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Your Complete Guide to VA Benefits for Long-Term Care

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VA benefits for long-term care

Senior care can be costly, but for some U.S. military veterans and their surviving spouses, certain veterans benefits may be available to help offset long-term care costs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, offers benefits for those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, including Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits, which provide financial assistance for long-term care.

Sadly, many veterans are completely unaware of the benefits available to them — and that means some veterans are paying more for their care than they should. A Place for Mom has helped guide more than 410,000 veterans in their searches for senior care and housing. Part of this assistance involves making veterans and their families aware of benefits that they have earned, but may not know about. This complete guide to VA benefits for long-term care covers who qualifies for benefits, the types of benefits available to help pay for long-term care, and how to apply for veterans benefits.

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Who qualifies for VA benefits?

Generally, the following military connected individuals may be eligible for VA benefits:

  • Disabled or ill veterans
  • Wartime veterans
  • Veterans with recognized toxic exposures
  • Other veterans
  • Veteran spouses
  • Surviving spouses
  • Surviving children
  • Other veteran dependents

VA long-term care eligibility requirements

VA long-term care benefit programs vary, and each come with specific requirements that must be met for people to qualify. Depending on the specific VA benefit program a senior is applying for, requirements can include considerations of the following:

  • U.S. military service history
  • Number of days on active duty
  • Age of the veteran
  • Wartime service specifics
  • Character of discharge
  • Necessity of a caregiver’s assistance to complete activities of daily living
  • Clinical assessments and diagnoses
  • Financial need or low-income status
  • Mental or physical disabilities
  • Status as a surviving dependent family member
  • Marriage or familial relation to a veteran

In addition, veterans typically can’t have committed an act that constitutes a statutory bar from VA benefits, such as desertion, being a conscientious objector, or going on absence without official leave (AWOL), according to the VA.

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Veterans benefits can cover the cost of long-term care

Many veterans benefits, like the VA Pension, the Aid and Attendance benefit, and the Housebound allowance, can be used to help cover the costs of long-term care. The Aid and Attendance benefit is most generous and can help with monthly costs of living for seniors, including those looking to live a private senior living community.

Veterans benefits can vary greatly from person to person. For example, one person’s VA Pension stipend may be more generous than another’s. What a veteran or dependent is awarded depends on the many requirement details listed in the section above. It’s important to first identify which programs your loved one might qualify for to see what they could potentially receive.

Read on for some VA programs that many senior veterans or their families utilize to improve their overall quality of life.

VA Pension and Survivors Pension

The VA provides supplemental income to veterans and their families through the Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension benefit programs. These tax-free benefits are paid monthly and available to eligible U.S. military veterans or their surviving dependents, respectively. These VA Pensions are based on need and benefit amounts change each year based on that year’s Maximum Annual Pension Rates (or MAPR). What a beneficiary receives depends on their eligibility as well as their countable income. View the latest Veterans Pension rates and Survivors Pensions rates online, and learn how monthly stipends are calculated.

It’s important to note that the Veterans Pension is separate from a U.S. military pension. However, money from a military pension can also be used to pay for costs related to long-term care.

If your loved one qualifies for a VA Pension, they may also be eligible for add-on VA benefits that can help pay for senior care, such as the Aid and Attendance benefit or Housebound allowance.

Aid and Attendance

The VA Aid and Attendance benefit provides supplemental income for eligible veterans and surviving spouses who already receive the VA Pension and require senior care either at home or at a senior living facility. If your loved one is unable to live independently, is blind, or needs help with some of their activities of daily living (ADLs), they may qualify for the Aid and Attendance. Aid and Attendance pays a monthly amount that’s added to the VA Pension or Survivors Pension and can help pay for senior care and costs of living.

Housebound allowance

The VA Housebound allowance is for veterans and eligible dependents who spend most of their time at home because of a permanent disability. People who qualify for the Housebound allowance are confined to their home or need the assistance when leaving their home for medical appointments or medically necessary treatments.

