Aid & Attendance (A&A) is one of the least understood benefits for veterans and Veteran Service Representatives alike. So I want to 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.
It’s not. In order to receive A&A, you have to already qualify for VA Pension or VA Disability Compensation. I’ll 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 a service-related) or over the age of 65. You heard that right…if you are over the age of 65, in the VA’s mind that is equivalent to being totally disabled.
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. You heard that right. If you and your spouse only make $17,000 per year, you make too much money to qualify for VA Pension. Therefore, few vets who are eligible actually qualify for Pension. Now say that that same veteran is in need of A&A. Then the income limit for a married veteran is $25,448. Now that 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 most veterans who are eligible for VA Pension, but only qualify based on income because 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.
I have received many calls from veterans (or their spouses) asking me to help them file for A&A because someone told them that because they need the help of another person in order to care for themselves, they are eligible. But when I explain that we first need to determine eligibility for VA Pension, they get a bit irritated with me because they just want to file for A&A. It takes me a while to explain that we can’t file for just the A&A benefit, because A&A is simply a higher income limit under the VA Pension rules.
But, there are times when I assist a veteran in filing an A&A claim all by itself. This occurs when a veteran has already been receiving VA Pension, but under the lower income limit. Now, his condition has worsened and he requires the A&A of another person. In that case, all we need to do is have the veteran’s doctor 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.
Misconception #2: You can’t get A&A if you are receiving VA Disability Compensation.
Again, not true. Although, 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. For example, if you search for A&A on the VA website, it is listed as a benefit in the Pension section of the site. However, in the Disability Compensation section of the site, 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 a bunch of 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, you need the assistance of a VA Accredited Representative like myself.
If you still have questions or want my assistance in filing a VA Claim, give us a call at (877) 404-9992.