Aid & Attendance (A&A) is one of the least understood benefits for veterans and Veteran Service Representatives alike.
So we will try to explain it in a way that removes the confusion of this relatively common VA benefit.
Misconception #1: A&A is a stand-alone VA benefit. Truth: It’s not.
In order to receive A&A, you have to already qualify for VA Pension or be drawing VA Disability Compensation for your mesothelioma. Let's start with how A&A works with Pension first.
VA Pension is a benefit for low-income wartime veterans. For most veterans, that means you must have served for at least 90 days, with at least one of those days during a period of war. You don’t need to have served “in theater” or be in a battle. One day in boot camp during a period of war counts.
You must also be either totally disabled (although not necessarily service-related) or over the age of 65. So, even if you don’t believe that your mesothelioma is service related, it still counts as being totally disabled for Pension purposes.
If you qualify for VA Pension, the VA will subtract your income from the appropriate income limit, and pay you the difference in 12 equal installments throughout the year. Now, if that veteran is in need of the regular Aid & Attendance of another person, the income limit is higher.
The income limit for a married vet for Pension purposes is only $16,851. Most veterans eligible for Pension don’t qualify because their income is too high. Now say that that same veteran is in also in need of A&A. Then the income limit for a married veteran is $25,448.
As such, a married veteran making $17,000 per year will get $8,448 per year. But, what he is really receiving is VA Pension under the “higher A&A income limit,” not just A&A. The problem is that veterans who only qualify for VA Pension based on income (if their income is below the A&A limit) are told by their Veteran Service Officer that they are applying for Aid Attendance; hence, the confusion.
We have received many calls from veterans (or their spouses) asking us to help them file for A&A because someone told them that because they need another person to care for themselves, they are eligible.
However, we can’t file for just the A&A benefit, because A&A is simply a higher income limit under the VA Pension rules. We must determine eligibility for VA Pension first.
On the other hand, there are times veterans can file an A&A claim by itself. This occurs when a veteran with mesothelioma qualifies for Pension because of their income, but when first diagnosed, was not in need of the Aid & Attendance of another person. As time went on, their health deteriorated, and they now need the help of another person to perform basic daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, etc.
In that case, the veteran’s doctor must fill out the A&A form and submit that to the VA. If the VA agrees that he meets the A&A criteria, they will start paying him the difference between his income and the higher A&A income limit under the Pension program.
Misconception #2: You can’t get A&A if you are receiving VA Disability Compensation. Truth: Again, not true.
It’s more understandable that veterans miss this fact if they are researching A&A on the VA website, as almost everything you read about A&A is related to how it applies to VA Pension. But the reality is that, if your mesothelioma is service related, and you are in need of A&A, the VA will actually pay you a little more than $700 per month, in addition to the disability pay you are receiving for your mesothelioma.
The reason this is often overlooked is because on the Disability Compensation section of the VA’s website, there is no dedicated A&A section. Instead, it’s rather tucked away in the Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) section which is usually thought of as a benefit only available to veterans who have lost both legs, both hands, both arms, both eyes, etc. But if you look further into the SMC section is says: “For Veterans, Special Monthly Compensation is a higher rate of compensation paid due to special circumstances such as the need of aid and attendance by another person…”
Part of the problem is that the VA manual is written by lawyers, so many VA benefits are very complicated and generally difficult to understand. Compounding the problem is the way in which the VA explains these benefits on their website. This is why if you are going to file any type of VA claim for your mesothelioma, you need the assistance of a VA Accredited Representative like myself.
If you still have questions or want our assistance in filing a VA Claim, give us a call at (877) 450-8973.