VA disability compensation

Veterans who became sick or injured during their service, or who had a medical condition that worsened due to their service, may be able to receive specialized support through VA disability compensation. Unlike many other VA benefits, this benefit is not based upon financial need.

Veterans may spend this funding at their discretion, which means it can be used for senior living expenses if a veteran so chooses. See the latest VA disability compensation payment amounts online.

VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

Surviving dependents or parents of deceased veterans, who passed away from a service-connected medical condition or who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, may be able to receive support through the VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefit, also known as DIC. Not all survivors may qualify for the DIC benefit, but those that do may receive monthly tax-free payments.

These payments can be spent at the discretion of the survivor, including paying for long-term care expenses. View the latest VA DIC rates online to see what survivors may qualify for.

VA Health Care

Eligible veterans enrolled in VA Health Care may receive long-term care services through the VA. Some covered long-term care services under VA Health Care may include the following:

  • Physical therapy
  • 24/7 nursing and medical care
  • Palliative care
  • Hospice care
  • Respite care
  • In-home primary care
  • Community care
  • Assistance with activities of daily living, such as dressing or bathing
  • Pain management

VA health benefits may be received in a variety of settings, which may be run by the VA or community providers. Depending on the availability of services in your loved one’s area, community care settings may include:

  • A veteran’s residence
  • Assisted living communities
  • Adult day health centers
  • Nursing homes

VA Community Living Centers (VA Nursing Homes)

The VA operates more than 100 VA Community Living Centers nationwide. These are nursing homes that can provide eligible veterans with 24-hour skilled nursing care, mental health resources, specialized dementia care, and more, depending on the community.

While this nursing home care isn’t necessarily free, qualified veterans may find these communities to be a more affordable option. Copays may be charged to some veterans. A veteran’s service-connected disability status and financial need may be considered when it comes to fees at these VA Community Living Centers.

Veteran dependents and surviving family members typically can’t access home health care services through VA Community Living Centers. However, seniors may be able to use other VA benefits to pay for long-term home health care in the setting of their choice, like at home or in a private assisted living, independent living, or memory care community.

VA State Home Per Diem Program

Eligible veterans may be able to reside in a State Veterans Home, a state-operated senior living community designed for military-connected individuals. Veterans who choose to reside in these communities may be able to receive support for their care through the VA State Home Per Diem Program.

While individual situations may vary, the VA generally pays a per diem rate for qualified veterans to reside in State Veterans Homes. However, other fees or expenses may still exist.

Some State Veterans Homes may admit non-veteran spouses or Gold Star parents, which are parents of a fallen service member. However, the VA State Home Per Diem Program typically doesn’t pay for the long-term care of non-veterans at these communities.

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VA benefit payment amounts

It’s exceptionally challenging to calculate an exact amount that a veteran, veteran dependent, or family member may receive from the VA for long-term care. Award amounts may vary based on where the veteran, survivor, or dependent lands with the following:

  • Disability rating
  • Unique health needs
  • Assistance required for activities of daily living
  • Number of dependents
  • If the veteran is married to another veteran, also known as a dual-veteran couple or dual-military couple
  • The specific programs and benefits the veteran participates in

However, we can look at general rates for the following programs. Keep in mind that a variety of factors determine the actual payment your loved one may receive. As mentioned previously, MAPR refers to the Maximum Annual Pension Rate allowed for a specific year.

Pension rates for veterans

For each additional dependent, add an annual benefit of $2,743 with a monthly rate of $228 to your loved one’s MAPR amount.

Pension rates for spouses

For each additional dependent, add an annual benefit of $2,743 with a monthly rate of $228 to your love one’s MAPR amount.

VA disability compensation rates

Disability ratingMonthly payment, veteran alone

VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) rate

The DIC program follows a complex set to determine overall payment amount. Payments vary based on individual circumstance. For example, if you’re a surviving spouse of a veteran who dies on or after January 1, 1993, you could be eligible $1,612.75 per month. There may be additional amounts added on if a surviving spouse has a disability or children under the age of 18.

