ElderLaw News

ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

Assisted Living Facility Financial Help for Veterans

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is dedicated to finding additional ways to help seniors defray the costs of long-term care. One little-known benefit for veterans and their families is the Aid and Attendance (A&A) benefit. This benefit can be used for care in an assisted living facility or for care at home.

Title 38 of the U.S. Code contains statutes regulating veterans' benefit programs. Many of our readers are probably familiar with service-connected Veterans'' Compensation. This compensation is provided to veterans for disabilities caused or exacerbated by military service, and it is normally expressed as compensation for a certain percentage disability.

Non-service connected benefits (pensions) are available to veterans (and some widows or widowers) who meet certain conditions. The veterans do not have to be retired from military service, but the program is needs-based. The veteran must have served 90 days on active duty (the requirement is longer for more recent veterans), with at least one day during wartime, and be discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. The veteran must be "permanently and totally disabled" because of a non-service connected condition. Additionally, for the basic pension program, the veteran's income cannot exceed $846 per month (with no dependents) or $1,109 per month (with one dependent), the current maximum annual pension rate (MAPR).

The A&A benefit is an increased benefit for veterans who require "care or assistance on a regular basis" to protect them from dangers in their daily living environment. Persons living in assisted living facilities are presumed to need this level of assistance, but the veteran should include a letter from the veteran’s personal physician regarding the veteran's disability. The need for A&A increases the maximum annual pension rate (MAPR) from $846 per month to $1,413 per month (with no dependents), and from $1,109 per month to $1,675 per month (with one dependent). The income limit for the A&A benefit, therefore, is the higher of $1,413 or $1,675 per month. (Widows or widowers can receive a maximum of $908 per month.) One significant feature of the pension program is that income is reduced by paid but unreimbursed medical expenses, including insurance premiums, Medicare premiums, prescriptions, dental and vision care, and the costs of an assisted living facility, in-home aid, or adult day care. In many cases, these costs can easily reduce the applicant's income to a level that would permit the applicant to receive the benefit. The net worth of the applicant is also considered in the evaluation for A&A Although there is no fixed number, practitioners such as Alice Reiter Feld, a Florida Certified Elder Law Attorney, advise us that a net worth below $80,000 for a couple, or $50,000 for an individual, has been acceptable in their experience. The Veterans Administration looks to the net worth at the time of the application; there is no penalty period for the transfer of assets. If the veteran, however, transferred property that produced a great deal of income on the previous year's tax return, that previous year's higher income would be reflected on the application and may affect eligibility. Further, because the lack of a penalty for transferring asset conflicts with Medicaid requirements, elder law attorneys should advise their clients of the disconnect and plan accordingly. The A&A benefit payments are made directly to the veteran, and they are specifically excluded from the definition of income for Medicaid purposes. The benefit is reduced to $90 per month if the veteran lives in a nursing home.

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. can assist clients with their long-term care planning needs, whether the client lives at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. This planning includes a thorough review of the benefits for which the client is eligible, including the Aid and Attendance benefit.

For further information on this topic, please visit the following Web sites:

Department of Veterans Affairs: www.va.gov

Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Veteran's Services: www.vdva.vipnet.org

Federal Benefit Manual: www1.va.gov/pubaff/fedben/Fedben.pdf

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Maryland (301) 214-2229
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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C.

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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