VA Benefits: Options for a Spouse of a Healthy Veteran

While a spouse of a Veteran may receive VA benefits after the Veteran has passed away, in general, a spouse cannot receive VA pension benefits while the veteran himself or herself is healthy.  While the Veteran is living the claim is technically theirs and based on his or her health.  However, there is a very narrow sort of exception that may be of some help.

If the Veteran is over age 65 he or she is considered “disabled” by definition and might qualify for the base pension amount if the combined income of the husband and wife is below $1380 per month.  With Social Security benefits and a small pension few couples’ combined monthly income is that low.   But here is where the Aid and Attendance application comes into play because the couple’s “income” is computed AFTER all unreimbursed reoccurring medical expenses.

Say a couple has a monthly income of $3500 with private-in-home care costs of $2500 per month. Medicare premiums costs the couple $190 per month and other unreimbursed medical expenses are $310 per month.  The amount left for the Veteran and Spouse to live on is only $500 per month.  If their non-exempt assets are low enough the couple could qualify for VA assistance.  Your home, one car and household goods are generally exempt assets for the purposes of qualifying for VA benefits.  Technically, the assistance would come from the Low Income Pension program and could exceed $12,000 per year in this example.

In order for the Spouse’s assisted living or care expenses to be approved medical expenses, the Spouse must be examined by a doctor.  The doctor must complete Form 21-2680 and turn it in with the Examination for Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance application.  Additionally, supporting documentation on the unreimbursed medical expenses is required.

If you call the VA about potential benefits you will be asked about the amount of your combined household income and if your combined income is above the maximum limit the VA will likely tell you that you are not eligible for any benefits.  However, because of the above referenced deductions you and your spouse may be eligible.  Do not take the VA’s initial statement of ineligibility as gospel.

Lastly, keep in mind that taking steps to qualify for VA benefits does not always work smoothly with attempting to qualify for Medicaid.  It is best to have a qualified attorney to assist you.

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