The US Department of Veterans Affairs is the organization concerned with fundamental aspects of veteran care including benefits, burials and memorials, and educational resources including information about benefits, jobs, and congressional affairs.
Deciding to move into an assisted living facility is an important decision for aging relatives and their families. Factors to consider include the facilities available, the level of care offered, the location, and the quality of life of the residents. There are resources on the internet that can help answer any questions you may have and offer advice so that you are well-equipped to make the most informed decision possible.
Before assessing local assisted living facilities for a loved one who is a veteran, it is important to find out what benefits they are entitled to which could drastically improve the services offered and reduce the monthly cost.
In order to gain status as a veteran, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- You served during an approved war period and were honorably discharged.
- Your income and assets must amount to $80,000 or less with the exception of one home and vehicle in order to qualify for benefits.
Note: these are the eligibility requirements for 2016 and are subject to change. As you can see, combat is not a factor that affects eligibility, so even if you were not in actual combat but helped during a war in some way (administration, medical, catering for example) you are still considered a veteran.
Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit
With regards to assisted living, veterans can avail of a benefit that many people don’t know about called the Aid and Attendance and Housebound Improved Pension benefit, otherwise known as the Veterans Aid and Attendance (VAA) benefit. Veterans Affairs spokespersons claim that is an underused benefit, because hardly anyone knows about it. For example, in 2011 there were 1.7 million registered veterans, and less than eighty thousand veterans and/or surviving spouses were awarded it that year.
This benefit affects veterans and their families who are considered moving into an assisted living facility. It is designed to help with the cost of long-term care, whether in your own home or in a residential healthcare facility.
In order to claim the benefit, you must meet the eligibility criteria which is more specific than the requirements in order to be considered a veteran: you must have had 90 days of active duty as a wartime veteran, with one day beginning or ending during a period of war, in order to be eligible. You also have to fill out an application that involves gathering a number of appropriate documents including your discharge/separation paper, proof of income, a doctor’s statement about your current physical condition, and a statement from the assisted living facility the veteran is a resident of (if applicable).
VAA Processing and Application
Application times can be lengthy, so if you’re a family member of a veteran who needs to avail of assisted living, it’s recommended to get the application ready as soon as possible. Applicants can wait up to a year before they receive their first installment of the VAA benefit, so if you and your family are in the initial stages of considering assisted living, researching the specifics of this benefit should be a top priority.
The VAA rate is different depending on your living circumstances. Surviving spouses of veterans can also claim VAA. Below is the monthly rate according to status:
- Surviving Spouse: $1,153 per month
- Single Veteran $1,794 per month
- Married Veteran $2,127 per month
- Two Veterans Married $2,846 per month
VAA Potential Eligibility Conflicts
One of the main concerns with claiming the VAA benefit is to ensure there are no eligibility conflicts. Receiving the VAA benefit may negatively impact Medicaid or VA disability compensation the veteran may be receiving, so speak to a professional to find out what the best path to take is.
If you find that there are no eligibility conflicts, it is best to proceed as quickly as possible because of the lengthy processing time. Ideally, you should set aside enough time to complete the entire application process (approximately one year) before re-situating the veteran in their new home. If this is not possible due to serious health or mobility concerns, you will need to find other ways of paying the care bills until you receive the benefit. It will be back-dated once it is processed, of course, but finding the money in the interim may cause some difficulty.
Standard Assisted Living Considerations
Veteran benefits, and which ones your loved one is eligible for, is one of the primary concerns to be assessed for you and your family before decided on an assisted living or in-home care plan to suit their needs. After this initial complication has been dealt with, assisted living for veterans is essentially the same as assisted living for non-veterans, so the factors you need to consider are the following:
Level of Care Required
This is the number one priority to consider when choosing the right care for your aging relative. Health problems are an unfortunate part of aging. Older adults can often have ailments ranging from dementia to osteoporosis. First and foremost: does your aging relative have a specific illness? Do they have a number of health issues? If so, which is the most serious? Which, if any, of their issues, affect their mobility and level of independence?
The level of care required impacts the type of assisted living facility you choose: independent living communities can be ideal for people who require low levels of care, nursing homes are often preferred for people who require around-the-clock care with professional medical staff, and assisted level communities exist in the happy middle ground.
If you and your family have decided that your aging relative needs senior living accommodations, quite often cost can be a limiting factor. Generally speaking, independent living communities are the cheapest, assisted living in the middle, and nursing homes the most expensive. There are other factors which impact the cost of the living facilities. If you live in an area which has expensive housing, for example, you’ll find you may pay a higher monthly figure because of the location.