According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are almost 10 million veterans aged 65 or older. Some of these veterans and their dependents have the financial means and the health to care for themselves, but many do not.

To assist low income and disabled veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs created the Aid and Attendance Program. The program provides the highest level of financial assistance possible for veterans who do not have the means to pay for care for themselves and meet certain eligibility criteria. 

That criteria includes:

  • The veteran must be at least 65 years old and served at least 90 days of active service including at least one day of active service during a period defined as “wartime.”
  • They must require assistance from a caretaker with everyday tasks such as bathing, eating, grooming or similar tasks, or;
  • They must be bedridden, or:
  • They must have mental or physical limitations that require them to be a patient in a nursing home or assisted care facility, or;
  • They must have extreme limited visual limitations including corrected eyesight of 5/200 or less in both eyes or an extreme contraction of their eyes visual fields.

In addition, Aid and Attendance applicants must meet certain low income and asset limitations.

Although not a completely hard and fast rule, they must not have more than $80,000 in assets, excluding their home, car and other personal goods.

They must also meet certain low net income standards that vary by individual situations.

Applying can be a lengthy process and final approval may take up to nine months or more. There are a number of documents and approvals an applicant must secure prior to receiving a benefit.

Fortunately, organizations such as the VFW, the American Legion and Disabled Veterans of America are available to assist with the application process.

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How Do I Qualify for the Aid and Attendance Program?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are almost 10 million veterans aged 65 or older. Some of these veterans and their dependents have the financial means and the health to care for themselves, but many do not.

To assist veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs created the Aid and Attendance Program. It provides the highest level of financial assistance for veterans who do not have the means to pay for care for themselves. This guide explains eligibility for the program and how veterans can take action to utilize this benefit.

Level of Benefits

Wartime veterans and their dependents may be entitled to three tiers of benefits if they meet certain criteria. As the tiers increase, so do the dollar amounts.

Tier one is a Basic Pension. It provides cash assistance to veterans and dependents who are healthy but living off a very low income.

Tier two is the Housebound Benefit. As the name implies, this is for veterans and their dependents who are basically housebound and need assistance with day-to-day activities on a regular basis.

Tier three is the Aid and Attendance Benefit. This is for veterans and their dependents who require a fairly high degree of care on a daily basis for basic living functions including bathing, eating and other related tasks.

Aid and Attendance Maximum Annual PensionRate (MAPR) CategoryIf you are a…Basic Pension MAPR5% of Basic Pension MAPR(The amount you subtract frommedical expenses…)Annual Aid and Attendance Pension RateYour yearly income must be less than…
Single Veteran$12,868($1,072 per month)$643$21,466($1,788 per month)
Veteran with Spouse/Dependent$16,851($1,404 per month)$842$25,448($2,120 per month)
Two Veterans Married toEach Other$16,851($1,404 per month)$842$34,050($2837 per month)
Surviving Spouse$8,630($719 per month)$431$13,794($1,149 per month)
Surviving Spouse withOne Dependent$11,296($941 per month)$564$16,456($1,371 per month)

Eligibility for Aid and Attendance

There are three criteria that determine eligibility to receive Aid and Attendance benefits.

Wartime Service

Military service is classified as either peacetime or wartime service. To qualify for Aid and Attendance, a veteran must have served a minimum of 90 day with at least one of those days taking place during wartime. The veteran did not have to see actual combat to be eligible. If active duty began after September 7, 1980, you must have served at least 24 months or the full period that you were called to duty.

Aid and Attendance is just one of many benefits available to veterans who can claim wartime service. Congress has designated certain specific periods that clearly define when wartime service has taken place. It should be noted that to qualify for wartime service, a veteran did not need to serve in an actual war zone.

Even if the majority of the veteran’s service took place during peacetime, they still meet wartime requirements if they served 90 consecutive days and at least one of those days was during a wartime period.

A complete list of wartime dates are as follows:

Indian Wars: January 1, 1817, through December 31, 1898. The veteran must have served thirty days or more, or for the duration of such Indian War. Service must have been with the U.S. forces against Indian tribes or nations.

Spanish-American War: April 21, 1898, through July 4, 1902.

Mexican Border War: May 9, 1916, through April 5, 1917.

World War I: April 6, 1917, through November 11, 1918, extended to April 1, 1920, for those who served in the Soviet Union. Service after November 11, 1918, through July 2, 1921, qualifies for benefits purposes if active duty was performed for any period during the basic World War I period.

World War II: December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946, extended to July 25, 1947, if continuous with active duty on or before December 31, 1946.

Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955.

Vietnam Era: August 5, 1964, through May 7, 1975. However, the qualifying dates are February 28, 1961, through May 7, 1975, for a veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period.

Persian Gulf War: August 2, 1990, through a date to be prescribed by Presidential proclamation or law.

Level of Disability

To qualify for Aid and Attendance, veterans or their spouses must meet one or more of the following requirements:

  • Help from a caretaker to assist them in completing everyday living tasks such as feeding, bathing, grooming, using the bathroom or other related common tasks. 
  • Bedridden to the degree that your disability requires you to stay in bed beyond what is required for any treatment you may be receiving.
  • Mental or physical limitations that require you to be a patient in a nursing home or an assisted living facility.
  • Visual limitations including corrected eyesight of 5/200 or less in both eyes or a concentric contraction of your eyes’ visual fields of five degrees or less.

To receive a rating that qualifies for Aid and Attendance, many times an applicant will need to have an exam completed by a physician who will certify the claimant using VA Form 21-2680.

Many people overlook applying for Aid and Attendance if the veteran is still healthy, but the spouse is in poor health. If the spouse has a significant impact on the couple’s income and meet the disability tests, the veteran can file a claim on behalf of their sick spouse.

