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Another VA Benefit You Never Heard Of

Understanding the maze of laws and benefits that form our long term care system is a full time job.  Thatâs why I devoted my practice exclusively to elder and disability planning.  A few weeks ago I was reminded of that fact when I was asked what I know about a particular VA program that provides adult day care services for a small co-pay.  This clearly didnât sound like the Aid and Attendance program that in the past two years we have incorporated into our planning arsenal.(see my 2/25/08 post).  So I decided to investigate and hereâs what I learned.

The VA doesnât do a good job of publicizing its benefits and services so getting accurate information is never easy.  There is a program of services under what the VA calls the Geriatric and Extended Care Program.  These include programs that provide care in a veteranâs home or in a community setting such as adult day care, specialized services for rehabilitation following, amputation, stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury, physical therapy and home hospice care.  Keep in mind that the range of services can vary greatly depending on where you live and which health care network the VA has charged with providing those services.

Uncovering and understanding the eligibility requirements is the harder part.   Unlike the Aid and Attendance program which is available to veterans and their spouses, the Extended Care Program is only available to veterans who received a discharge under honorable conditions.  It is, however, not limited to veterans who served during wartime (again, unlike Aid and Attendance).  There is no length of service requirement for vets who enlisted before 1980.

There is a co-pay requirement applicable to the nonservice connected veteran, that is, a veteran whoâs injury or illness is not linked to his military service (which is the case with most of our elderly clients).  In order to be eligible the veteranâs income must not exceed  the maximum annual pension rate for the Aid and Attendance program.  The co-pay generally ranges from $5 to $97 per day, depending on the particular service received.

What I concluded from my research so far is that  the Extended Care Program is another option, another piece of the long term care puzzle.  And with proper guidance our clients may be able to tap into a valuable source which will help lessen the risk that they will run out of money and options when they reach the next step in the long term care journey.