Qualified veterans can take advantage of several different programs if they need to stay in a nursing home, elder care center, or require other forms of long-term care. Many veterans aren’t aware that the Veterans Administration provides nursing home care benefits, while many others have difficulty trying to find helpful information about applying. Let’s take a look at what kinds of nursing home care benefits are offered to veterans through the VA.
Nursing Home Programs
The Veterans Administration provides veterans with extended care in nursing homes through three separate national programs: the VA Community Living Centers (CLC) program, the contract community nursing home program, and the state veteran’s homes program.
- Community Living Centers (CLC). When veterans need rehabilitation or short-term care, community living centers are a good option. The centers not only provide rehabilitative, short-term care to veterans, but also provide care to those who have a chronic but stable condition, such as dementia, as well as those who are nearing the end of life and require comfort or hospice services. Community living centers provide care for up to 100 days, with the goal of either allowing the veteran comfort in his or her final days or restoring the veteran to his or her maximum abilities as a way to prevent additional health declines. In some situations, long-term stays are available to veterans with service related disabilities who require extended care or treatment.
- Contract Community Nursing Homes. When the veteran requires more than 100 days in a nursing home or long-term care facility, the contract community nursing homes are a good option. These facilities are private nursing homes that have a contract with the VA to provide benefits to veterans. Like other nursing homes, they provide day-to-day care, including food, personal assistance, and medical assistance.
- State Veterans Homes. Individual states also run veterans homes that provide different services. Some veterans homes function as full-service nursing homes, while others provide non-disabled elderly veterans a place to live, or provide adult day care services.
In order to qualify for VA nursing home benefits, you have to be able to meet certain criteria. These include:
- Be a veteran with a service-connected disability rating of 70% or higher, or
- Be a veteran with a service-connected disability rating of 60% or higher and be either unemployable or have a “permanent and totally disabled” rating, or
- Be a veteran with a combined disability rating of 70% or higher, or
- Be a veteran who has a service-connected disability that requires long-term or nursing home care, or
- Be a veteran who has a service-connected disability and who has a qualifying income and asset level.
Also, veterans seeking nursing home care have to have a medical assessment in which the provider states that inpatient nursing home care is required. Any medical problems present must be “medically stable,” meaning they are the types of problems that do not require immediate treatment in a hospital or similar medical facility.
Further, individual care facilities also establish their own residency requirements. Veterans must be able to meet these if they want to apply to a particular facility.
Aid and Attendance
In addition to the nursing home programs that are available, veterans might also be eligible for the Aid and Attendance and Housebound Improve Pension program. One of the most underused and least well-known benefits programs available to veterans, the Aid and Attendance program provides money to veterans who require assistance in their day-to-day lives.
Like other VA programs, veterans have to meet specific eligibility criteria before they can expect to receive any Aid and Attendance benefit. To apply, a veteran must have served at least 90 days in the service, one day of which must have been during wartime. The Aid and Attendance benefit does not require the veteran to have a disability that arose during, or is related to, the time the veteran spent in the armed forces, though it does require that the veteran be “totally disabled.” However, any veteran age 65 and older is automatically considered totally disabled for the purposes of the Aid and Attendance benefit.
Veterans must also have no more than about $80,000 in assets and must have an income less than the maximum annual pension rate, excluding welfare and supplemental security income. Qualified veterans and their surviving spouses are eligible even if they reside in a nursing home environment.
For veterans who don’t require long-term care in a nursing home, there are other options available. Assisted living centers, medical foster homes, and adult family homes benefits are also available.
In an adult family home, for example, veterans can live in a private home as a renter. These facilities offer shared common areas and have a caregiver available at all hours. The VA provides assistance to pay for extra services, such as nursing care, but the veteran is responsible for paying his or her own rent.
Also, medical foster homes give veterans with significant disabilities a place to live other than a nursing home. Medical foster homes provide the same types of care veterans might find in a nursing home environment, but in a smaller, less institutional setting. The VA provides some benefits for those living in medical foster homes.
Navigating the complicated process of applying for veteran’s benefits can be difficult. Not only that, but programs such as the Aid and Attendance pension benefit are widely underused. Even VA employees can often be unaware of the requirements you have to meet when applying for certain benefits.
The process of determining what benefits apply to your situation and what choices you have when choosing a nursing home can be difficult. An elder law attorney who specializes in assisting veterans in securing their benefits will be able to help you through this process.