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Understanding Ways to Pay for Long-Term Care Using VA Pension Benefits


When we work with seniors and their loved ones, one of our primary goals is that they are able to find and pay for good long-term care. Unfortunately, there may come a time when the senior is no longer able to care for him or herself. While the preference of both the senior and his or her family may be for the care to be provided within the home, this may be impractical for a number of reasons that include, but are not limited to, the cost involved for such care and the needs of the senior.

 In these instances, the senior and the family may need to turn to long-term care outside the home. A number of long-term care options exist to assist Older Americans meet their long-term care needs. These can include independent living facilities, assisted living facilities, and skilled nursing homes. In each of these facilities, the senior can receive a number of different services based on his or her care needs and the services the facility provides.

It can be hard for families to afford the cost of care in a long-term care setting. These costs need to be paid, in addition to the household bills where the community spouse may be living at the time and still need to support him or herself. Often, without planning to cover these costs of care, the senior’s assets may be quickly depleted to cover the monthly bill for the long-term care facility. To begin to understand how much long-term care may cost in our state you can look at the Genworth Cost of Long-Term Care Study.

There are government benefits programs that may be able to help the senior and his or her family afford the high cost of long-term care. These programs are based on need and have certain tests based on a variety of thresholds that are health, income, and asset based that the senior must meet to qualify.

 One such program is the VA Pension program. Through the Department of Veterans Affairs, a veteran with qualifying military service and his or her dependent, such as a spouse, may be able to qualify for this monthly, tax-free benefit. This benefit is not tied to disability or service-connected injury in any way. The veteran must have at least ninety days of active duty of which one day of this service was during wartime according to the Department of Veterans Affairs Eligible Wartime Periods.

The Department of Veterans Affairs changed the rules for qualification on October 18, 2018.  One of the things the new rules did was establish a limit for the countable assets for the veteran, or the claimant, and his or her spouse. Under these rules, the claimant and his or her spouse cannot have more than a combined $126,240 in the year 2019. This amount is subject to change annually and expected to increase by the same percentage as the cost-of-living increase for Social Security benefits.

Similar to our state’s Medicaid program, there are certain assets that are exempt from this calculation. For example, the veteran’s primary residence is not counted as long as it does not exceed two acres in size, unless the additional acreage is not marketable.

For more information, you can attend our workshop to learn more where we explore what options are available to you and your family as you proceed along the Eldercare Journey.