The surviving spouses of wartime veterans may not realize it, but they may be eligible for the Veteran’s Aid and Attendance pension benefit by virtue of their husband or wife’s military service.
The monthly Aid and Attendance benefit is available to eligible veterans as well as to their surviving spouses, who may use it for in-home care or to offset the cost of living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. The maximum Aid and Attendance benefit for a veteran is $1,794 per month and $2,127, while the maximum monthly benefit for the surviving spouse is a little less than two-thirds of that amount at $1,153.
If a veteran’s spouse is sick with unreimbursed medical expenses, the veteran may be eligible to apply for a benefit for a sick spouse to receive up to $1,410 per month.
An Underused Benefit
In the past, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has characterized the A&A benefit as underused, largely because many qualifying veterans may not know about its availability. In the case of surviving spouses, they may be aware of the benefit as it applies to veterans but may not be know that they qualify for the benefit after their husband’s or wife’s death.
The surviving spouse, especially when living alone, may have a need for using the benefit to pay for assistance with the activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, eating, or transferring from a bed to a wheelchair. Or perhaps they are bedridden, need help adjusting prosthetic or orthopedic devices, or have physical or mental injury or illness that requires regular assistance to protect them from the hazards or dangers that are present in their environment.
The VA reports that surviving spouses are eligible for the benefit under all such circumstances. They also may be eligible for the benefit in the event that their eyesight is limited to 5/200 or less in both eyes even with the use of corrective lens.
As an alternative to the Aid and Attendance benefit, the surviving spouse may instead receive the VA’s Housebound benefit. This is for eligible individuals in which assistance is provided in the home, but they cannot also receive the A&A benefit at the same time.
The Aid and Attendance benefit applies to surviving spouses who have not remarried under one of the following circumstances:
- their spouse served 90 days or more of active duty with at least one day during a period of war and was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable
- their spouse entered active duty on or after September 8, 1980 (or October 16, 1981, for officers) and completed at least 24 continuous months of military service or the period for which they were ordered to active duty
There are also household income requirements for the benefit. In the case of a surviving spouse, he or she must have countable income of less than $13,836. Social Security payments are subtracted from this figure, as are any unreimbursed medical expenses. However, 5% of the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) is added back in; in the case of a surviving spouse, that is $433 (derived from the annual basic pension). So, if a spouse makes less than $1,150 in non-Social Security payments per month—either achieved outright and through subtraction of unreimbursed medical costs—that person is eligible for the maximum benefit.
For more information about the A&A pension benefit, visit the Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit page at VeteranAid.org.