How to Plan for Senior Living as a Veteran

Did you know there are special senior living benefits available to some veterans?

Taking advantage of the benefits you may qualify for as a U.S. veteran can help you cover the cost of your health and living expenses in your senior years. These expenses could be for care and support you receive at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a skilled nursing facility (also known as a nursing home.) 

Choosing the best living situation, care, and support to meet your needs can help ensure your good health and happiness in older age. 

Keep in mind that benefits may also be available if you are the spouse of a veteran.

Who qualifies for veterans benefits?

Veterans’ benefits are available to individuals who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and were discharged or released honorably.

This also includes:

  • National Guard members and Reservists who were called to active duty and finished the full period for which they were called.
  • Some groups of civilians who participated in World War I and World War II.

In some cases, benefits can be claimed by the survivor or the dependent of a veteran.

VA health benefits

As a qualified veteran, you have access to health benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This is commonly known as VA health care. VA health care covers your medical benefits and includes essential health coverage.

Not all VA health care packages are the same, so it’s important to learn about what your plan covers, and doesn’t cover. 

It’s possible your VA health package will cover not only essential health benefits, but also:

  • Therapy and rehabilitation services
  • Non-medical services such as caregiver support
  • Assisted living, residential (live-in), or home health care

Requirements to be eligible for VA health care:

You may be eligible to receive VA health care benefits if you are a veteran who served in the active military, naval, or air service, as long as you weren’t discharged dishonorably.

You may qualify for enhanced eligibility status if you have a service-connected disability, you’re a former prisoner of war (POW), you received special recognition for your service, or you meet other conditions.

To learn more about whether or not you qualify for benefits, or enhanced eligibility status, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website here.

Income thresholds:

Depending on your service history or a VA disability rating, you may be eligible for VA health care benefits regardless of your income.

If you’re not eligible based on service history or a disability, the income threshold you need to meet will vary depending on where you live. The income limit also changes from year to year. 

You can learn more and check the current income limit in your area by visiting the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website here.  

VA disability compensation

If you became sick or injured while serving in the military, or if your service made an existing condition worse, you may qualify for VA disability compensation. If you qualify, you can receive monthly, tax-free payments that can help you with the cost of senior living. 

Requirements to be eligible for VA disability compensation:

To be eligible for VA disability compensation, you must have a service-connected condition. That could include a physical or mental condition that developed before, during or after military service. Both of the following must be true to qualify:

  • You have a current illness or injury that affects your mind or body.
  • You served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.

You can find out more about the eligibility requirements and file a claim for VA disability compensation by visiting the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website here.

VA pensions

If you qualify for a VA pension, that can also provide additional money to help with senior living expenses. 

VA pensions are a tax-free monetary benefit paid to wartime veterans who have limited or no income. To qualify, you must be one of the following:

  • 65 years old or older with limited or no income 
  • Totally and permanently disabled 
  • A patient in a skilled nursing facility
  •  and receiving skilled care
  • Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income

There are also service requirements that must be met to be eligible, including your length of service. 

Income thresholds: 

Through Nov. 30, 2023, the net worth limit to be eligible for the Veterans Pension program is $150,538. Net worth includes your income and assets, as well as that of your spouse. You can check for any changes in the income limit by visiting the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website here

To learn more, or find out how to apply for a VA pension, you can visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website here.

VA Aid and Attendance

In addition to the VA pension, the Aid and Attendance benefit can also help offset the cost of senior living, including assisted living and nursing homes.

This is an additional monetary benefit for elderly veterans who are eligible for a VA Pension. 

Additional requirements to be eligible for Aid and Attendance:

To qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit, one of these additional conditions must apply:

  • You require help to perform daily functions such as bathing, eating or dressing.
  • You are bedridden.
  • You are a nursing home patient.
  • You have limited eyesight below a specific threshold.

