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SMART INSIGHTS FROM PROFESSIONAL ADVISERS

Veterans Often Miss Out on the Long-Term Care Benefits They Deserve

If you qualify, be sure to collect the Aid and Attendance benefits you've earned in service to our country.

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Sometimes life's biggest setbacks end up being just the spark needed to inspire us to accomplish something life changing.

SEE ALSO: 10 Best Financial Benefits for Military Families

When my grandfather, a Navy veteran of three wars, required long-term care, he thought he was prepared for the expense. Over the years, he had paid $100,000 in premiums for long-term care insurance.

His careful planning was unnecessary, however. There was another way to cover the long-term care costs for him; we just didn't know about it.

My grandfather was eligible for VA benefits, which include coverage for long-term care, from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This benefit is designed to financially assist war-time veterans and their spouses with their assisted living, nursing home or care-in-the-home expenses.

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When I later learned about this benefit—and that my grandfather had been eligible—I decided to do what I could to make sure others didn't miss out and, in 2012, launched the Veteran Benefit Project. Since then, the project has helped at least 1,000 veterans qualify for the benefits they deserve.

My grandfather wasn't unusual. Although what's known as the Veterans Aid and Attendance benefit has been around since 1951, many veterans don't know about it, or don't think they qualify.

It's not that the vast majority of veterans are ineligible. In fact, the qualifications are fairly simple. Here are a few of them:

    li>90 days of military service, of which at least one day was during wartime
  • No dishonorable discharge
  • At least age 65 or disabled
  • Need assistance with at least one activity of daily living (ADL)

By meeting these criteria, the veteran and his or her spouse, or the surviving spouse if the veteran is deceased, are eligible for up to as much as $25,488 a year in benefits, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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How much they can receive varies depending on their situation. Here's how it breaks down:

  • Veteran without dependent – $1,788 monthly
  • Veteran and spouse – $2,120 monthly
  • Widow/widower – $1,149 monthly
  • Veteran with dependent – $1,404 monthly

These tax-free benefits are paid directly to the veteran or surviving spouse, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs.

What I have found over the last few years is that probably 95% of the veterans I talk with have never heard of this benefit.

That means a lot of people who could be helped by the money aren't claiming what's rightfully due to them.

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Anyone with a family member who has had the need for long-term care understands that the costs can be staggering. A Genworth Financial Cost of Care Survey 2016 pegged the national median expense at $43,539 per year for assisted living, $82,125 a year for a semi-private nursing home room and $92,378 per year for a private nursing home room.

Most people are in no position to take on that kind of expense in retirement.

That's why it's so important to get the word out to veterans. They earned this benefit. They need to take advantage of it.

See Also: Estate Planning for Military Families

Andrew McNair is the president, Investment Adviser Representative and Insurance Professional of SWAN Capital, which he founded in 2012. In the same year, he established the Veteran Benefit Project, an organization that helps veterans qualify for VA benefits. He specializes in the fields of retirement income, long-term-care, wealth preservation and has a strategic partnership with an attorney for estate planning services.

Andrew McNair and SWAN Capital are not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs or any other governmental agency.

Investment advisory services offered through AE Wealth Management, LLC.

Rozel Swain contributed to this article.

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff.