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.

Veterans' Benefits for Home and Assisted Living Care

The attorneys at The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. are 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 have received a discharge under conditions other than dishonorable. The veteran must be "permanently and totally disabled" because of a non-service connected condition, or be over the age of 65 years. Additionally, for the improved pension program, the veteran's income cannot exceed $931 per month (with no dependents) or $1,220 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. Veterans 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 income limit from $931 per month to $1,554 per month (with no dependents), and from $1,220 per month to $1,842 per month (with one dependent). The MAPR for the A&A benefit, therefore, is the higher of $1,554 or $1,842 per month. (Widows or widowers can receive a maximum of $998 per month.) One significant feature of the pension program is that income is reduced by paid but un-reimbursed 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 there are no hard and fast rules, but a net worth below $80,000 for a couple, or $50,000 for an individual, has been acceptable. The VA 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 this disconnect and plan accordingly. The A&A benefit payments are made directly to the veteran or eligible surviving spouse, 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 attorneys at 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 includes a thorough review of the benefits for which the client is eligible.

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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