The short answer is no. While the Veteran is living the claim is technically his and based on his health. However there is a very narrow sort of exception that can help a lot of families.
If the Veteran is over 65 he is considered “disabled” by definition and he might qualify for the base pension amount if the combined income of the husband and wife is below $1380 per month. With SS benefits and a small pension few couple’s combined monthly incomes are that low. Here’s where the Aid and Attendance application comes into play because the couple’s income is computed AFTER all unreimbursed reoccurring medical expenses. So 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 non-reimbursed medical expenses are $310 per month. What is left over for the Veteran and Spouse to live on is only $500 per month. If their non-exempt assets are low enough the couple will qualify for VA assistance. A home, one car and household goods are exempt assets. Technically the assistance would come from the Low Income Pension program and could be over $12,000 per year in this example. In 2010 the max allowed by the Low Income Pension program was $1291 per month or $15,493 per year for a veteran with a dependent spouse. These amounts change slightly from time to time.
In order for the Spouse’s assisted living or care expenses to be approved medical expenses, the Spouse must be examined by a doctor and Form 21-2680 must be filled out by the doctor and turned in with the Examination for Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance application Form 21-2680 with supporting documentation on the unreimbursed medical expenses.
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 are eligible!
A couple where one spouse is highly likely to enter a nursing home might be better served meeting with an elder law attorney to determine if they can qualify for Medicaid.
Working with a certified VA attorney is a good idea.
Disclaimer: Information contained in this column is meant to be of general information on frequently asked disability, elder law, estate planning and probate law, not specific legal advice to a client. No attorney-client is created by reading this column.