By Tracey Ingle
I get a lot of questions from veterans interested in knowing how the VA Aid and Attendance can help them now. It was designed to help veterans pay for unaffordable medical expenses associated with disability.
The truth is, it might not help right now. For many veterans and their spouses, the most important thing is to be aware of the benefit so you’ll know the help is there when you need it. Here’s an example.
A couple of years ago, John started having memory problems. He would forget where they were going or how to get to his favorite restaurant. Martha tried to hide his condition from their children and friends because she was embarrassed. John’s doctor told him he couldn’t drive anymore and cautioned Martha not to leave John home alone because he could get hurt.
Martha and John have two children who both live plane rides away. They encouraged Martha to enroll John in an adult day care program from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., three days a week. This would give Martha free time to run errands and rest. The adult day care would cost $100 a day, or about $1,200 a month.
Since Martha was a physically small woman the doctor also recommended a home health aide for an hour each morning and evening to help John get in and out of bed, washed up and dressed. The home health aide would cost another $1,120 a month. Martha felt she couldn’t afford this additional $2,320 each month.
Martha was distraught. She knew that when John passed away the household monthly income would fall from $2,250 to only $1,500. She knew if she spent their savings now she would have nothing to rely on when she lost that income.
If she spent it all on John’s care what would she do? And yet, how could she not? Her only alternative was to put John in a nursing home where Medicaid would pick up the full cost of his care. Martha couldn’t imagine her “White Knight” in a nursing home.
Martha heard there was a veteran’s benefit to help families with these issues. She talked with her VA accredited attorney to see what could be done. That attorney asked if John was a veteran and when he served. Martha proudly said John was a World War II veteran and had served in Europe during the war. The attorney explained that John qualified for the VA pension known as “Aid and Attendance” of about $1,950 a month to help pay for John’s care.
Martha and John’s income was $2,250 a month. Since it was less then their monthly medical expenses of $2,500 (including day care, home health care and insurance premiums for both Martha and John), John qualified for $1,949.67 in Aid and Attendance benefits. With a little work by their VA attorney to make sure they passed the asset test, Martha had the help and money she needed to keep John at home as long as possible.
Next month I’ll tell you the rest of Martha’s story.
Tracey Ingle is the Probate Puzzle Person and Principal of Ingle Law. She can be reached at 508-281-7900 or email@example.com or go online at http://www.inglelaw.com/. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.