Roughly 12.5 million U.S. military veterans are age 65 and older. Many of these elder veterans need medical care and financial assistance, but are unaware of their eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. All U.S. military veterans may be entitled to VA health and financial assistance such as pensions, healthcare, disability compensation, insurance, home loans, education and vocational training. Specific VA health benefits for older veterans include:
- Veterans Aid and Attendance (A&A) – a benefit for veterans and their dependent spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist with everyday activities such as bathing, dressing, feeding, toileting and medication monitoring. Individuals who qualify may receive at-home care or live in an assisted living community or care facility. Those with significantly limited eyesight (both eyes corrected to 5/200 visual acuity or less; or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less) may also qualify. A&A benefits are paid in addition to a monthly military pension.
- Housebound – Individuals with a permanent disability who are restricted to living in their home or immediate premises may qualify for this pension provision. A qualifying veteran or spouse may not receive both Housebound and A&A benefits at the same time.
VA Health Benefits Eligibility
Individuals applying for A&A or Housebound benefits must complete an application and qualify for approved medical and financial services. Who is eligible?
- Any war veteran with 90 days of active military duty with at least one day served during a period of war.
- A veteran who did not leave military service with a dishonorable discharge.
- A veteran who passes an extensive Income and Asset Test in which the VA compares out-of-pocket medical expenses to gross monthly income and assets.
How to Apply for VA Health Benefits
Applicants for A&A and Housebound benefits may write to their state Pension Management Center or file a benefits application by visiting a local regional VA benefits office. A Right at Home representative can also connect veterans to the appropriate people such as a VA-accredited claims agent to complete the application process — at no charge.
Compensation for Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange
The VA understands that some health complications for veterans are the result of exposure to Agent Orange, the chemical herbicide sprayed by the U.S. military to defoliate thick tropical vegetation in Vietnam, Korea and around certain other military operations. For more information on VA disability compensation connected to Agent Orange exposure, visit the VA Agent Orange web page.
VA Benefits for Rural Veterans
The Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Rural Health notes that nearly a quarter of all U.S. military veterans live in rural America and some 2.9 million of these veterans are enrolled with the VA. A reported 57 percent of these rural veterans are age 65 and older. Of all rural veterans, 44 percent have at least one military service-related injury or illness. Lower incomes and lack of proximity to urban VA centers are a challenge among rural veterans, but the Veterans Health Administration does offer healthcare to eligible rural veterans through services such as the Veterans Choice Program (VCP), part of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014.
To receive healthcare from a community provider rather than traveling to a VA medical facility or waiting 30 or more days for a VA appointment, rural veterans may qualify for the VCP. If you are already enrolled with the VA and would like more information on VA benefits for rural healthcare, visit the VA Choice Act or read “10 Things About the Veterans Choice Program.”
For additional information on overall health coverage for veterans, visit va.gov or call the Veterans Health Administration at 1-877-222-8387.
How have VA benefits assisted you or a veteran you know?
An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.