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As a military service veteran, you may be entitled to specific benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. One such benefit is the dependent parent benefit, which provides you with cash assistance to help you care for a dependent parent in your household. The dependent parent benefit helps veterans who collect VA disability with the extra expense that comes with the dependent care for an elderly parent living with or relying on their adult child for financial support.
6 Benefits of the VA Dependent Parent Program
- Assisted living, nursing home, and other types of care
- Home safety modifications
- Assistive devices
- Prescription medication
- Health insurance premiums
- Rent, utilities, and other household costs
If you receive disability compensation or educational assistance for your time as an active duty military member and you have one or both parents who rely on you financially and for direct care, you may be eligible for an additional cash benefit to cover the expense related to your dependent parent. Claiming a parent as a dependent can provide access to help with your parent’s healthcare, rent, home safety modifications, and other costs that could make it challenging for you to pay on your own.
To qualify for this VA compensation, you must have a service connected disability and receive VA disability compensation or be currently enrolled in an educational assistance program. The veteran can apply for a dependent parent benefit when applying for their disability compensation or after they’ve started receiving benefits or enrolled in educational assistance.
What Is the Dependent Parent Program?
The VA Dependent Parent Program is part of the VA disability compensation program. This program adds a cash benefit to your monthly veterans disability pay to help you cover the dependent care and medical expense costs of your dependent parent’s care. You can receive this benefit along with other VA benefits, like a VA home loan or VA pension.
The Dependent Parent Program, like other VA dependent programs, allows veterans to receive extra benefits when they have others relying on them for financial support, like a dependent qualifying parent, dependent qualifying child, or other dependent qualifying relative. If other people living in your home are considered tax dependents on your income tax deduction and tax return, then they can probably be considered a qualifying parent, qualifying child, or qualifying relative for VA dependent benefits.
The program has specific requirements that detail whether you and your parent are eligible for coverage based on your disability rating, your gross income, and your parent’s income.
6 Benefits of the VA Dependent Parent Program
There are many ways in which a dependent parent benefit included in your VA disability benefits can help cover your dependent parent’s medical expense and dependent care costs to take some of the burden off you. The list below consists of some of the more common ways in which you can spend the benefit. If your parent requires other types of care, you can speak with a veterans disability attorney or a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) to help you navigate acceptable expenses.
1. Assisted Living, Nursing Home, and Other Types of Care
One of the most helpful features of the VA dependent parent benefit is its ability to help the veteran receiving disability compensation pay for their dependent parent’s living needs. The monthly benefit can help you afford modifications that need to be made to your home to assist your parent, as well as pay towards nursing home care, home health care, and other assistive care.
Home Health Care
If your parent requires therapists and nurses to come to the home to provide services, you could use the VA dependent parent benefit to cover these services’ costs that health insurance might not cover.
- Home health care can include:
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Speech therapy
- Diabetes monitoring
- Nursing care
- Wound care
- Education about their condition or health
In-Home Personal Care Assistance
In-home personal care is similar to home health care, but it focuses more on your parent’s daily personal needs, like bathing and dressing. A home care aide can help prepare meals, help your parent use the restroom, remind them to take their medication, or transport them back and forth to doctor’s appointments or the grocery store. In-home care helps take some of the stress of the adult child or other qualifying relative who is the primary caregiver.
Nursing Home Care
Parents who need more care than they can get at home might benefit from living in a nursing home. Nursing homes offer extensive care to residents, including administering medications, dressing, bathing, exercising, and feeding if necessary. A nursing home also provides routine nursing care and emergency services to residents.
Assisted living allows a parent to live in more of a home setting but with the help of skilled nursing and medical care not far away. Some assisted living facilities offer individual apartments, while others have rooms with shared living spaces. They’re designed to give residents some independence while still having medical care an arm’s reach away.
If you’re the person who typically cares for your elderly parent financially and physically, you could benefit from some time off to use as self-care. Respite care can give you that, and your VA dependent parent funds could go toward paying a respite care provider to relieve you occasionally.
2. Home Safety Modifications
If you receive VA disability benefits with a VA dependent parent benefit, you could apply the funds toward safety modifications for your parent’s home or your home if your parent lives with you.
Home safety modifications can include, but aren’t limited to:
- Shower and bath modifications
- Widened doorways
- Medical alert systems
- Hoyer lifts
- Seating modifications
- Kitchen modifications for people in wheelchairs
- Lighting modifications
- Smart lighting and appliance controls
3. Assistive Devices
Your parent might require assistive devices to help them with everyday tasks. Hearing aids, for example, could allow them to hear and communicate better. A wheelchair or walker could enable them to move around their home more freely and safely.
