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Veterans’ Aid & Attendance Benefit Modified

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Aid & Attendance

Last week, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that a long-anticipated change will become effective. New eligibility rules will limit the availability of the Improved Pension for wartime veterans and their spouses. The benefit, commonly called “Aid & Attendance,” will no longer be as easy to get.

What is Aid & Attendance?

The Improved Pension is almost universally referred to as Aid & Attendance. It is an additional cash payment, up to $2,169 per month, available to some veterans (and the widows or widowers of deceased veterans) if the applicant:

  • requires the assistance of another person to perform typical activities like bathing, eating, getting dressed or similar things.
  • is bedridden as a result of a disability.
  • is living in a nursing home as a result of a physical or mental disability.
  • has extreme, measured vision limitations.

More detail about the qualifications for Aid & Attendance benefits can be found on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ website. Follow the link or search for “aid & attendance” for more detail.

What are the eligibility standards?

There are a number of requirements for veterans to receive Aid & Attendance benefits. These three concepts are key:

  1. The veteran must have served at least one day during a period of wartime. The dates of “wartime periods” can be easily found online. It’s almost easier to list dates that do NOT qualify. For purposes of Aid & Attendance eligibility calculations, we have been at war during these periods since 1941:
    World War II (December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946)
    Korean conflict (June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955)
    Vietnam era (February 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975 for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period; otherwise August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975)
    Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – through a future date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation)
  2. After a wartime veteran’s death, his or her surviving spouse will qualify for consideration for Aid & Attendance benefits.
  3. Before receiving benefits, a veteran (or widow/widower) must have insufficient means to pay for the needed care. That concept was previously somewhat vague; it has now been codified.

What changed, and when?

In 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs proposed changing the financial eligibility requirements for Aid & Attendance benefits. That proposal sat quietly, without action, for three years. Last week, the Department announced that the new rules would become effective on October 18, 2018.

The primary changes affect how to calculate financial eligibility. Several of the changes will make it harder to qualify for Aid & Attendance benefits. One will actually make it easier for some veterans (or widows/widowers) to qualify.

The previous, and vague, standard of asset eligibility was that the veteran (or widow/widower) not have sufficient means to pay for the aid and attendance required. That was often interpreted as having less than about $80,000 in assets, though the number was imprecise and variable.

Under the new rules, the dollar value of resources is fixed. An Aid & Attendance applicant’s available assets plus one years’ income must be less than $123,600. Not counted in that figure: the applicant’s home and personal effects (including vehicles). The one year of income can be reduced by medical expenses. These standards are similar to, but calculated quite differently from, the financial eligibility standards for other public benefits. That $123,600 figure, by the way, will go up automatically with inflation in future years.

The second big change: an applicant who gives away assets may not qualify after the transfer. On the Aid & Attendance application, the applicant will have to disclose any gifts made within the previous three years. If there have been any, the applicant may be disqualified for up to five years.

Is there any good news?

Yes, actually. The October 18, 2018, effective date will give a handful of applicants time to get through the process before the new rules restrict them. More importantly, payments for independent living facilities may now qualify as medical expenses.

The financial eligibility requirement reduces available resources by some medical expenses. Hospital, nursing home, and doctors bills have long qualified. Now add independent living facilities to that list, provided that a doctor, nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist says the placement is required.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

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Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.