Benefits for Aging Veterans
The costs of care can be staggering for many older Americans. But for those who have served in the U.S. military, these costs may be partially or fully paid for by the federal government — if these aging veterans know the programs are available to them, that is.
In 2019, there were nearly 9 million veterans over 65 living in the U.S.; just under half of those were 74 or older. This demographic may have a greater need for care as they age, yet they may not know where to look for help.
Fortunately, there are a variety of veterans’ health care benefits for seniors and veteran benefits for assisted living and nursing home care. There are also programs that pay for nursing home care for veterans’ spouses.
It’s important to note that if you’re an aging veteran, you must be receiving a pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, to qualify for VA benefits for long-term care. You can apply for VA pension benefits at the same time you apply for long-term care benefits.
1. VA Health Care
Honorably discharged veterans who served in the active military, air service, or navy for two continuous years may qualify for VA benefits. VA benefits help cover many health care services, such as rehabilitation services. Veterans must receive care at a preferred VA facility to be eligible for coverage.
Every American over 65 is eligible for this government-funded program. If you qualify for Medicare and VA benefits, you can enroll in both programs. However, Medicare only pays for short-term care at nursing home facilities for seniors who need rehabilitation or nursing care after an illness or injury that requires hospitalization. It doesn’t cover the cost of home care or expenses related to care at senior living facilities.
3. Aid & Attendance Benefits and Housebound Allowance
Up to 25% of American veterans are eligible for both these veteran benefits for assisted living and nursing home care. However, according to veterans’ resource veteranaid.org, less than 5% of these assistance funds are even applied for because aging veterans and their families are largely unaware the program exists.
But if you’re an aging veteran who’s eligible, these benefits may be a significant financial help. Neither Medicaid nor Medicare pays for assisted living — so this benefit is almost like an insurance policy you didn’t have to pay into to receive. Surviving spouses of veterans may also be entitled to these funds as well.
Aid & Attendance is a tax-free benefit by the Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, that provides monthly payments added to the amount of your monthly VA pension. The money from this benefit can be used to pay for aging veterans’ in-home care, an assisted living community or a private-pay nursing home.
You may qualify for the Aid & Attendance benefit if you’re a veteran over 65 who receives a VA pension and meets at least one of these requirements:
- You need another person’s help to perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, eating or grooming
- You must stay in bed or spend most of your day in bed because of an illness
- You live in a nursing home setting because of the loss of mental or physical abilities related to a disability
- Your eyesight is significantly limited, even with glasses or contact lenses
You may be eligible for the Housebound Allowance benefits if you receive a VA pension and spend more of your time in your home because of a permanent disability. However, you can’t receive both the Aid & Attendance and Housebound Allowance benefits at the same time.
If you feel you meet any of the criteria for these assistance funds, you can apply by filling out VA Form 21-2680 (Examination for Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance) and mailing it to your Pension Management Center. You can also bring your information to a VA regional office near you.
1. Long-term Care Benefits
The VA also provides both short- and long-term care in nursing homes to veterans who are too disabled or elderly to care for themselves. A veteran meets the criteria for care if they:
- Need nursing home care due to a service-connected disability
- Has a combined disability rating of 70% or more, or has a disability rating of at least 60% and is either deemed unemployable or has been rated permanently and totally disabled
2. CHAMPVA Benefits
Spouses or children of a veteran who either has disabilities or has died may be able to get health insurance through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). Through this program, the VA covers the cost of some of your health care services and supplies, such as inpatient and outpatient procedures, medical equipment, prosthetics and orthotics, eyeglasses, lenses and more.
Find a senior living community that fits your needs
If you’re an aging veteran who has served our country, and you’re looking for a senior living community in your area, Retirement Center Management would be honored to help you choose a community that’s right for you.