it is important to know which categories are countable and which are not. If you turn in an application with incorrectly listed assets, you may risk disqualifying yourself for over a year before another application will be considered.

Another word of caution- there are individuals offering to “help” you apply at no charge. Often these volunteers turn out to be annuity salesman who actually want to sell you an annuity. While an annuity may be a part of a plan to qualify for VA benefits, it is not the only or primary consideration. You should always seek help from a VA accredited attorney or agent in order to properly apply.