Veterans of all ages may be eligible for a free medical alert system from providers that have partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs. These systems can help you or your loved one remain safer and more independent even when living alone. These devices are sometimes referred to as personal emergency response systems (PERS) and usually take the form of a bracelet or pendant. The features and functionality vary, from basics such as two-way speech to automatic fall detection, GPS and voice guidance.
Whether it’s needed due to a physical disability, health concerns or a simple matter of the years adding up, veterans may qualify for a free medical alert system from the VA or state assistance programs. The VA recommends wearing a medical alert bracelet to get help quickly in many scenarios, from food allergies to Alzheimer’s disease, and for storing vital health information to be accessed in an emergency.
This guide explains the options available for veterans interested in getting a free medical alert system from the VA and how to submit a request. Other potential sources of assistance are also detailed, as well as a state-by-state list of Medicaid programs that may cover the cost.
Free Medical Alert Systems from the VA
As of 2022, there are two VA-approved medical alert systems, Latitude Mobile Alert (formerly known as LiveLife Mobile) and MedEquip Alert, which are described below in further detail. Both of these devices are free for eligible veterans — with no upfront, monthly or other costs — when prescribed by a VA physician and authorized by the VA. In order to receive a free device, the VA physician is required to document the reason and need for the PERS, such as fall risk, cognitive impairment and other medical conditions that require immediate medical attention when emergencies happen.
Latitude Mobile Alert
The Latitude Mobile Alert works indoors and out and offers more features than the alternative VA-approved device, including fall detection, GPS and 4G mobile connection in even the standard model.
The Latitude Mobile Alert has its own mobile number and can receive calls, although the device isn’t meant to be used casually as a replacement for other phones. This capability gives close contacts another way of reaching the user in a suspected emergency.
The device can be programmed to automatically answer trusted callers and also activate speakerphone mode to make it easier to use for a person with restricted mobility. MedEquip Alert devices lack these features and instead provide 24/7 monitored service with a call center.
During the order process, veterans can submit the contact details of up to six people and/or organizations. Latitude staff will then program the device so it’s ready to go as soon as it arrives, and users can customize the list at any time.
Latitude USA has a contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs authorizing it to provide this device at no cost to eligible veterans anywhere in the country. Likewise, there’s no cost for ongoing service, maintenance or upkeep.
Latitude Mobile Alert Features and Functionality
||AT&T cellular network
||Provided via GPS, Bluetooth 5 and Wi-Fi
||Unmonitored (can be programmed to call 911)
||Text, speech, custom alerts
||Home charging station, magnetic USB cable
||Programmable with up to six contacts in order of priority
||Automatic alerts, adjustable sensitivity
The alternative for veterans who need a free personal emergency response system through the VA is MedEquip Alert. It has fewer features than Latitude Mobile Alert, but the 24/7 monitoring service is important for many veterans and their families.
Although this device looks fairly similar to those provided by Latitude USA, and both share many similar features, one of the major differences is that MedEquip Alert devices are monitored. This allows the user to quickly contact the monitoring center for help at any time, day or night, while the Latitude device is unmonitored and can only send alerts to programmed contacts.
Furthermore, operators at the monitoring center are automatically provided with the name, address and GPS location associated with the MedEquip Alert device in an emergency situation, which can help reduce response times.
As with the Latitude USA product, the MedEquip Alert system is provided to eligible veterans with no initial or ongoing costs attached.
MedEquip Alert Features and Functionality
||AT&T cellular network
||24/7 monitoring center
||Adapter, magnetic USB cable
How to Qualify and Apply for a Free Medical Alert System From the VA
Qualifying for a medical alert system through the VA depends on the veteran’s health conditions, functional abilities and quality of life, and eligibility is determined as part of the application process.
To request a medical alert system paid for by the VA:
- Contact the individual’s VA primary care doctor or VA hospital clinician
- Discuss the reasons for requesting a medical alert system (no family nearby, risk of falls, previous incidents, etc.)
- The physician may then send a prescription to the VA for authorization
- If approved, the requested device is provided at no cost directly through Latitude USA or MedEquip
The VA Benefits helpline can be contacted at (800) 827-1000. Veterans can also contact their state’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs office to arrange in-person assistance.
