Senior veterans in need of care can look to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for a number of programs that provide assistance. Former service members are eligible for dozens of different services run through the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
Though these agencies serve all veterans, they have many programs that may specifically help seniors including health care, long-term care, veterans pension benefits, assisted living services, and disability compensation.
7 Helpful Benefits for Elderly Veterans
- Long Term Care
- Eligibility for Long Term Care
- Nursing Home and Residential Care
- VA Aid and Attendance and Housebound Allowance
- Geriatric Research Program
- Home Based and Community Services
- Veterans and Survivors Pension
Most older veterans have access to these programs. Some may be limited to those who sustained an injury resulting in a permanent disability due to their service, while others are based on income requirements. Caregivers with questions about accessing these programs can contact the VA or speak with a representative at a local VA field office.
The VA is committed to its duty of honoring the military service of veterans and providing services throughout their lives. As the country’s aging veteran population rises, the VA continues to respond with services specific to the medical and financial needs of seniors.
7 Helpful Benefits for Elderly Veterans
1. Long Term Care
Long term care typically covers both medical and non-medical needs of those with illnesses, disabilities, or those who are aging and can no longer perform daily living tasks without help. This care is intended to improve quality of life, promote independence, and respond to the veteran’s changing needs. Long-term care can be performed in the veteran’s home, at an assisted living center, or through nursing home care. This type of coverage can be especially useful for senior veterans since Medicare benefits typically don’t cover these or other nursing home related costs.
2. Eligibility for Long Term Care
When you apply for long term care, the main criteria that will be assessed will be your service record, whether you have a VA-rated service-connected disability, and if you meet income requirements. That said, because there’s such a wide variety of services offered under the category of long term care, each specific service will have its own eligibility requirements.
Eligible veterans have an opportunity to receive these services, though many of them require that you show a clinical need for the services, that the services are locally available to you, or that you have a service-related disability.
Planning for long term care is an important step that all aging veterans should take. Services such as geriatric evaluations, adult day health care, respite care, and skilled home health care are available to all enrolled veterans, though there are stricter requirements for programs within a community nursing home or other residential care settings.
3. Nursing Home and Residential Care
There are several services available to those who need to live in a nursing home or other residential care setting. The Community Residential Care (CRC) program is for veterans who are not able to live alone but do not need extensive hospital or nursing care. This program is ideal for veterans who don’t have a caretaker who can look after them and need a place to live with very minimal supervision. Those who need more medical support may require a medical foster home, an adult family home, or to live in an assisted senior living community.
For many of these services, the VA cannot cover the total costs associated with rent and other services, but you may be able to use other VA funds to cover your costs such as your pension, disability compensation, or social security payments. The best way to look into this is by speaking with a VA case manager who can look at your specific situation and formulate a payment plan.
Those who need to live in a VA Community Living Center or a community nursing home may qualify for some reimbursement through the VA, but also may have a copay depending on their level of need and income level. There also may be a State Veterans Home available that would provide similar services, but since these are all run on the state level it’s up to each facility to determine eligibility and funding sources.
4. VA Aid and Attendance and Housebound Allowance
These two veterans’ benefits are considered an “enhanced pension,” and come in the form of a monthly payment that’s added on to an existing VA pension. Though the two programs cover similar needs, no one may receive both benefits at the same time.
The VA Aid and Attendance benefit (A&A) pays out more than Housebound. To be eligible for Aid and Attendance, one of the following must be true for the veteran or surviving spouse:
- Needs help completing daily tasks like bathing, feeding, and dressing
- Has extremely limited eyesight of less than 5/200 in both eyes
- Spends the majority of time in bed due to an illness
- Lives a nursing home due to a disability
The Homebound benefit is for those who must spend the majority of their time at home due to a permanent disability that’s been rated 100% by the VA. Each of these must be applied for along with a basic VA pension, and your total benefit amount is based on your income level, and how many qualified dependents you have living with you.
