How to Apply for VA BenefitsHow to Apply for VA Benefits

The VA Aid & Attendance pension benefit can help qualified senior veterans and their spouses pay for long-term care they need at home, in assisted living, or in a nursing home. You have to submit a detailed application to the VA to be considered for Aid & Attendance, but the process can save you and your family thousands of dollars a year in out of pocket expenses. Here’s how to apply for VA benefits that can help you, your parent, or your spouse cover the cost of care.

Before you apply for VA benefits

First, find out if you’re eligible. Aid & Attendance is available to veterans who have qualifying military service, health needs, and financial assets. You must meet all three requirements to be eligible.

Military service requirements

Aid & Attendance is open to veterans who served at least 90 active-duty days, including at least one day that started or ended during a period of war. You didn’t have to serve in a combat zone to qualify, just during the times specified. Remember that the VA defines wartime more broadly than the history books, which means you may be eligible even if you served before or after the main part of a conflict. For example, Vietnam-era veterans who served from February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975 may qualify.

Health requirements

Aid & Attendance is available to veterans with qualifying service records who:

  • need help with one or more activities of daily living (bathing, eating, dressing, etc.) or
  • are nursing-home residents or
  • are bedridden or
  • have severe vision impairment

Financial requirements

Veterans with qualifying military service and health needs must also have less than $80,000 in assets, not counting their home and car.

Documents you’ll need to apply for VA benefits

If you meet all these requirements, you’re ready to apply. You’ll need:

Proof of service

a copy of your DD-214 discharge/separation papers

Financial documents

Your most recent Social Security Award Letter

Documentation of all your sources of income, such as investment and annuity income

A net worth statement and documentation of your assets, including bank and investment accounts and insurance policies

A voided check and routing information for the bank account you want to receive direct deposit of your benefits

Proof of out-of-pocket medical expenses such as insurance premiums, copays, deductibles, and other non-reimbursed expenses you’ve paid

Medical documents

A list of all the hospitals and doctors you or your family member have visited in the past year

A written statement from your doctor describing your current diagnosis and health status, prognosis, and help you need with care or daily activities. The statement must include your name and address. Nursing home residents should include a Nursing Home Status Statement with their application.

Other documents

For married or widowed veterans and spouses: a copy of your marriage certificate and (if applicable) your spouse’s death certificate

For court-appointed guardians: a copy of the court order of your guardianship for the veteran or surviving spouse

Submit your VA benefits application

Keep copies of every document you’re sending and include either VA Form 21-527EZ, for veterans, or VA Form 21-534EZ, for spouses. Fill out the form completely. Contact the VA at 1-877-222-VETS if you have questions about the form or any of the requirements. Our sister site, VeteranAid.org, recommends you send your application via USPS Certified Mail and request a return receipt to confirm that the VA receives your application.

It can take up to a year for the VA to process A&A benefit applications. If you need care in the meantime, look for a nursing home or assisted living community that’s experienced in working with veterans who receive A&A. They may be willing to defer or reduce payment until your application is approved. Once it is, you’ll get a lump-sum payment backdated to the day you applied and a monthly check going forward.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

12 Comments

  1. Bertha Bacus July 26, 2016 Reply

    Would I qualify for benefits as a widow of a Army Vet? My husband Vincent has passed as of December 28, 1988. He was a member of the Armed Forces, serving in Ft. Benning, Georgia, and Mannheim Germany for 2 years. He served from June, 1956 to June, 1958. I am now a 78 year old widow who never remarried. We were married on April, 23, 1960. Your comments will be appreciated. Thank You.

  2. L. Jerry Hansen, Esq July 26, 2016 Reply

    Good article. One typo: Discharge paper is a DD-214, not DD 124. Also, discharge cannot have been under Dishonorable conditions. An Honorable DIscharge or General Discharge under Honorable Conditions will qualify for VA benefits. If Vet received an Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge, the Vet can apply and then the VA will review the circumstances of the OTH to determine whether the Vet is eligible for VA benefits, including health benefits.

  3. Joann Stotko July 30, 2016 Reply

    How do I get a copy of application VA form 21-534EZ for spouses?

    • Amelia Willson August 1, 2016 Reply

      Joann, you can go to the website http://www.VeteranAid.org for copies of all of the paperwork you would need to apply.

  4. Joann Stotko July 30, 2016 Reply

    I am not sure what benefits I might be able to receive. I am wondering if I can get some help applying for assisted living. I am 72 years old. My husband died on 12-24-81.

    I tried calling the 1-800 number and was on hold for over 30 minutes.

    • Amelia Willson February 10, 2017 Reply

      Joann, I would go to http://www.VeteranAid.org and read through the site to understand if you are eligible and how to apply.

  5. Herb Salle January 11, 2017 Reply

    What does a person have to do to get the Aid & Attendance to kick in? I have been told that everything went through and we still haven’t seen any of the compensation as of 01-11-2017. We filed all the necessary forms and information needed to get the help. We filed all the paperwork and information through the Veterans Commission on September 14, 2015. That’s over two years and four months ago. I have been in touch with the Veterans Commission on nine different times and when they called me back, they told me they were almost done with the review and the funds should be on there way.

    I have called or wrote to our Congressman, Senator, Governor and several Veterans Associations, including the American Legion. I joined the American Legion to get them to help, but they also let me down. I will fight this and I will also go to the Television Stations and the President if necessary.

  6. Linda Crosby February 9, 2017 Reply

    We were wondering about getting assistance for my husband’s mother. Is she eligible?

  7. Jerry Grubb February 9, 2017 Reply

    As I understand Eligibility is asset based not including home and car. My 401k is less than $80,000. Is the spouses 401k included also to determine eligibility? Thanks Jerry Grubb

    • Amelia Willson February 10, 2017 Reply

      You are correct, Jerry. It excludes one home and one vehicle. It is based on household income so it would include your spouse’s 401k if he/she is living with you.

      For more information on how to apply and all of the forms you need please go to http://www.VeteranAid.org

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