Lately there’s lots of “advisors” out there talking about Veterans Benefits. Many are also hawking annuities and “planning services” (creating trusts etc.) to make Veterans Eligible for these benefits. Meh!
The VA Enhanced Pension – often erroneously referred to as “Aid & Attendance Benefits” is meant for certain Wartime Vets who are in need of cash assistance. It is not meant for people wanting to leave all of their accumulated wealth to the next generation. In that way, it is like Medicaid — a program designed for citizens in need of assistance as they age.Unfortunately, many of the “planners” (largely insurance salespeople, financial advisors, and yes, lawyers) don’t really have any idea what they are doing with regard to these vulnerable elders and their need for assistance in paying for Long Term Care (whether at home, in nursing facilities or assisted living). Or maybe they do and just don’t care? By “planning” for VA benefits (divesting the senior of assets to make them eligible for benefits) they inadvertently may cause the Vet or his widow to become ineligible for other benefits – particularly Medicaid.
If you, or someone you know is a Vet (our surviving spouse of a Vet!) and you believe s/he might be qualified for Pension and Enhanced Pension benefits, you might want to talk to a qualified advisor. And to be honest, it is difficult to tell who actually is qualified. (I am certified to practice before the VA and any lawyer that is offering to do VA Benefits work that is not, probably is not a good choice – I can’t speak for the other professions) The Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs allows you to search their list of qualified representives here: http://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp – but you do not need to have a lawyer or representative to apply. But I will warn you that it can be a long and complicated process.
If you’re a Vet and have no idea what I’m talking about, but want to know more, see if you can fit into the guidelines below then give me a call. I can help.
General Guidelines to Qualifications for Veterans Affairs Enhanced Pension
SERVICE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
Served at least ninety (90) days active duty
At least one day served during a qualified wartime period:
- WW2 12/7/41 through 12/31/46
- Korea 6/27-1950 through 1/31/1955
- Vietnam: if served inside Republic of Vietnam, 2/28/1961 through 5/7/1975, if elsewhere then 8/5/1964 through 5/7/1975
- Gulf War: 8/2/1990 through some future date TBD.
Any discharge not categorized as dishonorable;
FINANCIAL ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
Assets owned by claimant must be limited. Amount claimant may hold depends on age and health of claimant. No “hard & fast” rule on maximum assets although generally if they exceed $50,000 readjustment of claimants holdings may be necessary. WARNING: do not give away or divest of assets without consulting a professional planner familiar with both VA Benefits and Medicaid. Planning for one set of benefits may result in disqualifying claimant for the other!
Assets that are NOT counted: Primary residence, car, personal effects.
Income: gross income evaluated after reduction by total out-of-pocket annual medical expenses (including pharmacy, Medicare/insurance premiums and typically, the entire cost of Assisted Living is deemed “medical expense”)
THE VA PAYMENT RATES:
Basic Pension for those over 65 and meet above criteria – pays the difference between countable family income and the yearly income limit (see chart below). This difference is generally paid in 12 equal monthly payments rounded down to the nearest dollar.
Tom is single and has no dependents. He has an annual income of $5,000 from his union pension. His annual income limit is $12,465. To determine Tom’s V.A. Pension subtract his annual income of $5000 from the $12,465 income limit . This comes to an annual V.A. pension rate of $7465. This translates into a monthly VA pension check of approximately $622.
If the claimant is housebound, the amount increases as does the income allowed. Likewise if the claimant requires “aid & attendance” (with activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, eating, toileting) – the amounts increase. In the case of Aid & Attendance, a doctor’s statement will be required.
|FAMILY SITUATION (2013 Rates)||INCOME LIMIT||MAX BENEFIT (MONTHLY)|
|Veteran, no dependents||$12,465||$1,038|
|Veteran, one dependent||$16,324||$1,360|
|Veteran, no dependent & housebound||$15,233||$1,268|
|Veteran, one dependent & housebound||$19,093||$1,591|
|Veteran, no dependent, and Aid & Attendance||$20,795||$1,732|
|Veteran, one dependent, and Aid & Attendance||$24,652||$2,054|
|Each additional child||$2,093||$174|
|Widow, no dependent||$8,359||$696|
|Widow, no dependent and housebound||$10,217||$851|
|Widow, no dependent and Aid & Attendance||$13,362||$1,113|
|Veteran married to Veteran, Both Aid & Attendance||$32,100||$2,675|