How are VA benefits for senior care paid?

VA benefits are deposited directly to the bank account of the veteran or surviving spouse each month. If your loved one doesn’t have a bank account but wishes to receive their payment through direct deposit, there are veteran-friendly banks and credit unions that can help them qualify for an account or get one set up.

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VA long-term care benefits: Coverage by type

While the VA benefits and programs vary, eligible veterans, dependents, and surviving family members may receive support to help with long-term care expenses related to the following:

For more personalized support, advice, and explanation of senior care options, reach out to A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors.

Veterans benefits for assisted living

Assisted living facilities provide long-term housing and care for seniors. Older adults in assisted living are generally active but may need help with certain activities, such as bathing or dressing, throughout the day. Assisted living facilities also offer nutritious meals, housekeeping, and social activities in a senior-friendly environment.

Assisted living costs vary based on the facility location, amenities, size of apartment, and level of care needed. However, the median monthly cost of assisted living in the U.S. is about $4,807, according to A Place for Mom’s 2023 Cost of Long-Term Care and Senior Living Report.

If your family member qualifies for the Aid and Attendance benefits, they may receive a supplemental monthly amount to offset the cost of care at an assisted living facility, as long as care at the facility includes help with activities of daily living.

Veterans benefits for memory care

Memory care, sometimes called Alzheimer’s care, is for seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. These residential facilities cater to the unique needs of seniors with memory loss. The Aid and Attendance may be an important benefit to help those eligible pay for care in one of these communities.

Memory care facilities are distinct form of assisted living and provide a safe environment for those suffering with memory loss. On-site services include prepared meals, medication management, personal care, occupational therapy, music therapy, and other memory-enhancing activities and therapies.

Here are a few more features of memory care communities:

The median cost of memory care is $5,995 per month, according to A Place for Mom’s proprietary data from its brand partners. However, this may vary based on facility location, amenities, and the level of care provided.

Veterans benefits for nursing home care

Nursing home care is for seniors who are seriously ill or have a severe health condition, or for those recovering from an illness or injury after a hospital stay. Veteran residents of a nursing home facility may qualify for the Aid and Attendance financial assistance.

Nursing homes provide 24-hour nursing and personal care for elderly adults who need a high level of nursing and medical care but don’t need to be in a hospital. In addition to meals, housekeeping, and social activities, nursing home care can include the following:

  • Skilled nursing care
  • 24/7 medical oversight
  • Medical equipment and supplies
  • Personal care
  • Medication management
  • Rehabilitation programs and therapies
  • Palliative and hospice care

Nursing home costs vary based on location and level of care provided. However, the median monthly cost of nursing home care in the U.S. is about $7,908 for a semi-private room and $9,034 for a private room, according to Genworth’s 2021 Cost of Care Survey. A more recent survey has yet to be released by Genworth, but it’s likely that prices will continue to raise with increasing inflation and demand in the U.S.

You may wonder if veterans, veteran spouses, and surviving spouses get free nursing home care through the VA. Unfortunately, veterans benefits usually don’t provide free nursing home care. However, Community Living Centers and State Veterans Home can be affordable options for veterans and other eligible military-connected people.

Veterans benefits for home care

Home care provides nonmedical care for seniors who wish to age at home. In-home caregivers are trained in senior care and provide a wide range of services that cater to individual needs. Home care services may include personal care, companionship, cooking, light housekeeping, mobility assistance, and more. Senior veterans or dependents may be eligible for Aid and Attendance supplemental income, if they receive home care help with activities of daily living, such as bathing or dressing.

The cost of home care varies greatly, because it’s based on the type of care needed and how often it’s provided. However, in-home care is typically $30 per hour, according to A Place for Mom’s proprietary data from its brand partners.

Veterans benefits for independent living

Independent living facilities are for older adults who are generally healthy, active, and able to live on their own. These communities offer a carefree lifestyle for older adults who want convenience and a social lifestyle, free of the responsibilities of home ownership. Independent living services often include prepared meals, housekeeping, complimentary transportation, and social activities.

