Answers to common questions

What is the Aid and Attendance Pension?

Aid and Attendance is part of the VA’s Improved Pension, which consists of 3-tiers. Aid and Attendance is the highest level awarded to a veteran or surviving spouse who requires assistance with their daily living such as dressing, bathing, cooking, eating etc. The applicant must show that while they may not need assistance for everything they cannot function completely on their own.

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What is the Housebound Pension?

Housebound is the 2nd level of Improved Pension. The criteria is basically the same. The applicant is not as limited in their need for assistance as someone meeting the needs for Aid & Attendance, but still requires help with daily living activities.

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What is the Basic Pension?

Basic Pension is the first level of the Improved Pension. Once a veteran reaches the age of 65, the VA considers and classifies them permanently and totally disabled regardless of their physical fitness.

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Is there a “look back” period when making application?

No, there is no “look back” period, as with other government programs, such as Medicaid. The VA looks at the value of assets on hand at the time of Aid & Attendance application. However, later eligibility for Medicaid should be considered before applying for the VA Pension.

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Can you apply for the Improved Pension if you are already receiving compensation from the VA?

If you are currently receiving disability compensation from the VA, you cannot receive both the compensation and pension.

What you can do is to file for the Improved Pension based on non-service connected health issues. If the application is approved, the VA will pay whichever benefit has the highest dollar amount.

If you are receiving compensation you need to make certain that you are receiving the maximum possible dollar amount for your condition BEFORE filing for the Improved Pension.

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What documents do I need to include with the application?

  • Discharge/separation Papers (Form DD-214). If you need to request military records, please visit www.vetrecs.archives.gov to get a copy.

  • Copy of Marriage Certificate (for surviving spouse or when filing for both the veteran and spouse)

  • Copy of current Social Security Award letter (Letter that Social Security sends at the beginning of the year stating what your monthly amount will be for the following year).

  • Net worth information, including bank accounts, CD’s, Trust, Stocks, Bonds, Annuities, etc.

  • Proof of all income from pensions, retirement, interest income from investments, annuities, etc.

  • Proof of insurance premiums, medications, medical bills or any other medical expenses that are not reimbursed by insurance or Medicare.

  • Physician statement that includes current diagnosis, medical status, prognosis, name and address, ability to care for self, ability to travel unattended, etc. If you are a veteran in a nursing home, or a family member of a veteran in a nursing home, you use this form as a certification of that status.

  • Banking information for Direct Deposit of monthly payments (include a voided check)

  • List of all doctors and hospitals visited in the last year.

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How long does it take to process the application and get approved?

This is a difficult question to answer. It can depend on the VA regional office for your area. On average, 9 to 12 months seems to be the normal approval time at the moment. Some approvals come through in as little as 6 weeks, but these are the exception. We know of people still waiting for an approval more than 12 months from the date of filing. Keep in mind that the benefit, if approved, is paid retroactively to the date of application.

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Is there any way to start the process while I gather all the documents?

Our office can submit a one-page Informal Award Date Request statement that will fix the date the application is submitted. Once the form has been submitted, we have one year to file the formal package with all supporting documents.

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I have Power of Attorney, will the VA recognize that?

Unfortunately the VA does not recognize any Powers of Attorney. If the veteran is capable of managing their own affairs, it will be easier for the veteran to sign and handle the appropriate correspondence.

If the veteran is not capable of managing their own affairs due to diminished mental capacity, has dementia or Alzheimer’s, the VA may rule that they are in need of a fiduciary and the Power of Attorney does not grant this fiduciary authority.

Once the VA determines that they find it necessary for a fiduciary to be appointed, the veteran will be interviewed by a VA Field Agent who will determine if the Power of Attorney holder is an appropriate person to become the veteran’s fiduciary.

Note: Due to the overwhelming needs for interviews such as this, it can take months before you are contacted to schedule an appointment. Our office is proactive in calling and “requesting” that an appointment be scheduled once the VA Pension claim is allowed.

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What portion of Assisted Living expenses can be counted as deductible expenses?

All costs may be deductible if the VA determines that the applicant is entitled to Aid & Attendance or Housebound benefits.

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If my parents sell their home before moving into Assisted Living, do they need to count that money as income?

The money received from selling a personal residence does not count as “income” for VA purposes, BUT the moment that money is deposited into the bank, it will automatically become part of their net worth. If plans are to sell the home, it is usually best to handle this matter before making an application for the VA Pension. Any money that is retained in savings accounts, put into CD’s, IRA’s etc, will also become part of their net worth.

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My mom needs to move to an ALF, but dad is still capable of staying at home. Can we file for her based on dad’s service?

Many times “Yes.” The veteran has to qualify in order for the spouse to be eligible, so no you cannot file based on her need. However, a veteran with an ill spouse can file for “Basic” Pension if her medical costs begin to drastically reduce their monthly income. The current rate of Basic Pension is $1,291.00.

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What if my loved one dies before payments are made on an approved application; is anyone entitled to the accrued funds?

If your loved one dies during the application process prior to funds being released, you are entitled to file against those accrued benefits for expenses associated with the “Last Illness.”

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