Other VA Assistance for Medical Alert Systems
Two VA programs, Aid and Attendance and the Housebound Allowance can be used to cover the cost of a medical alert system. These programs aren’t specifically limited to providing medical alert systems, and the benefits are intended to help veterans pay for care due to disability or other limitations by increasing their monthly VA pension amount.
Aid and Attendance benefits are for veterans who receive a pension and meet at least one of these conditions:
- Require assistance with activities of daily life (hygiene, mobility, meal preparation, etc.)
- Limited to bed for much of the day due to illness
- Living in a nursing home due to physical and/or mental disability
- Limited eyesight
Housebound Allowance benefits are for veterans who receive a pension and are limited to their home for much of the day due to a permanent disability.
Further details and a downloadable application form can be found on the VA website. Help is also available at regional VA offices.
Other Ways to Get a Free or Low-Cost Medical Alert System
The following programs and organizations are potential sources of full or partial coverage for a medical alert system and can provide information on how to qualify. The Eldercare Locator and local AAA offices are good places to start.
|Local Area Agencies on Aging
||Call the Eldercare Locator at (800) 677-1166 or search for local services online
||Area Agencies on Aging can connect seniors and veterans with disabilities with local and state assistance programs that may help cover the cost of medical alert systems.
|Medicare Advantage (Part C)
||Call (877) 839-2675 or find local assistance via the website
||Personal emergency response systems and similar alert devices are covered by some Medicare Advantage plans, but this coverage varies depending on the plan chosen. Medicare beneficiaries can call or visit the linked website for help with determining coverage.
|Long-Term Care Insurance
||Learn more via the website then contact a local insurance agent or broker
||LTC insurance policies often cover some or all of the costs associated with medical alert and personal response systems. This website explains long-term care insurance, who it’s for, what it covers and how to get it.
|AARP Member Discount for Philips Lifeline
||There are two types of Philips Lifeline medical alert systems available with a 15% discount on the monthly subscription cost for AARP members. Both systems provide 24/7 monitored service.
State-by-State Guide for Free Medical Alert Systems
While the VA provides a fairly standard set of benefits and services nationwide, the states are left to decide on coverage for medical alert systems via Medicaid and its waiver programs, so there may be another pathway to getting a free system in your state.
We’ve made a list of the applicable Medicaid waiver programs for each state, which are generally available to low-income residents who meet other requirements. For example, most programs require applicants to be aged at least 60 years old or have a qualifying disability as defined by Social Security. For the purposes of Medicaid and waiver coverage, medical alert systems are usually categorized as personal emergency response systems and sometimes more broadly as assistive technology (AT).
No Data Found
|Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS)
||Arizona’s Elderly & Physical Disability (E/PD) operates as a managed care service that covers home care, some home and vehicle modifications and even limited nursing home services.
|ARChoices In Homecare
||Arkansas’ ARChoices program is organized as a hands-off cash-and-counseling program that encourages maximum flexibility and user control in how funds are spent.
|Elderly Blind and Disabled Waiver (EBD)
||The Consumer-Directed Attendant Support Services (CDASS) waiver offered by Colorado pays for caregiver help, home modifications and a personal emergency call system for seniors living on their own.
|Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders
||The Connecticut Home Care Program for the Elderly (CHCPE) is the state’s waiver for seniors aged 65 and over. There is no waiting list for this program, which pays for caregiver services and limited home and vehicle modifications.
|Elderly and Disabled Waiver Program
||Georgia’s SOURCE program helps seniors with various medical needs, such as durable equipment and caregiver services. Very low-income enrollees may be able to get help with nonmedical assistance, such as home improvements and chore services.
||Med-QUEST is a comprehensive managed health program that covers services normally included under a Medicaid waiver, plus several benefits typically provided as regular Medicaid services.
|Home and Community Based Services (HCBS)
||Idaho’s HCBS promotes aging in place with home care services and some nonmedical assistance. There is a waiting list for new applications, which varies in length depending on which county is processing the application.
|Aged and Disabled Waiver (A&D)
||Indiana’s A&D waiver pays caregivers 50-60% of the state’s going rate for home care services. Caregivers are chosen by the enrollee, and they can be family members or friends.
|HCBS Waiver Program
||Iowa offers two paths to support through its HCBS waiver. Seniors have a maximum of flexibility and freedom under the state’s consumer-directed option, while somewhat more services are available for seniors who opt into the state’s managed care plan.
|Frail Elderly Waiver (FE)
||KanCare’s Frail Elderly waiver is mostly organized as a managed care plan that coordinates support across medical establishments. Some self-directed services are still available, such as in-home caregiver support.
