Veterans with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia may be eligible for certain benefits and services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Some current and surviving spouses of veterans may qualify for limited benefits as well.
The VA administers many different types of programs for veterans and their families, including health care coverage, pensions, caregiver support services and burial benefits. While eligibility requirements for each of these programs vary, understanding what resources are available through the VA is the first step toward better supporting a veteran with dementia (or a spouse) and planning for their future care needs.
What Help Is There for Veterans With Alzheimer’s Disease?
Dementia patients’ needs are highly individual. Finding the right VA benefits to fit into or enhance an elder’s care plan depends on the type of dementia they have, how far it has progressed, whether they have additional health conditions, their current living situation, the amount of informal support they receive from family caregivers, their disability status, and their military service history.
VA Health Care and Long-Term Care Services
Most elderly veterans have already enrolled in the VA health care program and receive medical services through the Veterans Health Administration. In addition to basic services provided through the VA, such as preventive care and inpatient hospital services, elderly veterans with dementia may also qualify for home- and community-based care programs and residential long-term care.
Appropriate VA programs for veterans with dementia may include:
- Home-based primary care
- Homemaker/home health aide services (i.e., companion care, personal care, non-medical home care)
- Skilled home health care services
- Respite care
- Adult day health care
- Outpatient clinical care
- Inpatient hospital care
- Board and care residences (i.e., medical foster homes, community residential care, adult family homes)
- Nursing home care (i.e., community living centers, contracted community nursing homes, state veterans homes)
- Palliative care
- Hospice care
Some of these settings and care types may offer specialized dementia care programming or memory care units, but note that generally there are no separate VA eligibility criteria or application processes for veterans with dementia.
Locate a VA Medical Center near you to consult with a VA social worker who can help determine what programs are appropriate and available for your situation, the specific services they provide, eligibility requirements, and costs. You can also explore all VA resources for dementia care on the VA Office of Geriatrics & Extended Care website.
VA Veterans Pension
In addition to health care benefits, there are also financial benefits that some veterans with dementia may qualify for. The VA pension program offers qualifying wartime vets with low income and limited assets a monthly payment to supplement their income. This benefit is known as the basic Veterans Pension. A veteran with no dependents who is eligible for the Veterans Pension can receive up to $13,752 annually.
An “improved” version of the basic pension called the “Aid & Attendance” benefit is available to veterans who require the assistance of another person to complete activities of daily living (ADLs) like dressing, bathing and feeding. ADLs are something that dementia patients need an increasing amount of help with as their condition worsens.
The A&A Pension can pay up to $22,939 annually to an eligible veteran with no dependents. This increased monetary payment is intended to help disabled veterans with limited means afford the high level of care they require, either in their own homes or in long-term care facilities. To learn more about the A&A Pension, read VA Aid & Attendance Pension Helps Veterans Cover the Costs of Long-Term Care.
Are There Veterans Benefits for Spouses With Dementia?
VA benefits are intended for veterans first and foremost. However, there are some programs and services available to veterans’ current and surviving spouses that may directly or indirectly support their dementia care.
Health Care Benefits for Veterans’ Spouses
There are two programs that provide health care benefits for veterans’ family members: TRICARE and CHAMPVA.
TRICARE is managed by the Department of Defense’s Defense Health Agency not the VA. Current spouses, surviving spouses and some unremarried former spouses of active-duty, retired or deceased service members, National Guard soldiers, Reservists or Medal of Honor recipients, may qualify for the TRICARE program. Medical benefits through TRICARE vary depending on one’s beneficiary category, but basic TRICARE plans do not cover long-term care services. Beneficiaries with special needs may qualify for expanded coverage in very specific circumstances. More information about TRICARE eligibility requirements, plans and benefits can be found at TRICARE.mil.
The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) provides health care benefits for family members of veterans who do not qualify for TRICARE. This includes current or surviving spouses of veterans with disabilities or service members who died in the line of duty. CHAMPVA can be used as a second payer in addition to Medicare, which can help reduce medical costs, but note that neither of these programs covers long-term care services.
VA Survivors Pension
Financially needy surviving spouses of late wartime veterans may qualify for a monthly monetary benefit called the Survivors Pension to supplement their income. The maximum annual basic pension amount that a surviving spouse (with no dependents) can receive is currently $12,072.
Surviving spouses who require the assistance of another person to complete ADLs may be eligible for the “Aid & Attendance” benefit, which provides an increased monthly pension amount. ADLs, such as bathing and dressing, are tasks that dementia patients need an increasing amount of help and supervision to complete as their condition worsens.
A surviving spouse (with no dependents) who qualifies for the A&A improved Survivors Pension can receive up to $17,586 annually. This increased monetary payment is intended to help disabled surviving spouses with limited means afford the high level of care they require, either in their own homes or in long-term care facilities. To learn more about Survivors Pension eligibility criteria and rates, read Veterans’ Surviving Spouses May Be Entitled to VA Pension.
VA Assistance for Family Caregivers of Veterans
The VA also offers a variety of support programs and resources for veterans’ caregivers. In fact, the VA enacted a much-needed expansion of the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) this year. Through the PCAFC, primary caregivers for eligible veterans can receive a monthly stipend (payment for caregiving services), access to health care benefits through CHAMPVA if they don’t already qualify for another health care plan, financial planning and legal services, at least 30 days of respite care per year, and other benefits.
Expansion of this program makes it much easier for veterans’ spouses and adult children to provide the care they need to continue living in the community for as long as possible. This is a boon for veterans with dementia and dementia caregivers alike.
To explore all the VA benefit programs and resources available to veterans, spouses and family caregivers, visit VA.gov.
Sources: VA Pension Rates for Veterans (https://www.va.gov/pension/veterans-pension-rates/); Aid And Attendance Benefits And Housebound Allowance (https://www.va.gov/pension/aid-attendance-housebound/); TRICARE: Special Needs (https://www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/SpecialNeeds); CHAMPVA Benefits (https://www.va.gov/health-care/family-caregiver-benefits/champva/); VA Survivors Pension (https://www.va.gov/pension/survivors-pension/); VA Survivors Pension Benefit Rates (https://www.va.gov/pension/survivors-pension-rates/)