In reflecting upon this past week’s Memorial Day holiday, I would like to thank all veterans for their service. In honor of the occasion, this article will focus on addressing myths related to long term care options for veterans.

Myth #1 – I do not qualify for long term care from a VA facility because I was a Reservist or a member of the National Guard.

Fact:  Members of the National Guard and Reserves may be eligible for long term care from the VA if they were called to active duty on a Federal Executive Order and the veteran completed the full call-up period.  If you or a loved one served in the National Guard or Reserves, you may qualify for important veterans’ benefits to assist with your long term care needs.

Myth #2 – I do not qualify for long term care from a VA facility because I do not have a service-connected disability.

Fact:  Any veteran who served in the military, even during peacetime, and was honorably discharged may receive long term care provided by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”).  Generally, priority is given to those veterans who:

  • Need nursing care due to a service-connected disability;
  • Have a combined disability rating of 70% or more; or
  • Have a disability rating of at least 60% and are:
    • Deemed unemployable; or
    • Have been rated permanently and totally disabled.

However, even if a veteran does not meet one of the above requirements, he or she is still eligible to receive long term care from the VA. Services will be provided only if resources are available after the needs of those priority veterans have been met.  For further information regarding how the VA prioritizes veterans, please see www.va.gov/healthbenefits/resources/priority_groups.asp.

If space is available at a VA or affiliated facility, veterans will be considered on a case by case basis based upon their priority grouping. Therefore, if you or a loved one are a veteran with long term care needs and were honorably discharged from military service, I urge you to contact your county Veterans’ Affairs Office to initiate the application process and determine your priority group.

Myth #3 – The closest VA facility is too far from my residence. I want to reside at a closer facility so I cannot receive long term care from a VA facility.

Fact:  Many veterans may not even attempt to apply for long term care through the VA because the closest VA facility is too far from family and friends.    What they may not be aware of is that veterans can receive the same long term care benefits they would have received in a VA facility at a non-VA facility.  In addition to VA owned and operated facilities, the VA provides long term care services to veterans through two other programs:  1) State Veterans’ Homes owned and operated by each participating state; and 2) the community nursing home program.  Most veterans are unaware that there are some private nursing homes in their community that contract with the VA to designate a certain amount of beds to be available for veterans who need care.  In Cumberland County, one such facility is Claremont Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Carlisle.  However, stays in such contracted facilities may be limited for veterans with a disability rating lower than 70% and for veterans who do not need care due to a service-connected disability.  To determine whether you or a loved one may qualify to receive long term care at a community nursing home, you should contact a trusted VA accredited elder law attorney who can assist you with your questions.

Myth #4 – I do not qualify for long term care from a VA facility because I am a surviving spouse of a veteran.

Fact: There are over 9 million surviving spouses of veterans currently living in the United States.  Many of these spouses are receiving long term care or will need it in the future.  However, many have no idea that they may be eligible to receive long term care in a VA or affiliated facility as a surviving spouse of a veteran.  Federal regulations permit up to 25% of the beds of a State Veteran home to be designated for veteran-related family members (i.e. spouse, surviving spouse, and/or Gold Star parents). Surviving spouses of veterans may also qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit, a little known pension benefit that can be utilized to pay for long term care costs.  To receive the benefit, the veteran must have served at least ninety (90) days of active duty, with at least one of those days occurring during a wartime period.  The spouse must need assistance with at least two (2) activities of daily living (e.g. bathing, feeding, dressing, ambulating, etc.).  If you or your loved one is a surviving spouse of a veteran and are in need of long term care, you may be eligible to receive long term care services in a VA or affiliated facility.

Myth #5 – I do not qualify for long term care from a VA facility because I do not need 24 hour skilled nursing care.

Fact:  While many veterans receiving long term care provided by the VA or an affiliate are receiving 24 hour skilled nursing care, this is not a requirement for entry into a VA or affiliated facility.  Just as a skilled nursing facility may provide additional services such as rehabilitation services and respite care, veterans needing restorative care, mental health recovery care, respite care, and palliative and hospice care also may receive this type of care at a VA or affiliated facility.

Ryan A. Webber, Esquire

VA Accredited Attorney

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Long Term Care Guide