Between increased healthcare costs, help around the house, and long-term care, there’s a lot to pay for as a senior that you didn’t have to worry about when you were younger. Unfortunately, these new expenses come at the same time as you’re switching to a fixed income in retirement.
Financial planning is important for everyone approaching their senior years, but especially for veterans. There are a lot of valuable benefits available to U.S. veterans, but not every veteran qualifies for every benefit. If you don’t take advantage of the benefits available to you, or plan to receive a benefit only to discover you’re ineligible, you could face undue financial stress during the retirement years.
These are five veteran’s benefits you might not know about along with information on eligibility so you understand the resources at your disposal as a senior veteran.
VA Healthcare and TRICAREThe Veterans Health Administration provides low-cost healthcare at VA medical centers and clinics. Most veterans are eligible for VA health benefits, however, due to limited resources, veterans are subject to a priority groupsystem that affects their access to benefits. Veterans in the highest priority group receive priority for care and the lowest cost-sharing requirements, while low priority groups may face longer waits and higher costs for care. Veterans in the lowest priority groups may not be enrolled in the VA healthcare.
Veterans should know their priority group and what it means for their access to VA care. If you’re in a low priority group, most of your healthcare is likely to come from the private sector, not the VA. TRICARE offers some coverage for community-based care through its premium-free TRICARE for Lifeprogram, but only as a secondary insurer to Medicare. That means veterans receiving non-VA care need adequate Medicare coverage to reduce out-of-pocket costs. TRICARE for Life also lacks coverage for vision and dental. Veterans who want insurance coverage for these servicesshould opt for a Medicare Advantage plan through a company such as Humana, which provides many additional benefits.
Aid and Attendance PensionAid and Attendanceis a monthly supplement to a veteran’s pension to help pay for long-term care services. Only veterans who receive a pension and require assistance with the activities of daily living or are visually impaired can receive Aid and Attendance.
Housebound PensionLike Aid and Attendance, housebound pensionis a supplemental monthly pension provided to veterans with disabilities. Veterans who are confined to their residence due to disability may receive Housebound benefits. A veteran can’t receive both Aid and Attendance and Housebound payments.
Home Accessibility GrantsVeterans with disabilities have another great resource to help them live safely: housing grants. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers three grant programsto help veterans adapt an existing home or buy or build an accessible home.
Specially Adapted Housing grants and Special Housing Adaptation grants are available to veterans with service-connected disabilities, while the Home Improvements and Structural Alterations grant is open to veterans with service-connected and non-service-connected disabilities. Eligible veterans may receive both a HISA grant and an SHA or SAH grant.
Burial Benefits and AllowancesThese benefits help seniors cope with financial challenges during retirement, but what about end-of-life? Veterans benefits offer assistance here too, with burial allowancesthat defray the cost of funeral arrangements. Eligible veterans who choose a burial in a state or national veterans cemetery also receive a gravesite, headstone, grave opening and closing, and burial flag at no cost. Veterans buried in a private cemetery may also receive a free headstone and burial flag.
Veterans burial benefits don’t cover the cost of a funeralor memorial service, a casket, cremation, or other end-of-life services, so veterans should plan for these arrangements separately. Final expenseinsurance is a low-cost way to make up the difference and, depending on the size of the policy, can also be used to cover other outstanding debts. Veterans should plan what type of final arrangement they prefer in order to budget accordingly and purchase the right size insurance policy.
These benefits don’t cover every expense a veteran will face during the senior years. However, they do help aging veterans overcome the greatest financial challenges during retirement: affordable healthcare, accessible housing, long-term care, and an honorable exit from the world.
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