5. Geriatric Research Program
The VA’s Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Centers (GRECCs) are an integral part of the VA’s health care approach in assisting senior veterans. There are 20 centers spread across the U.S., each serving a different region. From these hubs, the VA works with local research hospitals to investigate and test innovations in geriatric care, improve health outcomes in elderly veterans, and train the VA staff who work with these veterans.
Veterans can obtain services at these centers or take part in clinical studies. Even if you don’t get direct care from one of these facilities, you’ll indirectly benefit since they’ve been working with the VA to outline best practices of care for elderly veterans in all clinics, hospitals, and community partners all over the country for over 40 years.
6. Home Based and Community Services
The VA also offers extensive home-based services and community programs. Many of these benefits are open to all VA healthcare enrollees though some will require a copay, and others require you’re eligible for community care and meet certain medical care criteria.
To take part in community care services, you must receive approval from the VA. This is generally granted if you can show that the care you need is either not available at your local VA facility, that getting to a VA facility is too much of a burden, or that the proposed care would be in the best interest of the veteran.
One of the more popular community services is the Adult Day Health Care program that can either be provided at a VA clinic or through partnering community organizations. This program provides veterans a place to go for the day to take part in social activities, receive basic help with daily activities, and they may also be able to access care from a nurse, therapist, or social worker depending on the available resources.
For home care, the VA provides Home Based Primary Care which is available to all veterans under the VHA Standard Medical Benefits Package, however, they must show a clinical need for the service. This program provides care for a veteran in their home with complex medical conditions or if their illness makes it difficult to attend clinic appointments. You may also be able to access a Homemaker or Home Health Aide who will visit your home to assist you with basic personal tasks. Hospice, palliative, or Skilled Home Health Care is also available.
7. Veterans and Survivors Pension
The VA pension benefit may be available if you are a wartime veteran or surviving spouse and can show financial need. If you meet net income limits, have a net worth of under $138,489, and you’re either over 65, have a permanent disability, reside in a nursing home, or are receiving social security benefits you may qualify for a pension.
Pension rates are updated each year by Congress and they set the maximum amount of pension payable (MAPR) that’s available to each veteran. You’ll then have to determine what your countable income is (any salary, retirement or investment payments, or social security benefits), and subtract this amount from your MAPR to get your VA pension payment.
Your MAPR depends on how many dependents you have and whether you’re eligible for an enhanced pension (meaning you also qualify for A&A or Housebound). For a single veteran with no dependents, the current MAPR is $14,753. If you qualify for A&A benefits, it increases to $24,610. So, if you have a net income of $10,000 and you qualify for A&A, your pension would be $14,610 ($24,610 – $10,000).
How To File a Claim for Elderly Veterans’ Benefits
To get any long-term care benefits, you must first be enrolled in VA Health Care, which means you have been receiving regular care from a VA facility. Some benefits, like A&A and Housebound, also require that you’re either currently receiving or have applied for a basic pension. Each program will have its own specific criteria for receiving services.
In general, there are four ways you can apply for these benefits: online, in person, by mail, or through an accredited VA representative. To apply online you’ll need to create a VA.gov account if you don’t already have one. To apply in person, contact your local VA facility to schedule an appointment.
You can also print and fill out VA Form 21-526EZ, the Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, and mail it to the following address:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
P.O. Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
If you would like more one-on-one help, you can work with a Veterans Service Organization (VSO) representative, an attorney, or a VA agent who can help you with your application and any claims. If you do decide to work with someone, ensure they’re accredited by the VA. VSO representatives are always required to provide free services, but attorneys and agents may charge a fee.
Help Is Available for Elderly Military Veterans
Many seniors have concerns and anxieties about the aging process and how they’ll be able to access and pay for the services they need as they get older. Although there are many discounts for seniors, retirement benefits, Medicare insurance, and community programs available, they won’t always be enough to meet your needs.
If you are an older veteran in need of additional VA benefits, you can likely qualify for one or more of these programs. Through the VBA and VHA, senior veterans can access health and financial benefits to help them live a long and fulfilling life.