Is Your Wallet Feeling a Little Light?

The Best Kept Secret:
Improved Pension Benefits for Veterans and Surviving Spouses
Most families have no idea that if an individual is a veteran, he or she is entitled to additional income. As individuals age, the rising long term costs make it very difficult to maintain financial security, especially in these rocky financial times. This article explores the often unclaimed income waiting for veterans. For most veterans, the idea of collecting a pension benefit from the military does not seem like a real possibility unless the veteran suffered a service connected disability. However, there is a veteran’s pension benefit program available to all veterans, and their families, which is available to pay for unreimbursed home health and medical expenses and the
unreimbursed cost of assisted living. This program is called the “Aid and Attendance Program” (“AA”).
Eligibility for the AA Program. In order to be eligible for the AA Program, a veteran must have served 90 days on active duty with at least one day during wartime, and must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Additionally, the veteran must be “permanently and totally disabled” because of a non-service connected condition.

Periods of Wartime Service:
WWI: April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918
WWII: December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946
Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950 to January 31, 1955
Vietnam Era: August 5, 1964 (February 28, 1961, for veterans who served “in country” before August 4, 1964) to May 7, 1975
Gulf War: August 2, 1990 – TBA
Permanently and Totally Disabled. “Permanently and totally disabled” means that a veteran must require “care or assistance on a regular basis,” which protects him or her from dangers of a daily living environment. The term can be established by showing one, or more, of the following conditions:
The veteran is blind or has a visual impairment;
The veteran is a patient in a nursing home or hospice facility because of mental or physical incapacity;
The veteran is unable to dress or undress or keep himself or herself clean and presentable;
The veteran needs adjustments to any special prosthetic, orthopedic appliance, or is not able to attend to the prosthetic,
or appliance;
The veteran has a physical or mental incapacity (dementia) that requires assistance on a regular basis to protect the veteran from the hazards of his or her environment.
Furthermore, it is generally presumed that a veteran who is residing in an assisted living facility does meet one, or more, of the aforementioned conditions. However, a letter from the veteran’s personal physician substantiating the veteran’s disability will greatly enhance the benefits process.

Current AA Monthly Pension Benefits

The current approximate maximum monthly AA pension benefits are as follows:
Veteran & Spouse: $1,800.00
Veteran: $1,500.00
Surviving Spouse: $950.00

Unreimbursed Medical Expenses. Unreimbursed medical expenses are generally defined to include the costs associated to health and Medicare insurance premiums, prescriptions drugs, dental and vision care, and expenses related to an assisted living facility, and in-home care aid, and/or adult day care.
Net Worth Valuation. Finally, assuming a veteran, and/or his or her spouse, has tentatively qualified for the AA monthly pension benefit, the final test to fulfill the qualification process related to the net worth of the applicant. With the exception of the applicant’s home, an automobile, traditional household furnishings and personal property, which are treated as non-countable, attorneys who advise clients on veterans benefits are allowing the applicants to maintain
no more than one of the following cash asset levels without jeopardizing his or her opportunity to collect the maximum monthly AA pension benefit:
Couple: $80,000.00
Individual: $50,000.00
However, in practice, if a person’s assets are a home plus $40,000.00 in other assets, there are usually no issues. The home is not counted. In other words, the VA will rarely deny a claim if the net worth is below this number.
AA Pre-Planning. Lastly, with the Veterans Administration only looking at the applicant’s net worth at the time of the actual AA application, and with there being no penalty period for the transfer of assets prior to the time of the application, it is fair to conclude that with proper planning, just about any veteran, and/or his or her spouse, can qualify for a monthly AA pension benefit.
Medicaid Benefits. With the Medicaid program having stricter rules and regulations regarding asset transfers than the Veterans AA Program, it is very important that clients engage a qualified elder law attorney when developing a Long Term Care Plan. For instance, transferring assets to qualify for AA Benefits could result in a five year ineligibility for Medicaid benefits.

Please contact Danielle Mayoras for additional information or questions at dmayoras@brmmlaw.com or 1-877-PLAN-758.

You can also visit:

www.TheCenterForElderLaw.com, www.TheCenterForSpecialNeedsPlanning.com,
www.TheCenterforProbateLitigation.com and subscribe to our bi-monthly e-letter, The Insight:
News, Stories, and Thoughts on Elder, Special Needs, and Probate Law.

Reprinted from Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Dementias: a Guidebook for Care, Comfort, Legal
and Financial Security.

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