Department of Veterans Affairs
Veterans of a certain age and income bracket may qualify for benefits to help defray the cost of moving to an assisted living facility. Assisted living costs can range upwards from $2,500 a month, depending on the level of care needed. This typically includes a room, meals, housekeeping and laundry, plus whatever other amenities offered by the individual assisted living facilities. Is your elderly Veteran eligible? Read the following guidelines and see if he or she can take advantage of this little known benefit.
1. First, the Veteran must have certified copies of his or her discharge papers. If the Veteran has a copy of his or her DD 214, take it to a local Veteran’s office where they will make certified copies at no charge. If there is no copy available, contact the VA to get a copy.
2. Second, the Veteran must have a medical reason for moving into the assisted living facility. The medical reason does not have to be a serious or life-threatening condition. My father is legally blind and has difficulty walking more than a few yards without pain. He cannot live alone because of fear of falling and because of his eyesight. He is otherwise very healthy for an 88 year old man. He qualifies for a full VA benefit of $1,550 a month. The assisted living facility will have a doctor’s report to be completed by the Veteran’s doctor. A copy of this report must be filed along with the application.
3. Third, The Veteran must have assets of less than $80,000. This includes the value of his or her home. Assets like a home or stocks, etc. can be placed in a family trust so they are not counted towards the Veteran’s assets. I recommend you discuss this with a trust lawyer familiar with Veterans benefits. See Resources below for one organization that can answer these kinds of questions.
4. Fourth, the Veteran must actually be a resident of an assisted living facility at the time of application. The application process takes from three to six months and is retroactive to first day of the month the application was originally filed. For this reason, make sure your Veteran has the funds to cover the entire cost of the assisted living facility for at least the first six months. Once the application is processed, the Veteran will receive a lump sum check for the retroactive benefit, then a monthly benefit check from that time on.
5. There are organizations that will assist the Veteran with applying for this benefit. See the Resources section below for a link to one that helped my family. These organizations will typically charge a small fee (under $500) for completing the application, but it is a very confusing process and a very long application.
6. The application, called the Veteran’s Application for Compensation and/or Pension, VA FORM 21-526, Parts A, B, C, and D is 14 pages long. You can find it at the VA Website listed in the Resources below.