Military Families Feeling Financially Stretched by Elder Care

Captain David Steere’s father was a Class of 1931 Naval Academy Graduate. At the end of his life, he was living in assisted care and having trouble making ends meet. David is now retired from the Navy himself, and is concerned about his own ability to afford long-term care, should the time come when he needs it.

For veterans, including the Steeres, a military pension will go a long way to defray the military member’s expense of assisted living, but it won’t cover everything, including a spouse’s needs. And while the military provides excellent health benefits for its retirees, long-term care benefits are not included at all (unless a veteran becomes medically and financially eligible for aid and attendance or housebound benefits, which help cover some of the costs of long-term care).

The First Command Financial Behaviors Index® Reveals That Service Members Are Struggling to Afford Long-Term Care

About one in three families (34%) who are currently or anticipate caring for an elderly family member say they feel extremely or very financially stretched month to month. In contrast, just 25% of all military respondents say they feel extremely or very financially stretched.

Compiled on an annual basis by Sentient Decision Science, Inc., the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® assesses trends among the American public’s financial behaviors, and intentions, through a monthly survey of approximately 530 U.S. consumers aged 25 to 70 with annual household incomes of at least $50,000.

The following are some of the findings from this year’s study:

• 36% of middle-class military families (commissioned officers and senior NCOs) are currently or anticipate providing care for an elderly parent or other family member.

• Military families are currently or anticipate providing elder care in a variety of settings, most commonly in the home (54% in their own home and 42% in the elderly person’s home).

• Respondents expect to provide care by paying for:

• health care services (7%)

• home care services (18%)

• nursing home care (8%)

• The cost of providing this care can be sizable. The 20% of survey respondents who are already caring for an elderly family member in their home estimate their average monthly outlay at $1,342. 40% of people in this subgroup say costs are more than they expected, a revelation that is reflected in their financial attitudes.

“Again this year, the results of our annual survey of elder care costs underscore the financial stresses that caring for an older family member can create for our men and women in uniform,” said Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services, Inc. “Caregiver costs are higher than many people expect. The good news is that almost half of military families who currently provide elder care took steps to prepare for these costs, and 36% say they work with a financial advisor. As more military families find themselves taking on the added responsibility of elder care, we expect to see growing demand for knowledgeable financial planning support.”

Questions You Should Ask Yourself About Long-Term Care

“Checking your long-term care payment options should be part of your retirement planning,” says Judith Walbert on “If assisted living or nursing home care becomes a necessity, not having a plan to pay for the expense can be a devastating blow to a family’s savings and investments.”

Walbert recommends that you ask yourself the following questions:

•Who will take care of you – or your parents – if long-term care is needed?

•Would your children be willing to care for you full time?

•What assets to you have to pay for long-term care?

•How long would your savings last if faced with paying for long-term care?

•If you or your spouse needed care, how would you pay for that care?

•Do you have a family history of chronic illness?

•Do current age and health conditions make you a good candidate for an affordable policy?

If you answered, “I don’t know” to any of these questions then it’s time to start thinking about long-term care planning.

If You Are Eligible, Veteran’s Aid and Attendance or Housebound Benefits Can Help Pay for Long-Term Care.

The VA program has a little known benefit called Aid and Attendance and Housebound Improved Pension that can be especially helpful in paying for in-home care.

Aid & Attendance and Housebound Benefits are special benefits paid in addition to a VA special pension benefit. Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits help with paying for in–home care, assisted living, or a nursing home.

Nearly 69% of veterans are unaware of the benefits available to them, meaning that most veterans are paying more for senior care services than they should. Additionally, more than 1/3 of Americans over the age of 65 are wartime veterans or the spouses of wartime veterans, potentiallly qualifying them for these benefits.

This special pension program provides benefits that can reduce the cost of care for veterans and surviving spouses who require assisted living services. The program can provide up to:

◾Single sick Veteran ~ $21,531 per year / $1,794 per month

◾Healthy Veteran with sick spouse ~ $16,902 per year / $1,408 per month

◾Married sick Veteran ~ $25,525 per year / $2,127 per month

◾Married, Both Veterans sick ~ $34,153 per year / $2,846 per month

◾Surviving Spouse – $13,836 per year / $1,153 per month

A veteran may be eligible for A&A when:

•The veteran requires the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting himself/herself from the hazards of his/her daily environment, OR,

•The veteran is bedridden, in that his/her disability or disabilities requires that he/she remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment, OR,

•The veteran is a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity, OR,

•The veteran is blind, or so nearly blind as to have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less, in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.

Housebound Benefits

Like A&A, Housebound benefits may not be paid without eligibility to pension. A veteran may be eligible for Housebound benefits when:

•The veteran has a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND, due to such disability, he/she is permanently and substantially confined to his/her immediate premises, OR,

•The veteran has a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND, another disability, or disabilities, evaluated as 60 percent or more disabling.

A veteran cannot receive both Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits at the same time. Learn more about A & A benefits here.

Applying for Aid and Attendance and Housebound Benefits

Here at the Farr Law Firm, we work with veterans and their spouses to evaluate whether they qualify for either of the Veterans Special Pension Benefits and/or Medicaid, and we deal with all the paperwork. We also offer financial planning services to Veterans and their spouses theough Lifecare Financial Services. As an Accredited Attorney with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, I understand both the Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit and the Medicaid program and the interaction between both benefit programs.

Another benefit of being a veteran is a 10% discount off all services at the Farr Law Firm. We hope to see your family soon!

Please call the Farr Law Firm to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:

Fairfax Veterans Planning Attorney: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Veterans Planning Protection Attorney: 540-479-143
Rockville Veterans Planning Protection Attorney: 301-519-8041
DC Medicaid Veterans Planning Attorney: 202-587-2797

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