Typically, independent living facilities don’t provide assistance with activities of daily living, which is one of the requirements for Aid and Attendance eligibility. However, as seniors age, their health may decline and their care needs may change. Some independent living residents may eventually use home care services for help with personal care, and they may qualify for the Aid and Attendance at some point to help offset their monthly costs of living and care.

Like with other senior care types, independent living costs vary based on location, amenities, and accommodations. The monthly median cost of rent at an independent living facility in the U.S. is $3,000, according to A Place for Mom’s proprietary data from its brand partners.

Veterans benefits to pay family caregivers

Veterans or dependents who qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits may be able to deduct the fees paid to a non-licensed in-home caregiver from their income. This means your loved one may deduct expenses related to paying a friend or family member other than their spouse to help with at least two activities of daily living.

However, it isn’t possible to use Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits to pay a spouse for care. This is because when an eligible veteran applies for veterans benefits, a spouse’s income is included in the household income, so care provided by a spouse isn’t considered a deductible expense.

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Gather documentation to apply for VA benefits

You or your loved one may need to gather some information and documents, including:

  • The veteran’s Social Security number or VA file number
  • Military history information
  • Financial information for the veteran, veteran dependents, or surviving family members
  • Bank account direct deposit information
  • The veteran’s original discharge papers (DD214)
  • Marriage certificate, typically for surviving spouses only

People under the age of 65 may also need:

  • Work history information
  • Medical information

Contact the VA to begin an application

Your loved one may need to reach out to the VA directly if they wish to apply for VA benefits and programs. They can reach the VA through the following ways:

Contact support organizations for application assistance

If you want additional assistance applying for VA benefits outside of direct VA support, you may want to consider the following options for benefits counseling and advocacy:

  • Veteran service organizations, or VSOs, offer free, basic guidance on the application process and can answer simple questions about available benefits and the application process. VSO volunteers often offer assistance across the country at American Legion halls and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) lodges.
  • Veterans organizations, such as VFWAmerican Legion, and DAV, may also answer questions about benefits and help you prepare your application free of charge. Some organizations can even provide legal advocacy and help families appeal denied claims.
  • Accredited VA consultants can also help families assess eligibility for VA long-term care benefits and help with financial planning as you prepare your loved one’s application. Accredited VA consultants offer paid assistance to families whose benefit application has been denied. Like other VA benefit counselors, these consultants can help determine why an application was denied and help make any changes to increase the chances of approval upon resubmission. It’s important to know that regulations prohibit consultants from charging families for help with an initial claim that hasn’t been denied.
  • Elder law attorneys can help families with financial planning and the VA benefits application process. When you’re seeking advice, it’s important to look for a reputable attorney who has experience with VA benefits. You can search for an elder law attorney by location through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys directory.

You may also choose to get expert advice from Patriot Angels (1-833-879-6017), A Place for Mom’s trusted, VA-accredited partner.

Note: A Place for Mom may be compensated if you choose to use Patriot Angels’ services. We clearly disclose financial relationships around featured products or services.

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VA application and approval process length

The application process for veterans benefits can be slow. You or your loved one will probably need to fill out several forms, and it may take some time to gather all the information and documents your loved one needs to complete their application.

The approval process for VA benefits may also take several months. Make sure to be thorough when completing your application so that it can be processed as quickly as possible. Eligible veterans and surviving spouses who are age 90 or older may request an expedited review in a cover letter with their application.

Retroactive VA benefits

While the application process may take several months, veterans benefits are paid retroactively once approved. This means the first benefit payment includes a lump sum to cover the months where the application was pending. Speak to a VA representative to learn how to establish a date for retroactive payments.

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VA long-term care benefits with Medicare

If your loved one qualifies for both Medicare and VA benefits, they may enroll in both programs. However, unlike veterans benefits for senior care, Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of home care or expenses related to care at senior living facilities. Medicare only pays for short-term care at approved nursing home facilities for individuals needing rehabilitation after an illness or injury that required hospitalization. In some cases, Medicare may also cover in-home rehabilitation services and therapies.