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Financial

Financial criteria to determine eligibility for Aid and Attendance is broken into two components – assets and income. Because Aid and Attendance is “means tested” and is granted only to those who genuinely need this benefit, not all who apply will receive an award.

While guidelines are in place, there are no completely hard and fast rules when it comes to granting an Aid and Attendance benefit, so potential applicants who are at designated thresholds or even slightly over are encouraged to apply since decisions are made case-by case.

Assets – In general, the VA uses $80,000 as a limiting amount. This does not include a home that the veteran or their spouse lives in, a single car and other personal goods such as furniture, household goods and jewelry. 

If an applicant has more than $80,000 in assets such as stocks, bonds, savings accounts or a 401k, there’s a good chance their application will be denied.

Income – Congress determines the maximum countable income and to qualify, a veteran or their widow must have an amount below what is allowed. Countable income includes:

  • Disability and retirement payments
  • Interest and dividend payments
  • Net income from a business
  • Income from dependents

For 2015, the maximum annual pension income amounts including the Aid and Attendance benefits set by Congress are:


AnnualMonthly
Veteran with no dependents$21,446$1,788
Veteran with spouse or child$25,448$2,120
Two veterans married to each other$33,702$2,809
Surviving spouse/death pension$13,794$1,149

When determining countable income, applicants can deduct cost of care and out-of-pocket medical expenses from their gross income. These expenses can include things such as Medicare premiums, prescription drug costs, Medicare supplement premiums, and expected assisted living costs.

A couple of examples may help illustrate what is acceptable:

Example 1 - Bob is a veteran with no dependents and has an annual income of $40,000, but has $25,000 in medical and related living expenses. His net countable income is $15,000, which is $6,446 below the maximum annual pension amount for his particular status. He would be entitled to a monthly award of $537.

Example 2 – Jeff and his wife Teresa have an annual income of $30,000, but they also have $15,000 in annual allowable expenses. Their net countable income is $15,000. However, they also have $125,000 in a 401k and savings accounts. Because they are above the $80,000 asset threshold limit, their application for Aid and Attendance would be denied.

How to Apply for Aid and Attendance Benefits

You will need to submit several documents as part of your Aid and Attendance benefit application. Gather and make copies of the following documents. Once you have done so, you will need to submit your application to one of three processing centers in the United States based on what state you live in.

  • Basic Pension Form for Veterans – Form 21-527EZ
  • Section X Medical Expense Report – Form 21-527EZ
  • Request for Nursing Home Information in Connection with Claim for Aid and Attendance (required only if you are living in a senior community) – Form 21-0779
  • An official letter from the senior community where you reside that details the monthly rate and what daily assistance you require
  • Voided check for the account you want Direct Deposit payments made into
  • A letter from your homecare agency or caregiver stating your needs (if applicable)
  • Examination for Housebound Status of Permanent Need for Aid and Attendance – Form 21-2680
  • Authorization for Consent to Release Information to the VA (submit one for each of your doctors) – Form 21-4142
  • Authorization to Disclose Information to a 3rd Party (not mandatory, but highly suggested. 3rd party is generally defined as a relative)
  • Statement in Support of Claim – Form 21-4138

Military Discharge Papers (must submit an original copy only. Duplicates are not acceptable) – Form DD-214 NOTE: Copies of discharge papers are available from the National Archives at http://www.archives.gov/veterans/ military-service-records/ or by calling 314-801-0800.

  • Current year’s Social Security Award Letter
  • Proof of all income and assets
  • Proof of insurance premiums, medical bills or medical expenses that are not reimbursable to you
  • Copy of Marriage Certificate

If you are a surviving spouse of a veteran and filing an Aid and Attendance claim, instead of a Basic Pension Form, you will need to submit a Basic Pension Form for Surviving Spouses – Form 21-534EZ. You will also need to submit a copy of the Veteran’s Death Certificate.

When you have gathering all of the required information, submit your application package as indicated below.

If you are a resident of:Mail your application to:
AlabamaArkansasIllinoisKentuckyLouisianaMichiganMissouriMississippiOhioTennesseeWisconsinMilwaukee Pension Maintenance CenterVeterans Administration5400 West National AvenueMilwaukee, WI 53214
AlaskaArizonaCaliforniaColoradoHawaiiIowaIdahoKansasMinnesotaMontanaNorth DakotaNebraskaNevadaOklahomaOregonSouth DakotaTexasUtahWashingtonWyomingSt. Paul Pension Maintenance CenterVeterans Administration1 Federal Drive, Fort SnellingSt. Paul, MN 55111-4050
ConnecticutDistrict of ColumbiaDelawareFloridaGeorgiaMarylandMaineNorth CarolinaNew HampshireNew JerseyNew YorkPennsylvaniaPuerto RicoRhode IslandSouth CarolinaVirginiaVermontWest VirginiaPhiladelphia Pension Maintenance CenterVeterans Administration5000 Wissachikon AvenuePhiladelphia, PA 19101

For more information on Aid and Attendance Eligibility and Benefits

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs administers the Aid and Attendance program as well as an entire spectrum of benefits for veterans and their families.

Go to www.va.gov

Phone: 800-827-1000

To access a list of regional benefits offices, go to http://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/offices.asp

The Veterans of Foreign Wars has 1.7 million members and assists veterans and their families a wide range of benefit issues, including assistance filing for Aid and Attendance

Go to www.vfw.org

Phone: 816-756-3390

The American Legion is another service based group for veterans and their families that can also assist with Aid and Attendance applications

Go to www.legion.org

Phone: 800-433-3318

Disabled American Veterans primarily assists veterans with a service related disability

Go to www.dav.org

Phone: 877-426-2838