veteran-planning

Veteran Planning

Get the facts on Veterans’ Benefits and the Aid and Attendance Pension

Thomas L. McKenzie is an Accredited Attorney with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. As such, he is legally entitled to help Veterans or their surviving spouses obtain the financial assistance to which they are entitled. If you are a Veteran or surviving spouse of a Veteran and you are living in, or considering moving into an Assisted Living Facility or Continuing Care Retirement Community, please contact us to see if you might qualify for the Veterans Aid and Attendance Special Pension Benefit.

What is the amount of the Aid and Attendance Benefit?
In 2017, the Veterans A&A Pension can provide:

  • $1,794 per month for a qualified single veteran
  • $2,127 per month if the veteran is married
  • $1,152 per month for a surviving spouse of a qualified veteran

These benefit payments are TAX FREE and do not affect taxes on other pension programs, such as Social Security income.

Who is eligible for the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit?
To receive the Aid & Attendance Pension Benefit, a veteran must have served on active duty at least 90 days, at least one day of which occurred during a period designated as wartime.

Periods Designated As Wartime
World War II: December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946
Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955
Vietnam Era: August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975; for veterans who served “in country” before August 5, 1964, February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975
Gulf War: August 2, 1990 through a date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation

The veteran must have been discharged with an honorable discharge status. Single surviving spouses of such veterans are also eligible. If younger than 65, the veteran must be totally disabled in order to to be eligible.

If you are are 65 and older, there is no requirement to prove disability. However, the veteran or spouse must be in need of regular aid and attendance due to:

  • Inability of claimant to dress or undress himself (herself)
  • To keep himself (herself) ordinarily clean and presentable
  • Frequent need of adjustment of any special prosthetic or orthopedic appliances which by reason of the particular disability cannot be done without aid (this will not include the adjustment of appliances which normal persons would be unable to adjust without aid, such as supports, belts, lacing at the back, etc.)
  • Inability to feed himself (herself) through loss of coordination of upper extremities or through extreme weakness
  • Inability to attend to the wants of nature
  • Incapacity, physical or mental, which requires care or assistance on a regular basis to protect the claimant from hazards or danger incidents to his or her daily environment

Not all of the disabling conditions in the list above are required to exist. It is only necessary that the evidence establish that the veteran or spouse needs “regular” (scheduled and ongoing) aid and attendance from someone else, not that there be a 24-hour need.

Determinations of a need for the aid and attendance or housebound benefit is based on medical reports and findings by private physicians or from hospital facilities. Authorization of aid and attendance or housebound benefits is automatic if evidence establishes the claimant is a patient in a nursing home or that the claimant is blind or nearly blind or having severe visual problems.

Is Aid and Attendance only for low income veterans?
No, instead it is based on income after reduction of specific types of recurring, unreimbursed medical and long-term care expenses paid to professionals or passed on to family members.

Filing a Claim
Filing a claim for the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit is complex and time-consuming. If you want to do it correctly, it’s important to get qualified assistance. Just knowing which form to fill out and how to complete it is a complex endeavor in itself. Even if the proper form is completed, failure to check a single box may result in a complete denial of your claim.

The application process involves:

1) Getting a rating
2) Obtaining evidence of prospective recurring medical expenses
3) Appointments for VA powers of attorney and fiduciaries
4) A thorough understanding of the application process

Often, qualification for this benefit involves reallocation of assets and shifting of income in order to qualify and these reallocations may have significant impact on Medi-Cal eligibility.

Given that many veterans who need the Aid and Attendance Benefit will eventually wind up also needing Medi-Cal, this process should not be attempted without the help of a qualified elder law attorney who thoroughly understands both the Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit and the Medi-Cal program, as well as the interaction between these two benefit programs.

The Asset Test
There is an asset test to qualify for the Aid & Attendance Pension Benefit. Any asset or investment that could be easily converted into income might disqualify the claimant. There is no dollar amount for the test and any level of assets could block the award.

Asset Exemptions
A primary residence, vehicles, and difficult-to-sell property are generally excluded from the asset test. However, some assets that are considered to be exempt by Medicaid (e.g., life estates) are considered to be countable by the Veterans Administration.

