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Veterans and surviving spouses of military veterans may be eligible for certain veterans benefits to offset the cost of long-term care. Those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces can receive benefits provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, including Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits, which pay for long-term care needs.


Nevertheless, many families are unaware of the financial assistance options available to veterans and surviving spouses of veterans when they need senior care, or they are unsure how to apply for such benefits. Who qualifies for VA long-term care benefits, which benefits are available to help pay for long-term care, and how to apply for veterans benefits are all covered in this comprehensive guide to VA long-term care benefits.


Depending on the type of benefit veterans and their families are seeking, they must meet different requirements.

Service Requirements

A service requirement applies to all VA long-term care benefits. Veterans and their surviving spouses are eligible for VA senior care benefits after serving at least 90 days of active duty, including at least one day during wartime. It isn't necessary for veterans to experience actual combat to qualify for benefits. Veterans who worked at a desk job during qualifying periods may also qualify.

Your loved one must fulfill one of the following service requirements in order to qualify for VA benefits:

  • Served at least 90 days on active duty prior to September 8, 1980, including one day during wartime;

  • Served at least 24 months on active duty as an enlisted man after September 7, 1980 (with some exceptions) with at least 1 day during wartime, or served 24 months on active duty as an enlisted man after September 7, 1980.

  • Was an officer who started active duty after October 16, 1981, and had not previously served on active duty for 24 months or more

To qualify for veterans benefits, veterans and family members must have received an honorable or general discharge. Dishonorable discharges disqualify veterans.

VA's Dates for Wartime
Financial Requirements

Those who qualify for VA benefits must meet financial eligibility requirements if they are veterans or surviving spouses of veterans. As a result, your relative's net worth must not exceed $138,489, which Congress set as a maximum until November 30, 2022.

In addition to household income and assets, your loved one's net worth includes:

  • Annual Income: Your loved one's annual income includes salary or hourly pay, bonuses, commissions, tips, Social Security benefits, retirement payments, as well as any income received by his or her spouse or dependents.

  • Assets: Your loved one's assets include their personal property such as land, investments, and furnishings. However, assets do not include their primary residence, their car, or basic household items such as appliances that they wouldn't be able to take with them.

For example: Veterans who earn $19,000 per year and have assets worth $121,000 don't qualify for VA benefits because their net worth is $140,000.

The net worth of an individual may, however, be calculated by deducting certain expenses from their annual income and assets. Expenses that qualify include senior care, medical expenses not reimbursed by Medicare, Medicare supplemental premiums, products or services prescribed by your doctor, and education costs.

For example: Veteran's senior care costs are deductible expenses when determining eligibility for VA benefits, for example, if their monthly income is $5,000, but they pay $4,500 for assisted living. A family member's countable income is $500 when their senior care expenses ($4,500) are subtracted from their monthly income ($5,000).

What's the Three Year Look Back Period?

If a veteran transfers assets for less than the market value within three years before applying for VA benefits, he or she may be subject to a penalty. Veterans who suffer a three-year look-back penalty may not be eligible for VA benefits for up to five years if the transferred assets would otherwise disqualify them for benefits.

If your loved one has a total net worth of $115,900 at the time of submitting their VA benefits application, they gifted $30,000 to a close friend the year before they applied for VA benefits. Your loved one would not have been eligible for VA benefits if they hadn’t gifted this amount, as their total net worth would have been $145,900. In the meantime, your family member may not be eligible for VA benefits during a penalty period of up to five years.

Clinical Requirements

VA long-term care benefits are typically available to veterans 65 years of age and older, however those under 65 with a permanent and total disability may also qualify. There are specific clinical requirements for each benefit. The highest amounts, however, are awarded to those who require assistance with daily living activities (ADLs), such as bathing and dressing.


The Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension benefit programs provide supplemental income to veterans and their families. These tax-free benefits are paid monthly. and is available to U.S. military veterans and widowed spouses of veterans who are eligible based on need.

Veterans and their families receive monthly supplemental income through the Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension help pay for senior care. VA long-term care benefits are an additional monthly income.

Who Qualifies for VA Pension?

Through its Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension benefit programs, the VA provides supplemental income to veterans and their family's requirements:

  • Be age 65 or older

  • Have a total and permanent disability

  • Be a patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care

  • Receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income

Do Spouses Qualify for VA Survivor's Pension?

Through its Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension benefit programs, the VA provides supplemental income to veterans and their families.

If your loved one was married to a wartime veteran at the time of the veteran's death and hasn't remarried after the veteran's death, they may be eligible for the Survivors Pension. It is important to note that in order to qualify the deceased veteran, they must not have received a dishonorable discharge, and they must have served for at least 90 days, including at least one day during the war. For the Survivors Pension to apply, the surviving spouse must also meet financial qualifications.


Long-term care costs can be covered by two veterans benefits - the VA Aid and Attendance benefit and the VA Housebound benefit. The VA Pension or Survivors Pension is an additional income that can be added to veterans' long-term care benefits. Housebound and Aid and Attendance benefits cannot be received simultaneously.

What is VA Aid and Attendance?

For veterans and surviving spouses receiving senior care at home or in a senior living facility, the VA Aid and Attendance benefit provides supplemental income. You may be eligible for Aid and Attendance if your loved one is unable to live independently and requires assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), like bathing and dressing. It pays a monthly amount that is added to the VA Pension or Survivors Pension to assist with senior care expenses.

In order to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits, veterans and surviving spouses must already receive a VA pension or Survivors Pension, or they can apply simultaneously for pension benefits and Aid and Attendance benefits.

Who is Eligible for Aid and Attendance Benefits?

Your loved one may also be eligible for Aid and Attendance benefits if they meet the following criteria if they are a veteran or surviving spouse of a veteran who qualifies for Survivors Pension:

  • Need a caregiver for assistance with personal care, such as bathing, dressing, or feeding, or

  • Must spend a large portion of the day in bed because of an illness, or

  • Live in a nursing home as a result of physical or mental disability, or

  • Have limited eyesight (5/200 or less in both eyes) or have a visual field of 5 degrees or fewer

What are Household Benefits?

If you qualify for a VA Pension or Survivors Pension, you may also qualify for Housebound benefits if:

  • You are confined to your home because of a permanent disability

  • You only leave your home to attend doctor appointments or to receive medical treatments


Your loved one's VA benefits payment rate will be determined by their household income and a limit set by Congress, known as the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR).

An individual's MAPR, or maximum pension amount, is calculated based on several factors, including:

  • How many dependents they have

  • Whether they’re married to another veteran who qualifies for pension

  • Whether they qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits

When determining their benefit amount, their actual monthly care costs are also taken into account, but knowing the maximum annual benefits may be helpful.

Pension Rates for Veterans
Pension Rates for Veterans.png
Pension Rates for Spouses
How are VA Benefits for Senior Care Paid?

Each month, veterans and their surviving spouses receive their VA benefits directly into their bank accounts. If your loved one doesn't have a bank account but wishes to receive their payment through direct deposit, there are veteran-friendly banks and credit unions that can help them qualify for or set up an account.

The Direct Express Debit Mastercard is the only payment method available to beneficiaries without a bank account or who don't wish to receive payment through direct deposit.


Providing assistance with daily activities by another person may be used to offset care costs under Aid and Attendance. As a result, veterans and widowed spouses can receive financial assistance in senior living facilities for assisted living, memory care, home care, or nursing home care.

A friend or family member can also provide personal care through Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits.

VA Long-Term Care Benefits
Veteran Benefits for Assisted Living

Elderly adults in assisted living facilities often maintain an active lifestyle, but may require assistance with certain activities from time to time. the day, such as bathing or dressing. Assisted living facilities also offer nutritious meals, housekeeping, and social activities in a senior-friendly environment.

Costs of assisted living vary from facility to facility based on location, amenities, apartment size, and level of care required. However, Genworth's Cost of Care Survey shows a median monthly price of $4,000 for assisted living in the U.S.

As long as care at an assisted living facility includes help with daily living activities, your family member or surviving spouse who qualifies for Aid and Attendance benefits may get a monthly supplemental amount to offset the cost of care if they are a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran who qualifies for Aid and Attendance benefits.

Veteran Benefits for Nursing Home Care

A nursing home care facility provides nursing care to seniors with serious illnesses, severe health conditions, or recovering from hospitalization. Elderly adults who need a high level of nursing and medical care, but do not need to stay in a hospital, can receive 24-hour nursing and personal care from nursing homes. In addition to meals, housekeeping, and social activities, nursing homes may offer skilled nursing care, rehabilitation programs, palliative care, and hospice services.

Based on Genworth's Cost of Care Survey, the median monthly cost of nursing home care in the U.S. is about $7,989 for a semi-private room and $9,086 for a private room.

If you are an eligible veteran or the spouse of a deceased veteran, you are eligible for financial assistance through Aid and Attendance programs.

Veteran Benefits for Memory Care

The term memory care, sometimes called Alzheimer's care, describes seniors with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia. A safe environment is designed to reduce confusion and prevent wandering in these residential facilities that cater to the unique needs of seniors with memory loss.

