The Aid and Attendance (A&A) Pension provides benefits for veterans and surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing and undressing or taking care of the needs of nature. It also includes individuals who are blind or a patient in a nursing home because of mental or physical incapacity. Assisted care in an assisting living facility also qualifies.
To qualify for A&A it needs to be established by your physician that you require daily assistance by others to dress, undress, bathing, cooking, eating, taking on or off of prosthetics, leave home etc. You DO NOT have to require assistance with all of these. There simply needs to be adequate medical evidence that you cannot function completely on your own.
The A&A Pension can provide up to $1,758 per month to a veteran, $1,130 per month to a surviving spouse, or $2,085 per month to a couple*.
A Veteran filing with a Sick Spouse is eligible for up to $1,380 per month*. Many families overlook the A&A Pension as it pertains to veterans who are still independent, but have an ill spouse. Keep in mind that in this situation, if the spouse's medical expenses completely deplete their combined monthly income, the Veteran can file as a Veteran with a sick spouse.
Eligibility must be proven by filing the proper Veterans Application for Pension or Compensation. Form 21-534EZ for surviving spouse (Instructions Included). Form 21-527EZ Veteran (Instructions Included). This application will require a copy of DD-214 (see below for more information) or separation papers, Medical Evaluation from a physician, current medical issues, net worth limitations, and net income, along with out-of-pocket Medical Expenses.
A DD-214 is issued to military members upon separation from active service. DD-214s were issued to separated service members beginning in the 1950's. The term "DD-214" is often used generically to mean "separation papers" or "discharge papers", no matter what form number was used to document active duty military service. If the VA has a copy of a DD-214, it is usually because the veteran attached a copy (or sometimes, the original) to his or her application for disability or education benefits. If you've lost your original DD-214 or a copy and you are receiving (or applied for in the past) disability or education benefits from the VA, they may have a copy (or the original, if you gave it to them) on file. At the very least, if you are currently receiving benefits (or did in the past), they should be able to provide a Statement of Service, which can be used instead of a "DD-214".
Before January 1, 1950, several similar forms were used by the military services upon discharge, including the WD AGO 53, WD AGO 55, WD AGO 53-55, NAVPERS 553, NAVMC 78PD, and the NAVCG 553 as discharge papers. All of these are acceptable to the VA for making application.
To request a copy of a DD-214 visit www.vetrec.archives.gov.
This is a difficult question to answer. Much depends on the VA regional office for your area. On average, 6 to 9 months seems to be the normal approval time at the moment. Some approvals come through in as little as 6 weeks, but these are the exception. We know of people still waiting for an approval 12 months from the date of filing.
Keep in mind that if the benefit is approved, it is applied retroactively to the date of application. Also, if the applicant is over 90 years old, include a letter requesting that the application be expedited. The VA is supposed to give priority to any application for benefits by a veteran 90 or older.
Currently, there is no "look back" period, as with other government programs, such as Medicaid. The VA looks at the value of assets on hand at the time of Aid & Attendance application.
If you are currently receiving disability compensation from the VA, you cannot receive both the compensation and pension. What you can do is to file for the Improved Pension based on non-service connected health issues. If the application is approved, the VA will pay whichever benefit has the highest dollar amount. If you are receiving compensation for a service-connected injury, that compensation would not be counted as income. However, you should include VA Form 21-4138 Support of Claim (click here for the form) that specifies that you receive compensation, but you want the VA to pick which benefit will pay the most.
If you are receiving compensation you need to make certain that you are receiving the maximum possible dollar amount for your condition BEFORE filing for the Improved Pension.
Note--health issues can be a secondary condition related to your service-connected disability. You should speak with a qualified Veterans Service Officer before filing for Improved Pension.
If you are service-connected, you might also be eligible for SMC (Special Monthly Compensation) SMC is a rate paid in addition to or in place of 0% to 100% combined degree compensation.
To qualify for SMC a veteran must be disabled beyond a combined degree percentage or due to special circumstances. You would need to speak with a Veteran's Service Officer to assist you in determining if you are eligible.
Be sure to include VA form 21-0845 (Authorization to Disclose Personal Information to a Third Party) if you are filing for your loved one and need to oversee the application process. Without this authorization, the VA will not discuss the application with you.
Never send originals and ALWAYS send all correspondence "Registered Return Receipt" as well as keeping a complete copy of everything for your own records. If you are in the process of completing an A&A claim, the VA states "It is not necessary to request a duplicate copy of a veteran's discharge or separation papers solely for the purpose of filing a claim for VA Benefits. If complete information about the veteran's service is furnished on the application, the VA will obtain verification of service." In spite of what the VA says, we recommend including a copy to avoid any imposed delay.
You can submit a one-page VA Form 21-4138 (Statement in Support of Claim) which will get the claim into the system. You can get a copy of the form at: www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-4138-ARE.pdf
You should include the following statement on Form 21-4138 in the space allotted:
Please accept this correspondence as my informal claim for non service-connected pension with 'Aid & Attendance' benefit ("for a surviving spouse" or "for a veteran"--list only one), as provided by the following regulation:
(a) Any communication or action, indicating an intent to apply for one or more benefits under the laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, from a claimant, his or her duly authorized representative, a Member of Congress, or some person acting as next friend of a claimant who is not sui juris may be considered an informal claim. Such informal claim must identify the benefit sought. Upon receipt of the informal claim, if a formal claim has not been filed, an application form will be forwarded to the claimant for execution. If received within 1 year from the date it was sent to the claimant, it will be considered filed as of the date of receipt of the informal claim.
(b) A communication received from a service organization, an attorney, or agent may not be acceptable as an informal claim if a power of attorney was not executive at the time the communication was written.
(c) When a claim has been filed which meets the requirements of 3.151 or 3.152, an informal request for increase or reopening will be accepted as a claim.
Make certain the veteran or surviving spouse signs the claim. You will not have a file number assigned yet so leave the box in the upper right hand corner "VA File Number" blank.
Once the form has been submitted, you will have one year to file the formal package with all supporting documents.
Be aware that the VA will respond to this informal claim by sending you a notice that your claim is incomplete along with a formal claim to be completed. If you already have a Form 21-526 or 21-534, you can ignore this letter, but make certain to keep it with all your copies of any VA correspondence.
For more information about the Veterans Aid & Attendance Pension please visit the links below: