For those who served, and for their survivors in some cases, there are valuable benefits available to veterans who need assistance at home at an assisted living or skilled nursing facility. This is a brief overview of some of the benefits that all veterans should know about. Keep in mind that every situation is different and you should seek information based on your circumstances to understand what, if any, Veteran benefits you may be entitled to. As your situation changes you may be eligible for different Veteran benefits based on your reduced income or increasing health care needs.
To receive Veteran benefits such as health care at a VA hospital or clinic, or to get prescriptions filled, the Veteran must enter the VA system. This means the veteran files a form with the Veteran’s Administration, gets a one-time physical, and once enrolled will get an identification card. Each veteran who enrolls is assigned to one of eight priority groups. Group 1 is the highest level of priority and group 8 is the lowest level of priority. At this time group 8 veterans are not eligible for enrollment as they are veterans with no service connected disabilities who have high net worth. Many veterans enter the system for no other reason than to get the prescription benefit which can mean low cost co-pays, or for some vets no out of pocket expenses at all based on the assigned priority group.
Some veterans can receive care in a VA nursing home. Eligibility is based on a service connected disability of 70% or more to enter one of the 3 types of VA nursing homes.
The VA website has a list of all Federal and State run VA homes. The private facilities contact on a 6 month basis so the information changes and it is best to check with the local VSO (Veterans Service Organization) to get an updated list if looking for a facility. This link will take you to an interactive map with all the VA facilities in Florida. https://www.floridavets.org/nursing/maps/StateMap.html
These often overlooked benefits provide services to a vet such as respite care for a caregiver, training for a family member in how to provide care, or transportation to services outside the home. These services are provided by private vendors who contract with the VA. Again, the local VSO should have a list of providers and what services are available as this may change.
Monthly income benefits are based on the vet’s service record, length of time in the service, and whether or not the veteran was disabled while in service, or after discharge. Additionally the vet must have served during a “war time period” to qualify.
Compensation Benefits – If the vet has an injury or disease that was the result of service they may receive a monthly income that the VA calls “Compensation”. This is based in part of the vet’s disability evaluation which can range from 0% to 100% in 10% increments. The higher the disability rating, the higher the disability compensation may be. This benefit is not dependent on income or assets.
Pension Benefits – If the vet has a disability that is not service connected he or she may still qualify for benefits such as Low Income Pension, Housebound benefits, or Aid and Attendance Benefits. These benefits are most helpful as the vet ages and needs the assistance of a caregiver.
To qualify for any of the three Pension Benefits, the Vet must have service during war time for at least 90 days, must prove up income and asset information to meet program eligibility criteria, and have received a discharge other than dishonorable. The Vet must also have a disability. However those over 65 do not have to prove disability to qualify but must provide some evidence of need based on a doctor’s evaluation.
Each pension program has income and asset limits for the veteran and if married for the spouse as well. The VA looks at combined income and assets. However combined income is reduced by unreimbursed medical expenses, which for many, make the income less of an issue for qualification purposes than meeting the asset limit. All combined assets are countable except the home, the home furnishing and a car. While Medicaid rules regarding assets are non-wavering, the VA looks to see if the Vet has “sufficient means” to pay for their care. The general number is around $80,000 but can be lower or higher based on the age of the vet and his or her needs at time of application.
Here are some links that will provide more information on the Veteran benefits programs above.
https://www.va.gov/ Veteran’s Administration
https://www.floridavets.org/ Florida Department of Veteran’s Affairs
https://www.nasvh.org/dir_statehomes/statedir.cfm The National Association of Veteran’s State Nursing Homes