Applying early is the key to long-term care benefits for veterans

Veterans in Johns Creek, Georgia, and elsewhere around the Peach State should be aware of a relatively unknown veteran benefit. It is called the Veterans Aid & Attendance pension benefit and applies to a pension-eligible veteran, his or her spouse or both.

This 'add-on" to a veteran's pension can be used if the veteran or spouse lives in an assisted living environment or a nursing home or is confined to home. It will contribute to the cost of someone providing personal care services or assisted living or nursing home care.

The program is generally broken into two sections: aid and attendance and housebound benefits. The pensioner or spouse can receive benefits for either one but not both. A&A benefits are essential for those in nursing care, assisted living or the like. Housebound benefits are for those individuals who are confined to their homes due to disability.

The benefits can be substantial. Monthly payments can range from $1,100 for a surviving spouse and over to $2,100 for a couple. Applications can be submitted at the Pension Management Center in the state where the veteran or spouse resides. Applicants are encouraged to apply early as the approval process can take up to a year or longer. The VA will normally require medical evidence of the necessity for the personal care costs through medical records or a statement from the treating physician.

In the field of estate planning, one of the keys to a successful plan is to seek sources of benefits to the elderly whether they're publicly or privately funded. A program such as the VA Aid & Attendance pension benefit helps defray the costs of personal care for those who are eligible and reduces the amount of asset depletion many people face as they become older.

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