Using VA Benefits to Pay for Nursing Homes and Other Long-Term Care

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The VA provides nursing home care and other long-term care -- also called "extended care" -- for many veterans.

Who's eligible for VA nursing home benefits?

Those eligible for VA nursing home or noninstitutional long-term care include:

  • Veterans with a service-connected disability rating (or combined disability ratings) of 70 percent or higher.

  • Veterans with a 60-percent service-connected disability rating who are unemployable, or who have a rating of "permanent and totally disabled."

  • Veterans with a service-connected disability that's clinically determined to require nursing home care.

  • Veterans who require nursing home care for any nonservice-connected disability and who meet income and asset criteria.

  • Other veterans on a case-by-case basis, with priority given to veterans with service-connected disabilities and those who need care for post-acute rehabilitation, respite, hospice, geriatric evaluation and management, or spinal cord injury.

More detailed information about eligibility for these nursing home and other extended care VA programs is available from the VA's Office of Geriatrics and Extended Care.

What nursing home benefits are available from the VA?

The V.A. provides long-term nursing home care through different types of facilities. There are the V.A.'s own nursing homes, and there are private nursing homes (called "community nursing homes" in VA language) that contract with the V.A. to care for veterans when no nearby VA facility is available. There are also the VA's Community Living Centers, which provide short-term residential care along with ongoing outpatient care. And the VA pays a small part of the cost of residence in State Veterans Homes for some veterans who are not eligible for direct VA nursing home care.

Eligible veterans may qualify for residence in a VA nursing home if they have functional physical and/or mental impairment serious enough to require nursing home-level care. If there is no VA nursing home close to the veteran's home and family, or there are no available spaces in a nearby VA nursing home, the VA may pay for a veteran to reside in a nearby private nursing home if that facility has a contract with the VA to provide care to veterans.

Community Living Centers are another type of VA long-term care facility. They provide a combination of short-term residential care similar to assisted living and ongoing community care for veterans with chronic stable conditions, including dementia; those requiring rehabilitation or short-term special services such as respite or intravenous therapy; and those who need hospice or other palliative care at the end of life. Most Community Living Centers provide short-term rehabilitative or end-of-life care for up to 100 days. They can also provide longer-term care for veterans who require prolonged rehabilitation, are unable to obtain a place in a community nursing home, or otherwise lack a clinically appropriate community alternative.

What VA long-term home and community care is available?

The VA has several long-term community and home care programs to help veterans who do not qualify for nursing home-level care or who want to live at home but need regular nonmedical assistance with the activities of daily living.

Community Residential Care is a program that provides many of the same types of care and services found in an assited living setting. Under this program, veterans have room and board, plus limited personal care and supervision, for veterans who don't require nursing home care but aren't able to live independently because of medical or psychiatric conditions, and who have no family who are able to provide care.

Hospice/Palliative Care provides comfort-oriented and supportive services for a veteran who is in the advanced, end-of-life stages of an incurable disease. This can include respite care, which allows for short-term inpatient care for the veteran in a VA hospital or nursing facility, which temporarily relieves the veteran's spouse or other caregiver from the burden of caring for the veteran at home.

When a veteran applies for extended care, he or she is evaluated by a Geriatric Evaluation and Management (GEM) team. Based on the veteran's needs, the veteran can be provided with:

  • Home health care, which provides long-term basic medical care to chronically ill veterans in their own homes under the coordinated care of an interdisciplinary treatment team.

  • Homemaker/home health aide services, which are health-related and minor homemaking services provided by a public or private home care agency.

  • Adult day health care, which provides health maintenance and rehabilitative services to veterans in a group setting during daytime hours, either at a V.A. or community facility.

What's the cost to a veteran for VA long-term care benefits?

For extended care services, veterans may be subject to a co-payment of up to $97 per day. The amount of the co-payment depends on the veteran's V.A. health system priority group and individual financial circumstances, and on the type of care or service provided. The amount of co-payment for extended care services is based on the income, and for some services the assets, of both the veteran and the veteran's spouse.

For extended care services expected to last 180 days or less, the VA looks only at the income of the veteran and spouse, taking into account the veteran's expenses. For extended care services expected to last 181 days or longer (such as residence in a nursing home), the VA looks at the income and the assets of the veteran and spouse. Details of these financial calculations are available from the VA's publication "VA Copays and Charges."

How do I apply for VA long-term care benefits?

An application for VA long-term care is separate from the application to enroll in VA medical care coverage. To apply for nursing home or other long-term care, a veteran or veteran's caregiver must fill out a special application for extended care services.

Veterans receiving compensation or VA medical treatment for a service-connected disability need not file this separate application.

What will I need to apply for VA long-term care benefits?

When you apply for extended care, you will need to present evidence of the following:

  • Spouse's name, date of birth, and Social Security number

  • The current income of both the veteran and the veteran's spouse

  • The value of fixed and liquid assets of both veteran and spouse (only if applying for nursing home or other residential care)

  • Information identifying all health insurance, including all parts of Medicare (a copy of an insurance card and the veteran's Medicare card)

Where can I get help applying for VA long-term care benefits?