With a focus on improving the quality of life of residents, memory care facilities offer 24-hour specialized dementia care. Occupational therapy, music therapy, and other memory-enhancing therapies are some of the activities and therapies that memory care communities offer, in addition to dementia care that is person-centered. Meals may also be prepared, medications managed, and personal care assistance may be provided.

Based on location, amenities, and the level of care provided, memory care can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 a month. Aid and Attendance may be a valuable benefit to help seniors with memory loss pay for care due to the fact that many need assistance with daily living activities.

Veteran Benefits for Home Care

Seniors who wish to age at home can receive non-medical care from in-home caregivers, who are trained in senior care and offer a range of services tailored to meet individual needs. Home care services include personal care, companionship, cooking, light housekeeping, mobility assistance, and more.

Home care costs vary greatly depending on the type and frequency of care, but the median rate in the U.S. is $23 per hour.

Aid and Attendance recipients receiving home care assistance, such as bathing or dressing, may receive supplemental income to pay for these services.

Veteran Benefits for Independent Living

For older adults who are healthy, active, and able to live on their own, independent living facilities are ideal. For older adults who wish to maintain a social lifestyle and convenience without the responsibilities of home ownership, these communities offer a carefree lifestyle. Aside from prepared meals, housekeeping, complimentary transportation, and social activities, independent living services often include other services.

Typically, independent living facilities don't provide assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing and toileting, which is one of the requirements for Aid & Attendance eligibility. Individuals living in independent living may eventually require home care services for personal care services as their health declines as they age.

It depends on the location, amenities, and size of the accommodation how much independent living costs. The median cost of independent living is $2,552 per month in the U.S. for seniors who live in independent living communities but receive assistance with daily living may qualify for Aid and Attendance's supplemental income. In order to offset the cost of personal care services provided by the community or by a third party, this benefit can be used.

Veteran Benefits to Pay Family Caregivers

A non-licensed in-home caregiver may be eligible for deduction from income if they qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits. In other words, your loved one can deduct expenses related to paying a friend or family member to assist them with at least two activities of daily living if they do not have a spouse.

Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits, however, cannot be used to pay for care for a spouse. In order to qualify for veterans benefits, a spouse's income is included in the household income, and care provided by a spouse is not considered a deductible expense.


First, determine whether your loved one is eligible for VA long-term care benefits. Next, you'll need to gather some information and documents, including:

  • The veteran’s social security number or VA file number

  • Military history

  • Financial information for the veteran and dependents

  • Bank account direct deposit information

  • The veteran’s original discharge papers (DD-214). Please note that the VA doesn’t accept copies of discharge papers.

Veterans under the age of 65 will also need:

  • Your work history

  • Your medical information

You will also need a copy of your parents' marriage certificate if your loved one is the surviving spouse of a veteran applying for benefits.

You should submit an Intent to File Claim form (VA 21-0966) as soon as possible, as you gather documents and information to submit your application. In addition to completing this form, you will also have to fill out other forms depending on the benefits you are seeking. The application process may take several months. This form will help establish the date for retroactive payments.

Where Do I Apply for VA Benefits?

It is possible for you to help your loved one apply for veterans benefits through the VA's website. You can help them gather the necessary information and documents and create an account so that they can save their work. Keep photocopies of original documents if you have them.

In addition, veterans can apply for benefits by mail by sending their Application for Pension form to the VA's Pension Management Center or in person at a VA facility.

How Can I Get Help Applying for VA Benefits?

Getting veterans benefits can be time-consuming. Families who need assistance applying for VA benefits have options:

  • Veteran Service Officers, or VSOs, at a VA regional office may be able to offer free, basic guidance on the application process, and answer simple questions about available benefits. VSOs often volunteer across the country at American Legion halls and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) lodges.

  • Accredited VA consultants can help families assess eligibility for VA long-term care benefits and help with financial planning as you prepare your loved one’s application. Accredited VA consultants offer paid assistance to families whose benefit application has been denied. These consultants may be able to help determine why an application wasn’t successful and help make any changes before it’s resubmitted to increase the chances of approval. However, it’s important to know that regulations prohibit consultants from charging families for help with an initial claim that hasn’t been denied.

Elder law attorneys can help families with financial planning and the VA benefits application process. When you’re seeking advice, it’s important to look for a reputable attorney who has experience with VA benefits.

Application Forms for Veterans

This information is provided solely for informational purposes. Your Care Agency doesn’t provide legal advice for benefits applications. For professional legal advice, please consult with a VA-accredited claims representative.

Application Forms for Surviving Spouses of Veterans


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