Your VA dependents benefits can also help you pay for assistive devices like:
- Communication devices
- Mobility scooters
- Automatic door openers
- Cognitive software
- Feeding devices
- Dressing aids
- Prosthetic equipment
- Braille devices
- Electronic book readers
4. Prescription Medication
Health coverage for seniors sometimes doesn’t pay for prescription coverage or leaves seniors with high copays for their medications. If your parent faces this problem, you might consider using your benefit to help with medication costs each month.
5. Health Insurance Premiums
You can also pay for your parent’s health insurance premiums with your monthly benefit. This can be extremely helpful for offsetting the high costs often associated with senior health coverage.
6. Rent, Utilities, and Other Household Costs
Your VA dependent parent benefit doesn’t have to go toward medical costs, although that should be a priority. Suppose you have money left from the benefit after paying for health coverage, copays, assistive technology, and other medical costs for your parent. In that case, you can use it toward rent, utilities, and additional regular costs of living. Groceries, clothing, and entertainment are also acceptable expenses.
How Much Is the VA Dependent Parent Benefit?
The benefit amount you’ll receive for eligible dependents varies based on your parent’s income and your VA disability rating. For a rating of 30% to 60%, one dependent parent, and no spouse or children, you can get a total of between $476.69 and $1214.68 per month. The same circumstances for a 70% to 100% disability rating will give you between $1523.17 and $3245.02 per month.
These amounts can decrease with your parent’s income. They may also increase if you have other dependents, like a spouse or another dependent parent.
Veteran Eligibility Requirements
A veteran can only have a qualifying dependent parent under two conditions. First, a parent can qualify as a dependent parent of military personnel when the veteran qualifies for VA disability pay. The veteran must meet the eligibility requirement for at least a 30% VA disability rating to add a dependent parent or any other type of dependent to their compensation.
Otherwise, a veteran must be enrolled in an educational assistance military program on at least a part-time schedule for their parent to qualify. A veteran cannot have a dishonorable discharge to qualify for the program.
Parent Eligibility Requirements
To be an eligible parent to add as a dependent, the parent must be the biological, adoptive, foster, step, or another qualifying type of parent. This relationship should be established for at least one year before the servicemember enters active duty. The parent must also be under the veteran’s direct care and have an income and net worth that falls below the eligibility guidelines.
You can also add a dependent parent after they’ve become a dependent of yours while receiving disability compensation with at least a 30% disability rating or while receiving educational assistance.
Financial Eligibility Requirements
The VA considers the dependent parent’s income only to approve or deny a claim for dependent parent disability benefits. When you apply, you’ll need to include all income for your dependent parent for the past 12 calendar months from your application date. You’ll also need to note the sources of your parent’s income.
What Is Included in a Parent’s Net Worth and Income?
A parent’s income can include any of the following:
- Wages or salary
- Business income
- Pension income
- Money from dividends or interest
- Social security benefits, retirement pay, disability pay, etc.
- Money given to the parent by friends or family
- Insurance benefits
The VA considers only the parent’s net income for money that comes from a business or other types of income that is subject to expenses. In this case, specific expenses count as a deduction from your parent’s income to provide their gross income, including business expenses, business debt interest, and other employees’ salaries.
The VA also considers a parent’s net worth based on things they might own, like real estate, savings accounts, and stocks. However, you do not need to report the parent’s home, vehicle, clothing, and other personal property with your claim.
Are There Ways to Reduce Qualifying Income?
Yes. You can detail specific expenses for your parent when you apply for the dependent parent benefit. Note expenses like rent or mortgage payments, utility payments, clothing expenses, taxes, home repair or maintenance costs, and other payments your parent makes. You can also let the VA know how much your parent’s medical expenses cost. Report all expenses for the past 12 calendar months before the date of your application.
How to Apply for the VA Dependent Parent Benefit
As a claimant seeking the VA dependent parent benefit, you’ll need to fill out VA FORM 21P-509. Send it in with your VA disability claim or as a separate VA claim if you already receive VA disability benefits, and your parent has recently become reliant on your income. You can also apply if you’re receiving educational assistance. Parents can use the same form if they apply for benefits for their child who is a deceased veteran.
How to Claim a Parent as Dependent for VA Disability Compensation
The VA provides support to veterans and their families through various programs, like CHAMPVA, a VA loan, educational benefit programs, and surviving spouse or surviving child benefits. The VA dependent parent program is another way the VA ensures that a veteran can take care of their family.
Claiming a parent as a dependent makes it possible for you to support your parent who depends on you financially. Your benefit can pay for health coverage, assistive technology, and care for your dependent parent. To apply, you can send the required form and information to your regional VA office or apply online with your eBenefits account.
You can also unlock greater benefits today for you or your parent by taking our free assessment to see how we can help!