You can get free assistance with any VA-related question or problem by phone or in person through one of the VA's Vet Centers, which are located in every state. You can also get assistance by contacting the Veterans Benefits Administration office nearest you. The VA also has a toll-free telephone help line at 800-827-1000.

Joseph L. Matthews

Joseph Matthews is an attorney and the author of numerous books, including Social Security, Medicare, and Government Pensions, Long-Term Care: How to Plan and Pay for It; How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim; and The Lawyer Who Blew up His Desk. See full bio

4 days, said...

Need info on how to apply for nursing home VA benefits for a spouse of a veteran, please. We need placement within the next 6 weeks.

2 months, said...

VA spouse supplement insurance plan. Stroke related.

4 months, said...

I have a brother that is 67 years old. He has a colostomy bag, high blood pressure, diabetes, and many other health problems. He is living in a house that belongs to a hoarder. There are numerous cats and cat filth everywhere. He can not take care of himself. How do we get him help? He needs to be in a nursing home or assists living facility for care. Where do I start to get him help.

5 months, said...

do they pay the widow of the Vet. Mom and dad where married 59 yrs

10 months, said...

I'm a 68 yrs old service connected Veteran I have also advanced living in San Mateo CA in need of outside intervention my wife can't or won't recognize my needs of care. What options do I have again am 100% disabled

over 1 year, said...

Approximately 4 to 5 months ago, it became necessary for my father-in-law to be admitted to a facility because he was no longer able to care for himself at home. There was no room available at the VA facility, so he was admitted to a nursing home that was, allegedly, contracted to handle overflow from the VA hospital. During the time he was here, almost all of his medical care, including he nursing home fees, were paid by him in cash. Doe this seem right? He had medicare, a medical supplement plan, and VA benefits.

about 2 years, said...

I am the 72 year old widow of a combat veteran. My husband served in the Korean War and was a member of the Airborne. He passed away in 1997. I am finding that I will need to change my living arrangement soon as I can no longer live alone and take care of my home. I receive only SSI and am trying to find financial help for paying for a place to live. I do not need assisted living as I am mobile and fairly healthy. I will only have the SSI income and non from the sale of my home.

about 2 years, said...

Recently a hemorrhage left one eye permanently blind. The VA (my only insurance) Doctor advised that the same thing could occur in my other eye at any time. A WWII Veteran, I live alone and have no close relatives. My income (S.S. and investments) is approximately $1,700 per mo. I can now drive, perform daily chores, read and watch DVDs with one eye. Question: What should I do BEFORE (if) the other eye fails, then are VA living facilities available for the totally blind?

almost 3 years, said...

Once the VA application is filled out for assisted living, how long would it take before benifitss are paid

about 3 years, said...

My father receives VA benefits. He is 91, and was living in a assisted living home. I had to move him to a HIRK home. For he has become bedridden, incontinent and only ingest Ensure. Hospice has been assisting him as well. Do I need to inform VA, of this move. His care cost are approximately the same, but now considered medical care. Thank you his daughter and RP, Jaylene

over 4 years, said...

I have a 100 % service related brotherin law that has chronic schyzophrinia , particaial parkinson . WQe are trying to locate a home in the Pittsburgh , Butler Are that is free for him . It doesn't matter where but would like choices . The VA in Pittsburgh wants him out ASAP . Can you give a list of free skilled nursing homes . Thank you Charles R. Twentier Sr .

almost 5 years, said...

I am a World War II veteran's wife. Would I be able to receive help if I went to Assisted Living?

about 5 years, said...

My dad is 100% service connected disabled. He has Dementia. He is 100% eligible for full time nursing home care. My question is, do they take his disability to pay for his care? The reason I ask, is because I want him (me) to be able to pay for his personal stuff. New clothes, personal items, or whatever he needs/wants. He also owns a home. Do they take that too? Thanks

about 5 years, said...

Clearly written and to-the-point information. Reference to other sites and documents very helpful. Thank you, Norm Boyajian

over 5 years, said...

Thanks for share about this care, and i want to know that how to apply there, kindly contact me at my email-id. I need your help. Alzheimer's Care.

over 5 years, said...

my brother in law was in the Korean War and is 80 and currently has Parkinsons, does he qualify for benefits for Assisted Living? He was not disabled in service.

about 6 years, said...

my brother lives in fenton missouri and is on hospice for ALS, his last wishes are to move closer to family in a VA or nursing home in west virginia or pennslyvania, how do we relocate him? its not safe for him where he is at right now in an apt. please respond, time is precious!

about 6 years, said...

how much does VA pay for In Home Residential Care for Disabled Vets? Also, how does someone like myself begin the process of opening a Residential Home to care for Disabled Vets, including locating the Vets. Themselves

almost 7 years, said...

My father was almost killed in a Texas Veteran's home. They gave him so many drugs that it paralyzed his throat and he could no longer eat or drink. He was about to die so we took him to a hospital where he spent three weeks recovering from the "care" he received there. As I have told people about this story, I have heard many more like it.

over 7 years, said...

i get a lot of info from this site, i have a lot of things going on right now from my sister,she's really sick, i'm not sure whats wrong with her , but it is really affecting my life, she's after me tooth and nail. she is trying to destroy me , and i don't know why.her mind is really gone i do know that that, i can't put my finger on it. the stress from just her is weighing down our whole family.