Proposed Changes to Veteran’s Benefits Could Affect Elderly

Memorial DayThe Veteran’s Aid and Attendance (A&A) Pension provides benefits for qualified veterans and their surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing and undressing or taking care of the needs of personal hygiene (known as Activities of Daily Living). This could include home care or care in a facility.

There are several levels of qualification. Currently, in very general terms, the veteran must have served in active duty for at least 90 days, one of which must have been during a defined wartime period, a physician must verify that the applicant requires assistance with two activities of daily living, the applicant and spouse must have less than approximately $80,000 of countable assets and the cost of the needed care exceeds the income. If these terms are met, the A&A Pension can provide up to $1,778 per month to a veteran, $1,149 per month to a surviving spouse, $2,120 per month to a couple, or $1,404 per month to a veteran filing with a spouse who needs care (as of 01/01/15).

Currently, the $80,000 asset limit does not include the applicant’s primary residence on a parcel of “reasonable” size. For example, in some surrounding towns, it is not unusual that planning and zoning and wetlands regulations require parcels to exceed two or three acres. Those parcels are considered “reasonable” given the circumstances and the value of the applicant’s home is not included when calculating the asset limitation. This allows many veteran’s to obtain the benefit for care while containing to live in their home.

In addition, the A&A benefit rules currently do not include a “look back” for transfer of assets. The “look-back” (which is a common phrase when discussing Medicaid eligibility) is the time period in which the entity that approves or denies the application for benefits would review the applicant’s transfers to determine if he or she made any gifts. Under Medicaid rules, the “look-back” is five years. As such, if an applicant makes any gifts for the 5-year period prior to applying to the State for long-term care services through Medicaid, he or she could be penalized or disqualified. The VA does not currently look back to any transfers made previous to the date of the application. This could all change.

On January 23, 2015, the Department of Veteran Affairs proposed a rule that would, among other things, establish new definitions for certain countable assets and new rules regarding the transfer of assets. The proposed rule includes a three year look-back on asset transfers, the establishment of a ten year maximum penalty period, and a rule that a primary residence with more than two acres would be considered a countable asset. These drastic changes could go into effect as early as October 2015.

Please share this article with all of the veteran’s you know. Most of our veteran clients are not aware of this benefit. Someone you know may be denying himself the care he needs because he thinks he cannot afford it, when in fact he may qualify right now to receive this monthly stipend Some of these same people may not qualify if these proposed changes go into effect.

Attorney Joan Reed Wilson is accredited with the Veteran’s Administration. For more information on Veteran’s Aid & Attendance benefits, Medicaid or other elder law concerns, please contact Attorney Wilson at Wilson, Pinder & Snow, LLC at 860-669-1222 or jwilson@wpslaw.com.

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