|Home and Community Based Waiver (HCB)
||Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services maintains the state’s HCB waiver as an entitlement, so there’s no waiting list for new enrollments. Current beneficiaries must recertify a need for the waiver annually.
|Community Choices Waiver (CCW)
||Louisiana’s Community Choices Waiver (CCW) covers the cost of having a caregiver visit to assist beneficiaries in their own homes. It also supports seniors who’ve moved into a family member or friend’s home as an alternative to residential care.
|Community First Choice (CFC)
||Maryland seniors can apply for a CFC waiver in two different ways, depending on their current living conditions. Seniors who still live at home can apply for a waiver by phone at (844) 627-5465. Seniors living in a nursing home can apply for a waiver through the Area Agency for Aging in their home county.
|Frail Elder Waiver (FEW)
||Seniors in Massachusetts can apply for a FEW waiver through any social services organization in the state.
|Assisted Living Waiver
||Seniors can apply for a waiver from the Mississippi Division of Medicaid, Bureau of Long Term Care. Applications may be submitted by phone at (800) 421-2408.
|Big Sky Waiver
Community First Choice (CFC)
|Seniors can apply for a place on Montana’s Big Sky waiver waiting list by calling (800) 219-7035. Pre-application screenings are available through Mountain Pacific Quality Health (MPQH-Montana) at (800) 219-7035.
|Aged and Disabled Waiver (AD)
||Nebraska helps seniors avoid the state’s high cost for nursing home care with an Aged and Disabled waiver that covers many of the services they need to stay safely at home.
|Community Benefit Program
||Seniors in New Mexico have a choice between two community benefit programs. For seniors currently living in residential care, the Agency-Based Community Benefit (ABCB) waiver can help pick up some of the cost of care. The Self-Directed Community Benefit (SDCB) provides similar services for seniors aging in place at home.
|Medicaid HCBS Waiver
||North Dakota’s HCBS waiver supports in-home caregiver services and limited home and vehicle modifications to improve mobility and safety.
|The PASSPORT program is a nearly all-inclusive waiver that helps pay for caregiver services, home and vehicle modifications, some durable medical equipment and several other necessary benefits for seniors aging in place.
||Oklahoma’s ADvantage waiver includes some adult day health care with its other home care services.
||All seniors in Oregon who qualify for Medicaid are eligible to participate in the state’s K Plan waiver. Durable equipment and community-based transportation are included benefits under the program.
||Pennsylvania’s Community HealthChoices (CHC) program is open to financially eligible seniors aged 60 and over. The program includes transportation and home modification assistance.
|Global Consumer Choice Compact Waiver
||Rhode Island does not require applicants for the GCCC waiver to be fully financially eligible for Medicaid to participate in the program. There is a waiting list, though enrollment priority is given to seniors with an immediate need.
||South Dakota’s HOPE waiver pays for non-residential care costs that are projected to be less than 85% of the state average cost for nursing home care.
||TennCare CHOICES goes further than most states’ waiver programs by offering limited support for nursing home care, in addition to at-home caregiver support and other services.
Community First Choice (CFC)
|The support services offered under Texas’ STAR+PLUS waiver vary considerably by state. Check with a program worker in your area for details about benefits available to you.
|New Choices Waiver
|Utah’s New Choices Waiver (NCW) assists seniors aging in place with in-home support, as well as with transition services for those currently living in residential care.
|Choices for Care
||Seniors can apply for Vermont’s CFC program over the phone at (855) 899-9600. The program pays for caregiver support and limited home modifications.
Community First Choice (CFC)
|The Community First Choice Option (CFCO) offered by Washington state covers standard Medicaid waiver services such as caregiver support and durable medical equipment, as well as some nonmedical needs such as transportation assistance.
|Aged and Disabled Waiver (ADW)
||West Virginia’s ADW program supports in-home caregiver assistance and a number of nonmedical services, such as transportation assistance. Seniors can reach the program offices at (304) 352-4270.
|Wisconsin operates the Include, Respect, I Self Direct (IRIS) waiver that offers 100% beneficiary-directed care options through a cash-and-counseling model.
|Community Choices Waiver (CCW)
||Seniors in Wyoming can call (855) 203-2936 to submit an application by phone for the CCW program. General questions may be directed to (855) 203-2823.