VA Assisted Living
Veterans who served our Country during certain wartime periods (did not have to serve in combat), meet certain financial and health criteria, and received an honorable discharge may be entitled to benefits from Veteran Affairs. The Veteran does not need to be retired from the military or have a service connected disability. This program is called Pension. Under the right circumstances Pension could create an additional household income up to $1149 a month for a single surviving spouse of a Veteran, to $1788 a month for a single Veteran or up to $2120 a month for a couple to pay for home health care, assisted living care and even nursing home care.
There is an income and an asset test to qualify for Pension. A special provision in the way the Pension benefit is calculated can allow households with income up to $5000 or $6000 a month to still qualify for this benefit. The difficulty, oftentimes, is qualifying under the asset test. Generally, couples’ households with assets in excess of $40,000 will not qualify for Pension and assets for a single Veteran or a surviving spouse in excess of $20,000 may disqualify the single person household. However, there is no specific asset test and amounts less than those listed above may also disqualify the applicant.
A personal residence, assets that cannot be easily turned into cash, a car and personal property are exempt from the asset test. Assets that may disqualify an applicant for Pension can be given away or turned into income and there is no penalty for doing this as there would be with Medicaid.
Unfortunately, in most cases, Pension does not work well for paying the costs of a nursing home. This is because the amount of Pension income is rarely enough to cover the difference between the cost of the nursing home and the beneficiary’s income. On the other hand, Medicaid will cover this difference in cost, and in most cases, Medicaid is a better alternative to Pension. However, when available, Pension works very well to supplement the income needed to fund home health and assisted living care on an ongoing basis without depleting the Veteran’s assets and can work together with Medicaid Diversion to cover the entire cost of assisted living care when that need exists.
It is extremely important that anyone who has given away assets to qualify for Pension benefits should also make provisions to avoid or reduce the penalty imposed through early gifting by Medicaid. Claimants for the Pension benefit whether for home health care or assisted living care should always seek the advice of a qualified and experienced Medicaid attorney with VA accreditation who understands both Medicaid and the VA benefits.