Choosing assisted living or a nursing home 

Seniors who qualify for Aid and Attendance can benefit from the additional care and support available through assisted living or a nursing home. Which option works best for you will depend on your specific needs. There are important differences between assisted living and nursing homes – including the levels of care available.  

For additional details on the Aid and Assistance program, and to find out how to apply, you can visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs here.

Housebound benefit

The Housebound benefit is a payment in addition to the VA  Pension for those who receive care in their home or in a family member’s home. This benefit is for veterans who are mostly restricted to their home because of a permanent disability. You must be eligible for the VA Pension in order to be eligible for a Housebound allowance. 

It’s important to note that you can’t receive both the Housebound benefit and the Aid and Attendance benefit at the same time.

VA Survivors Pension

If your spouse was a wartime veteran and passed away, you may be eligible to receive a VA Survivors Pension if you meet certain requirements. If you are eligible and approved for the benefit, you receive monthly payments that can help offset your cost of senior living.

Eligibility requirements: 

In order to be eligible, your spouse’s military service must meet certain criteria, and there are conditions for you as the spouse:

  • As the spouse, you must not have remarried after the death of the veteran.
  • Your yearly family income and net worth must not exceed certain limits set by Congress.
  • The veteran’s service must meet specific requirements – including for length of service – and service must have been during specific wartime periods.
  • The veteran must not have been dishonorably discharged.

Income thresholds: 

If you apply for a VA Survivors Pension, you’ll be asked to report all of your income and assets, which is used to calculate your net worth. The net worth limit is currently $150,538, but that may change after Nov. 30, 2023. To find the most up-to-date income thresholds set by Congress, and to learn how much you may qualify to receive, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs here, or you can apply through the VA here.

Paying for senior living as a veteran

Young african nurse helping senior old elderly man grandfather

Trying to determine how to pay for senior living can feel overwhelming. The good news is there are resources available to help you understand your options for paying for senior living as a veteran. There are also people who can help guide you through the process. 

One of the first decisions you will need to make is what level of support you need in senior living. Let’s look at the different levels of care available within senior living communities, and the different benefits available to you as a veteran. 

Independent living

Independent living is a great option for seniors who enjoy living on their own, but would like help with chores, such as cooking and housekeeping. Another benefit of independent living is convenient access to all kinds of activities and social events. Joining a senior living community makes it easy to socialize and make new friends.

If you meet certain requirements as a veteran, or as the spouse of a veteran, you may be eligible for financial benefits that can help cover independent living expenses. An example would be the VA Pension discussed above.

Assisted living

Assisted living offers additional support services for seniors in a homelike atmosphere that encourages socialization. As a veteran, you may be able to get some of your long-term care services, including some assisted living costs, covered if you are enrolled in VA health care.  

If you qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit as a veteran, as discussed above, that can provide additional financial help for the cost of assisted living. You can learn more about assisted living on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website here.

It’s important to note that if you require full-time medical care, you may need the higher level of care provided by a nursing home.

Memory care

Memory care is a senior living option specifically designed for the safety, comfort and care of veterans and other seniors living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

The VA offers health care services and other resources for veterans struggling with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Veterans who choose to make their home at a Sonida Senior Living memory care community have access to Magnolia Trails™, signature programming designed in partnership with leading experts in dementia care.

Respite care

The VA may pay for up to 30 days a year of respite care for a qualified veteran. Respite care can provide a temporary break for a family caregiver by taking over the care needs for the veteran on a short-term or temporary basis. Many Sonida Senior Living communities offer respite care.

Schedule a tour at a community near you

To learn more about Sonida Senior Living communities and the senior living options available in your area, contact us today! You can also search for a community near you, where our friendly staff would be happy to provide you with a tour.

closeup of hands clapping at veterans parade
closeup of hands clapping at veterans parade

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If you’re a senior or caregiver looking for independent living, assisted living or memory care services for you or your loved one, contact us to schedule a tour or request information about a community near you.