VA pension, also commonly referred to as aid and attendance, is a program from the Veterans Administration that provides veterans and their surviving spouses with monthly cash payments to cover the cost of long term care.  These payments can be used to pay for care either in a nursing home, assisted living, or for care at home.  Under some circumstances, where additional care is provided by a loved one or agency, VA pension can also cover the cots of independent living.

While this benefit can be obtained throughout the need for long term care, my office frequently sees families who wait until all other resources are expended before seeking VA pension.  Waiting a decade or more to apply for VA pension while paying for assisted living and only applying for VA pension when expenses increase for memory care can cost over a hundred thousand in lost benefits  it is recommended to consider planning for VA pension at the start of the need for long term care.  This not only saves money but it prevents the need to plan for benefits at a time when the family is experiencing added pressure of advancing health care needs.

Along with establishing a medical need for long term care, applicants for VA pension must satisfy both an income test and an asset test.  The income test requires that the applicant for VA Pension have unreimbursed medical expenses in excess of their monthly income.  The asset test requires   that the applicant have around $20,000 or less in their name, not including their house.  The right estate planning can reduce the assets to qualify the applicant for VA pension.

As there are numerous factors to balance in planning for VA pension, such as preserving the future need for nursing home Medicaid and minimizing tax implications of the transfer, it is advisable to seek the services of an experienced elder law attorney.