Veterans Affairs assists former military personnel who are in various stages of life, but the housing, healthcare, and mental health services they provide can be especially helpful during your senior years.
Different programs and services offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to veterans in Washington State are designed to give you financial and other assistance to help make life a little easier during your retirement years in Federal Way. You may be eligible for some or all VA programs, depending on your financial status, military history and individual needs. If you’re the surviving spouse of a veteran, you may also be eligible to receive certain benefits through the VA to support you.
What Are the Benefits for Veterans?
One benefit you can receive from the VA is financial assistance with healthcare. When you apply for healthcare benefits, the VA will assign you to one of eight Enrollment Priority Groups. Your priority groups is assigned based on your level of need, among other factors. The number of veterans in a particular priority group is determined by how much funding the VA currently has available.
The copay you are responsible for when you receive medical treatments changes depending on the priority group to which you are assigned. If you qualify for more than one priority group, you will be placed in the highest group for which you qualify.
For example, VA Priority Group 1 is for veterans who have service-connected disabilities that have been rated by the VA as 50% or more “disabling,” who are determined to be unemployable because of service-connected conditions, or who have been awarded the Medal of Honor (MOH). Meanwhile, you will fall into VA Priority Group 8 if your gross household income is above the VA income limits and the geographically-adjusted income limits for the state of Washington. In Priority Group 8, you are responsible for copayments.
Because of the complexity of the system, it can be difficult to know which Priority Group(s) you qualify for unless you talk with a VA representative. To verify your eligibility, apply for benefits, or receive services, you can visit the Federal Way VA Clinic, which is part of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. The clinic offers primary care, mental health services, social work services, nurse services, and lab services. You also can have a pharmacist review your medications. Prescriptions are processed through the mail or My HealtheVet.
Assistance with Income and Senior Care
Another form of assistance you may be eligible to receive is a pension that helps improve your income and covers care you require. VA pensions in Washington State are distributed at three different tiers:
- Basic pensions, designed for healthy, low-income veterans over the age of 65.
- Aid and Attendance, designed for veterans over the age of 65 that require regular assistance with their daily activities, such as eating, dressing, bathing, and managing medications.
- Housebound pensions, for veterans with a disability that prevents them from leaving home.
The Aid and Attendance (A&A) pension program has helped millions of veterans and their spouses with the rising cost of elder care. It provides additional monthly income over and above your basic monthly pension, and it can be used for different levels of elder care, including assisted living, nursing home care, or at-home care.
While it takes time and effort to apply to the program, the benefits are often well worth it. As of 2020, you can receive up to $1,912 per month if you’re a single veteran who qualifies for the VA Aid and Assistance pension. Meanwhile, married veterans and their spouses can receive up to $2,266 per month, and if you’re a surviving spouse, you can receive about to $1,230 per month.
Are All Veterans Eligible for Benefits?
In order for you or your spouse to be eligible for Aid and Assistance and other pensions, you must meet certain basic criteria. Veterans who are 65 and older and who served at least 90 consecutive days—including at least one day during a wartime period—may be eligible for Aid and Assistance if they qualify for the basic Veterans Pension and meet other financial and clinical requirements. The VA uses the following dates to define wartime periods:
- World War II: Dec. 7, 1941-Dec. 31, 1946
- Korean War: June 27, 1950-Jan. 31, 1955
- Vietnam War: Aug. 5, 1964-May 7, 1975 (or Feb. 28, 1961-May 7, 1975, for veterans who served overseas in Vietnam)
- Gulf War: Aug. 2, 1990-Undetermined
If you are the surviving or dependent spouse of a veteran, you can also receive care, even if your spouse is deceased or not ill. To submit an application to get involved in VA programs or receive benefits, you will need to submit documentation of your (or your spouse’s) service, including your DD214 (discharge papers) and relevant dates of service. If your paperwork has been lost, you can request new copies from the National Archives or the Veterans Affairs office.
Do VA Benefits Conflict With Other Assistance?
One downside to receiving a VA pension is that it could potentially disqualify you from receiving other assistance from the VA or federal government. For example, you cannot receive both a VA Aid and Attendance pension and VA Disability compensation. In other cases, the level of aid you get from the Aid and Assistance program will cause your monthly income to exceed the maximum allowable amount to be eligible for Medicaid assistance.
However, you can be eligible for both Aid and Attendance and Veteran-Directed Care (VDC) program, which enables veterans who are potential candidates for nursing home placement to receive that level of care in their homes, their caregivers’ homes, or in independent living communities.
Supporting Veterans With Senior Care
The state of Washington provides several benefits for veterans who qualify, including assistance with paying for senior care in the South Puget Sound area. At Village Green Retirement Campus, we are committed to working closely with Federal Way's local VA Clinic to help you receive the care and services you deserve as a veteran or a surviving spouse.
“VA Priority Groups.” MilitaryBenefits.info. Accessed online at https://militarybenefits.info/va-priority-groups/
“Veteran’s Benefits Explained.” Military.com. Accessed online at https://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-benefits/veterans-benefits-explained.html
“Washington State Veteran Benefits.” Military.com. Accessed online at https://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-state-benefits/washington-state-veterans-benefits.html
“Why Choose VeteranAid.org.” VeteranAid.org. Accessed online at https://www.veteranaid.org
“VA Aid & Attendance Program and Other Pensions for Aging Veterans.” Paying for Senior Care. Accessed online at https://www.payingforseniorcare.com/veterans/veterans-pension