Short-term care expenses covered by Original Medicare at a Medicare-contracted nursing facility include:

  • 100% of the first 20 days in a skilled nursing facility, after a three-night minimum inpatient hospitalization
  • A portion of days 21-100 in a skilled nursing facility with a coinsurance of up to $200 per day
  • Short-term rehabilitation care after a hospitalization
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VA long-term care benefits with Medicaid may cover the cost of senior care

Both the VA and Medicaid offer long-term care benefits. The VA Aid and Attendance benefit may be used to help pay for home care, assisted living, or nursing home costs. Medicaid typically only covers the cost of long-term care at nursing homes. In some cases, Medicaid may cover home care costs or community-based services for eligible beneficiaries, if they’d require nursing home care without such services. Knowing the type of care your loved one needs, plus eligibility requirements for VA benefits and Medicaid, will help you determine whether to apply for financial assistance for senior care from one program over the other.

If your loved one is a veteran who is eligible for VA benefits for long-term care, they may also be eligible for Medicaid. For example, let’s say your family member qualifies for Aid and Attendance, but the amount their benefit pays isn’t enough to cover long-term care costs. In that case, Medicaid may cover the rest of the cost of nursing home care, if your family member qualifies financially.

However, Medicaid programs vary from state to state. For this reason, it may be a good idea to seek advice from an elder law attorney if you’re planning to apply for both VA benefits and Medicaid.

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VA burial benefits: A final salute

Veterans who receive an honorable or general discharge may be buried in a national cemetery or a state veterans cemetery where the veteran lived at the time of death, as long as a gravesite is available.

There’s no cost to the veteran’s family for the gravesite or a headstone or marker. Spouses and dependents of veterans may also be buried in a national cemetery with the veteran. The VA will pay to have the spouse’s or dependent’s name and date of birth inscribed on the veteran’s headstone.

For veterans buried in a private cemetery, the VA provides a government headstone or marker and a burial flag at no cost to the veteran’s family. However, costs related to the headstone placement are not paid by the VA.

The VA also provides financial assistance to reimburse families of veterans for funeral and burial services. To qualify for these benefits, the deceased veteran must meet certain requirements. The amount reimbursed depends on several factors, including whether the cause of death was service-related.

  • Service-related deaths. The VA will pay up to $2,000 for burial expenses. Some or all of the transportation costs to a VA national cemetery may also be reimbursed, if that’s where the veteran will be buried.
  • Non-service-related deaths. The amounts paid vary based on date of death and whether the veteran dies at a VA hospital. However, burial and funeral expenses, as well as the cost of a burial plot, may be reimbursed.

People who may be qualified for the VA burial benefit

If you’re a family member of a veteran who paid for funeral or burial costs, you may be reimbursed for these costs, as long as the veteran received an honorable or general discharge and at least one of these other requirements are met:

  • The veteran died because of a service-related disability.
  • The veteran was receiving VA pension or other compensation at the time of death, or had started the application process to receive these benefits and was found entitled to them.
  • The veteran died at a VA hospital or while receiving care at another hospital under VA contract.
  • The veteran died while traveling for care, treatment, or examination authorized and paid by the VA.
  • The veteran died at a VA-approved state nursing home on or after October 9, 1996.

Apply for VA burial benefits

You will need to gather a few documents to apply for VA burial and funeral allowance benefits, including:

  • A death certificate
  • The veteran’s discharge documents
  • Receipts for payments you’ve made related to the funeral or burial services and burial plot

Next, you can submit your application for VA burial on the VA website. You can also mail your application to the Pension Management Center that serves your state, work with an accredited VA representative to start the application process, or go to a local regional benefit office to turn in your application form in person.

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Veterans Benefits Guide

VA benefits for long-term care, such as Aid and Attendance benefits, can help eligible veterans and their surviving spouses pay for senior care.

Top states for Assisted Living

Alabama (AL)
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