Most people who have heard about Aid and Attendance know that it will cover the costs of assisted living and, in some cases, cover nursing home costs as well. But the majority of those receiving long term care in this country are in their homes. Estimates are that approximately 70% to 80% of all long term care is being provided in the home. All of the information available about Aid and Attendance overlooks the fact that this benefit should be used to pay for home care. Maybe if more people knew this fact, more people would be applying for the benefit.
It also comes as a surprise to most people that VA will allow veterans’ households to deduct the annual cost of paying any person such as family members, friends or hired help for care when calculating the Pension benefit. This annual cost is then used to calculate the benefit based on a new "countable income" and allows families earning more than the pension benefit to receive a disability income from VA
This extra income can be a welcome benefit for families struggling to provide eldercare for loved ones at home. Under the right circumstances, this annualized medical expense for the cost of family members, friends or any other person providing care, could create an additional household income of up to $1,176 a month for a single surviving spouse of a veteran, up to $1,830 a month for a single veteran or up to $2,169 a month for a couple.
If the disabled care recipient has been rated "housebound" or in need of "aid and attendance" by VA, all fees paid to an in-home attendant will be allowed as long as the attendant provides some medical or nursing services for the disabled person. The attendant does not have to be a licensed health professional. Services of licensed home care providers can be deducted without any need for a rating but the pension award is a lesser amount.
It is our understanding that a nonlicensed in-home attendant could be just about anyone receiving pay for providing services. This might be members of the family, friends, or someone hired to live in the home. Examples of medical or nursing services would be help with activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, toileting, ambulating, feeding, diapering and so on. Other services might include medication reminders or supervision necessary to provide a protective environment for the care recipient -- in the case of dementia or Alzheimer's.
All reasonable fees paid to the individual for personal care of the disabled person and maintenance of the disabled person's immediate environment may be allowed. This includes such services as cooking and housecleaning. It is not necessary to distinguish between "medical" and "nonmedical" services. Services which are beyond the scope of personal care of the disabled person and maintenance of the disabled person's immediate environment may not be allowed. This might include paying the bills, providing transportation for other family members, cooking and cleaning for other family members, providing entertainment, providing transportation for personal needs other than medical and so on.
For a disabled person who has been rated, a family member may be considered an in-home attendant, but that family member has to be paid for services duly rendered. There is potential for fraud here where a family member may move into the home and ostensibly receive payment as a caregiver but not actually provide the level of care paid for. Documentation for this care must be provided to VA, and it is reasonable for VA to question whether the services being purchased from a family member living in the household are legitimate. Such arrangements should be extensively documented and completely arm's-length.
The care arrangements and payment must be made prior to application and there must be evidence that this care is needed on an ongoing and regular basis. We recommend a formal care contract and weekly invoice billing for services. Money must exchange hands and there must be evidence of this. All of this documentation must be provided as proof to VA when making application for the pension benefit. Costs for these services must be unreimbursed; meaning these costs are not paid by insurance, by contributions from the family or from other sources.
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