Aid & Attendance benefits have been available to veterans and their spouses for decades, yet many are not even aware that these benefits are there to help pay for assisted living, nursing home, and home health care costs.

These benefits can help cover a large percentage of the cost of care that is typical today.

If you have never considered applying for these veterans benefits, here are three reasons to think about applying as soon as possible.

1.  The process can take up to 3 to 6 months

It may surprise you, but this is a great improvement on the part of the Veteran's Administration. This process used to take anywhere from 9 months to a year. However, thanks to advances at the VA, the process has shortened somewhat.

The “wait time” is the amount of time from the submission of the application to the date the VA makes their decision.

In our experience, while we have seen some cases approved in as little as a month, the average wait time is roughly three to six months.

If the veteran or surviving spouse applying is over 90 years old, the case is usually expedited.

Additionally, the adult children (if they have been listed as an authorized third party), can call and check status of the claim at least 60 days after the paperwork is submitted to speed things along.

VA benefits are paid retroactively to the first day of the following month the claim is submitted.

Despite these facts, the wait time is still the hardest part of filing a VA claim.  The time to get started is now.

2.  Without the VA benefit, your savings will quickly run out

Cost of Care Continues to Rise

I often quote statistics from Genworth's Cost of Care report.1 They have an excellent interactive map showing the cost of care in different situations (home health, adult foster care, assisted living, etc.) across the nation.

The prices associated with elder care are astronomical. These facts are even more disturbing when you consider the average amount of savings that the typical senior has.

A New York Times article sited the fact that the average amount a “senior” has in their savings account is around $30,000.2

To put this in perspective, consider for example a senior (65+) who requires care. His income is only $1,200 a month from Social Security. The cost of care at his assisted living is $3,250 a month. This means that he has to withdraw from his savings $2,050 a month in order to make ends meet.

At this rate of spending, he will be out of money in about 14 months. (Compare this with the fact that the average assisted living stay is around 22 months.) This creates a great financial strain on family members as well.

Social Security in Not Enough

Social Security does not provide enough money for seniors to pay for care. Most of these individuals rely on Social Security as their only means of income.

The facts are startling: 75% of retirees over 65 rely on Social Security for nearly all or all of their expenses. This is coupled with the fact that in 2013 the average monthly benefit was $1,294 a month.3 When you factor inflation into this as well, the picture becomes pretty dismal.

Qualified veterans and their spouses can receive the Aid & Attendance pension in addition to their existing Social Security and pension benefits. This means that, depending on the situation, a veteran and spouse can receive around $2,000 to supplement their existing monthly income.

3.  The Veteran's Administration is Considering Changing Qualification Rules

Within the VA law, there are provisions that allow for the use of legal planning strategies that immediately qualify you for benefits if you have significant assets.

This new law, if implemented, would create a three-year lookback period, meaning, that if you protect your assets with legal planning methods, you will then have to wait three years before you can actually apply for benefits. As we just demonstrated, the average senior could not hope to financially survive a 36-month period on their own.

This new law also would create longer wait times, as well as disqualify veterans who are currently eligible for the benefit.

It is uncertain whether or not this law will be implemented or not. However, it would be better to start the process now while these proposed changes are not in effect then to wait and find you cannot apply because of these new laws.

Alright; I'm Convinced: How Do I Apply?

Veteran Support Center provides a simple and cost-free application process that helps you understand the qualifications and takes the majority of the burden of completing paperwork off you and your family.

All you need to do is call is call the Michigan Chapter of Veteran Support Center and complete a brief questionnaire over the phone. 

To provide the best experience, be prepared to answer income and asset questions as well as have military documents and service dates ready.

Our servicemen and women went through some very hard times in the service. It is a shame to see them suffering in their retirement.

But the good news is that they do not have to suffer anymore. They can be honored. And they can satisfied knowing that they are not a financial burden on their family.

Notes:

1https://www.genworth.com/corporate/about-genworth/industry-expertise/cost-of-care.html

2http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/opinion/sunday/our-ridiculous-approach-to-retirement.html?_r=0

3http://www.ssa.gov/news/press/basicfact.html

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