Earlier this week, I took a trip up to one of my favorite places in North Carolina – the mountains. My wife and I decided to take a couple’s excursion to enjoy the last remaining weeks of the summer. Now, we both love our kids. But sometimes, as you parents all know, it’s great to get away from time to time, especially to an area that is as majestic as the mountains of my home state. The only time of year that is better to go to the mountains is the fall, when the leaves change and the colors start to emerge.
But I also love to get up to the mountains to do some thinking and clear my head so that I can approach my job with clarity. Now that I’ve been able to do that, I want to talk to you about VA Aid & Attendance planning.
Recently, at a gathering of various elder law attorneys and some groups affiliated with my niche, someone posed a question to me that I’d like to address and answer for all of you. The question that I was asked was as follows:
“Should I use a financial institution or some kind of financial outfit to handle my VA Aid & Attendance planning?
The short answer is no, you should not go to a financial outfit to help you handle matters of VA Aid & Attendance planning in place of an attorney.
Let me explain the dangers in going to a financial group for your VA Aid & Attendance planning. Let’s say you’ve got a benefit coming in of $1,700 per month, and your social security is $1,000 per month. That $2,700 might help you in your payments toward the monthly in-home care bill, if you should require that type of care. However, if you require more extensive care, such as going to an assisted living facility or a nursing home, then your costs are going to increase dramatically. I’ve seen these types of facilities cost a minimum of $5,000 a month, with a high of $12,000 per month. Of course, this depends on the level of care that you require and the standard of the facility that you potentially enter.
That being the case, your VA Aid & Attendance isn’t necessarily going to cover those fees. The financial company may therefore move around your assets to try to get you qualified for VA Aid & Attendance, and they’ll do it in such a way that the money will come back to you using certain financial tools. Why would they want to move around assets in the first place? Because some of them claim that they can help you qualify for VA Aid & Attendance just by doing so.
Now, VA Aid & Attendance is a well-liked pension program, one that I promote heavily, and one of the reasons for that is because there is no look back period. Now, in North Carolina, there is a three-year look back period called special assistance Medicaid, which is a type of Medicaid that covers assisted living care. There is also a five-year look back period for the Medicaid that covers nursing home or long-term care. You might be in great shape now and not require these types of care, but if you improperly move around assets under the Medicaid rules just to qualify for VA Aid & Attendance, and then you incur a healthcare crisis, you are going to be in a bad situation. You may very well be disqualified or incur a penalty period in trying to get Medicaid to come in and pay for the healthcare costs if you don’t actually have the monthly funds to cover them.
This is what I call practicing law without a license. If you’re a company out there, hear me now: People who do this are practicing law without a license by doing that type of planning, without doing it under a lawyer’s care and ignoring the Medicaid elephant in the room that’s right around the corner. There are many other issues associated with this practice, too, that I might get into in another blog post. But let me say this: I’ve worked with a lot of great financial people who really care about seniors and really know a lot about how to protect seniors. However, if you are working with or know of a financial company that is trying to qualify you for VA Aid & Attendance by pushing financial products, they’re only interested in selling those products that help you qualify. They’re not interested in whether you’re going to be disqualified for Medicaid down the road or really going to end up losing the coverage you may need. And as a result of that penalty period, don’t forget you are going to have to pay all that money back.
If you’ve got a private financial outfit that’s trying to do this type of planning, call me. My number at work is 704-259-7040. You can talk to me directly. Those of you who are engaged in this practice, call me and I’ll tell you why you’re practicing law without a license, and I think you ought to be sued in the state of North Carolina and every other state in the union.
Call me if you have any questions:
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street, Shelby