Many wartime veterans and their
surviving spouses are currently receiving long-term care or will need some type
of long-term care in the near future. The Veterans Administration has funds
that are available to help pay for this care, yet many families are not even
aware that these benefits exist.
Pension with Aid and Attendance pays the
highest amount and benefits a veteran or surviving spouse who requires
assistance in activities of daily living (dressing, undressing, eating,
toileting, etc.), is blind, or is a patient in a nursing home. Assisted care in
an assisted living facility also qualifies.
Pension with Housebound Allowance is for those who need
regular assistance but would not meet the more stringent requirements for Aid
and Attendance, and wish to remain in their own
home or the home of a family member. Care can be provided by family members or outside
Basic Pension is for veterans and surviving spouses who are age
65 or older or are disabled, and who have limited income and assets.
A veteran does not need to have
service-related injuries to qualify for these pension benefits, but must meet
certain wartime service and discharge requirements. A surviving spouse must
also meet marriage requirements to the qualified veteran. Certain requirements
must be met for a disability claim if the claimant (the veteran or surviving
spouse filing for benefits) is less than age 65.
When determining eligibility, the VA looks at a claimant’s
total net worth, life expectancy, income and medical expenses. A married
veteran and spouse should have no more than $80,000 in “countable assets,”
which includes retirement assets but does not include a home and vehicle. This
amount is a guideline and not a rule.
Income for VA Purposes (called IVAP) must be less than the
benefit for which the claimant is applying. IVAP is calculated by subtracting
“countable medical expenses” (recurring out-of-pocket medical expenses that can
be expected to continue through the claimant’s lifetime) from the claimant’s
gross income from all sources.
Note: It is
possible to reduce assets and income to a level that will be acceptable to the
VA. For example, excess liquid assets (such as cash or stocks) could be
converted to an income stream through the use of an annuity or promissory note.
However, because the claimant may need to qualify for Medicaid in the future,
it is critical that any restructuring
or gifting of assets be done in a way that will not jeopardize or delay
Medicaid benefits. An attorney who has experience with Elder Law will be able
to provide valuable assistance with this.
Applying for Benefits
It often takes the VA more than a year to make a decision,
but once approved, benefits are paid retroactively to the month after the
application is submitted. Having proper documentation (discharge papers,
medical evidence, proof of medical expenses, death certificate, marriage
certificate and a properly completed application) when the application is
submitted can greatly reduce the processing time.
Because time is critical for these aging veterans and their
surviving spouses, application should be made as soon as possible. For more
information, visit http://www.va.gov.
If you have additional questions, contact our San Francisco Bay Area Estate Planning Attorneys.