Veterans and their surviving spouses who meet certain income and asset requirements and who are permanently and totally disabled or 65 years or older may receive a special pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs. To receipt this benefit, the veteran must have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions and served 90 days or more of active duty, one day of which was during World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War or Gulf War. The dates the VA uses to calculate these wartime periods often differs from what persons normally assume. The Veteran Administration’s improved pension has three levels: Basic Pension, Housebound Pension and Aid & Attendance.
The first level is the Basic Pension, for which veterans 65 and older are eligible. The Veterans Administration (“VA”) classifies any veteran who reaches the age of 65 as permanently and totally “disabled.” This classification entitles the veteran or his or her surviving spouse to a Basic Pension. A doctor’s assessment is not necessary to confirm disability.
In order to receive the Basic Pension, the veteran must be financially eligible for the pension after a review of income and assets. The VA must determine that the veteran’s assets, excluding his home, furnishings and vehicles, are not sufficient to support him for his lifetime.
The second level of pension is the Housebound Pension. To be eligible for Housebound Pension, the individual need not require assistance with activities of daily living per se, but must require some assistance as confirmed by the veteran’s personal physician. The veteran must have a single permanent disability that is 100 percent disabling and be permanently confined to his premises or have a single permanent disability that is 100 percent disabling and another disability that is 60 percent or more disabling.
The highest level awarded is Aid & Attendance. Aid & Attendance is a benefit for veterans and surviving spouses who need assistance with activities of daily living, without which they would not be able to function independently. To qualify medically, a veteran or surviving spouse must need the assistance of another person to perform daily tasks, such as eating, dressing, undressing, taking care of the nature’s needs, etc. Being blind or residing in a care facility also qualifies. The attending physician must certify that the individual’s physical limitations are such that he cannot live independently without assistance. The veteran or surviving spouse cannot receive Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits at the same time.
If Medi-Cal is covering a nursing home resident’s care, the resident will receive $90 monthly for his or her personal needs.
Due to the complex nature of benefits for veterans, it is prudent to consult a qualified and experienced elder law attorney accredited by the VA who can provide advice regarding what benefits may be available, and to ensure that the Veteran has his or her legal house in order. Mr. Timothy Murphy has such accreditation and regularly assists clients with Medi-Cal and VA benefit eligibility.