Asset Transfers
Veterans Affairs will allow assets to be transferred or converted to income in order to meet the asset test. There is no look-back penalty for transferring assets as there is with Medi-Cal. However, because the veteran or the surviving spouse might need to apply for Medi-Cal in the future, it is extremely important to consider future Medi-Cal eligibility when transferring assets or converting assets to income in order to obtain eligibility for Veterans Aid & Attendance. In addition, the Veterans Administration is considering new rules which would penalize certain transfers of assets within three years prior to application. Whenever possible you want to avoid both Aid and Attandance rejection and Medi-Cal penalties associated with reallocation assets. Which is why it is extremely important to receive counsel from an experienced and informed attorney.

Obtaining Military Records
You can obtain veterans military records from the archives here: http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/

A Final Word of Caution:

First, be aware that as mentioned above, planning for the receipt of Aid and Attendance benefits, if not pursued properly, could result in a disqualification for other important governmental benefit programs when you need them most. For example, improper gifting of assets within 5 years of application for Medi-Cal benefits for long-term care could disqualify the veteran for such benefits. Therefore, it is extremely important to seek assistance from a firm who can assist you in developing a truly “comprehensive” plan; one that will not only address potential qualification for Aid and Attendance benefits, but also the avoidance of unnecessary court procedures, unnecessary probates, and the protection of your assets for yourself, your spouse, and your children.

Second, BEWARE OF SCAMS. Because of the number of individuals currently dealing with this issue, it has created a business opportunity for many companies who have seized the demand and lack of information pertaining to Aid and Attendance to their advantage. Be cautioned not to fall victim to one of these “scam services.”

What to look out for:

Many of these scam artists are merely insurance agents who will attempt to sell you unnecessary insurance products (usually annuities), in order to generate high commissions for themselves. Although annuities are sometimes utilized in such planning, they are usually NOT the only solution. So, if someone attempts to “push” you into purchasing annuities, this could be a danger sign. Find out UP FRONT, if the person or organization assisting you is actually an insurance agent or agency.

Others may improperly over-utilize certain types of “irrevocable” trusts, without explaining the potentially negative consequences of such instruments. Some even encourage you to unnecessarily sell your home or obtain a reverse mortgage, in order to “free up” more money to invest in their products. Although these strategies may have their place, they are not always in your best interests. Don’t enter into these types of transactions without a full understanding of their impact!

According to an October 1, 2010 article from AARP entitled Taking Aim at Old Soldiers: Seminars Target Vets with Unwise Investments, these unscrupulous companies give their presentations at community centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, to older veterans. Their message, in a nutshell is that they can get you instant eligibility for additional benefits through a quick overhaul of your investments. These self-described “veterans advocates” are in fact shady investment advisers. “They say that if you purchase financial products through us, we’ll make you eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs pensions and other benefits,” says Joe Foster, administrator of Montana’s Veteran Affairs Division, which recently helped form a task force to combat this growing scam against vets. These unscrupulous individuals are perpetrating a “bait-and-switch” on veterans, where they pretend to be “experts” in VA benefits, but are actually trying to sell high commission products where they can often make tens of thousands of dollars for just a few days work!

The article goes on to make the following recommendations:

  • Don’t be fooled by official-sounding names. Some sales agents operate as, or work with, “front” organizations, falsely claiming they have a veteran affiliation and nonprofit status.
  • Don’t depend on nursing homes, community centers and assisted living facilities to protect you. They may be unaware of the true nature of the seminars. Often they are paid a fee to let volunteers give presentations.
  • Get credible information on how to qualify for veterans benefits by contacting your state Veterans Affairs Agency at www.nasdva.net.

The bottom line is “buyer beware!” If you don’t go through our office to obtain assistance, then make sure that anyone assisting you or a loved one in obtaining Veteran’s Benefits is accredited by the Veteran’s Administration, and make them prove this to you by showing you the readout from the VA website showing their accredited status.

Please be advised that the information on this site is not meant to be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, or for more information about?Veteran?Planning, please contact our office at (562) 594-4200 for a FREE 30-minute consultation!