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Veterans Benefits: Aid and Attendance

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Many veterans and their spouses are eligible but do not apply for the benefit.

Aid and Attendance is for veterans, spouse of a veteran, or spouse of a deceased veteran needing day-to-day care to get paid a monthly benefit.

The term applies to individuals needing the aid and attendance of another person to help with daily activities, and is paid in addition to an individual’s pension. Clearly, to receive the Aid and Attendance benefit, you must first receive a pension.

There are certain requirements to qualify. If the veteran is in assisted living or a nursing home, they automatically meet the initial requirements. After the initial qualification, further criteria still need to be met.

There are three tiers of additional aid offered to veterans and people that meet the requirements.

The Third Tier: Aid and Attendance

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, one of the following is needed for an individual to qualify to receive Aid and Attendance:

  • The individual must prove he/she requires aid and attendance of someone to carry out basic daily functions, such as bathing and getting dressed.
  • The individual must be disabled to the point of being bedridden.
  • The individual must be admitted to a nursing home because they cannot provide basic care for himself/herself.
  • The individual must record an eyesight of 5/200 or below in both eyes.

 

The maximum amount individuals will receive once qualified for Aid and Attendance differs on a case-by-case basis. Below are the current maximum monthly benefit amounts as of 2018:

The Asset Level Threshold for Aid and Attendance qualification. The threshold is accepted as being below $80,000, but we believe it’s around $20,000. However, there are ways to position assets and still qualify for Aid and Attendance.

One day of war time duty

If you’re a veteran, and have served ninety days of active duty, one day beginning or ending during a period of War, you may be eligible for Aid and Attendance benefit.

Here is a link to all war time events the Veterans Administration has designated for A&A benefits: http://www.veteranaid.org/docs/Periods_of_War.pdf

Example: I would qualify because I was in the military during the window for the Gulf War. It also qualifies my spouse. Even if I passed away, she’d be eligible for that benefit through me.

Check to see if you qualify for this beneficial program. Eligibility must be proven by filing the Veterans Application for Pension or Compensation.

This requires:

  • A copy of DD-214 or separation papers
  • Medical Evaluation from a physician
  • Current medical issues
  • Net worth limitations
  • Net income
  • Out-of-pocket Medical Expenses.

To qualify (financially), an applicant must have on average less than $80,000 in assets, excluding their home and vehicles.

Checklist for Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefits:

  • Veteran? Spouse of Veteran? Spouse of deceased veteran?
  • At least 90 days of active duty service
  • At least one day of active duty service during a wartime event. Service does not have to be in a combat theater.
  • Under $20,000 in assets, excluding home.
  • A current need: At least 2 out of 6 standard ADLs impaired*:

 

Activities of Daily Living:

§ Eating?

§ Preparing Meals?

§ Walking?

§ Dressing?

§ Bathing?

§ Toileting?

* A physician must sign an FL2 form confirming current need.

Surviving Spouses

I often get questions about surviving spouses of veterans.

What happens if the veteran is of good health, yet their spouse has healthcare problems and incurs staggering medical bills?

According to veteranaid.org, the spouse of a veteran who incurs healthcare costs is eligible to receive no more than $1,176 each month. Similarly, a veteran with a sick spouse is eligible to receive no more than $1,436 each month. These figures are of January 1, 2018.

Veterans Improved Pension: Other Tiers

As mentioned, the Veterans Improved Pension program has three tiers.

The First Tier — Basic Pension for disabled veterans 65 years and up. This also extends to the surviving spouse of a veteran if he/she meets the income qualifications.

The following are the countable income requirements (as of January 1, 2015) a veteran must meet for the Basic Pension.

  • The joint countable income of a veteran and spouse must be less than the pension amount for which they are eligible. Example, a married veteran in 2017 is eligible for $25,525 in pension; if their countable income is $10,000, they are eligible for an additional $15,525 / year in pension.*

 

The Second Tier Housebound Pension. You must also qualify to be eligible for this monthly amount.

Housebound Pension recipients must prove they require assistance of another individual in their home, by having their primary physician sign that they need the help. Their day-to-day actions are not as limited as those receiving Aid and Attendance.

(*Conditions to be met for countable income for Housebound Pension are the same as above).

When speaking about countable income, it is imperative you record all your expenses. The VA discourages individuals from paying various expenses in cash, this way you maintain a paper trail and can add this to your countable income.

Here’s how to calculate Countable Income.

(See VeteranAid.org for downloadable chart)

First Step Estimate total annual income of veteran whether single or married.

What to include

  • All income including social security, pension, interest income, dividends, income from rental properties, etc.
  • CDs, annuities, stocks, bonds, savings/checking, IRAs, etc.
  • Assets owned by spouse

 

What NOT to include

  • Residence or vehicle when calculating net worth
  • Life insurance policy

 

When taken into consideration, you get the estimated annual income of the veteran.

Second Step Add all recurring healthcare expenses incurred by veteran each month. This includes:

  • Assisted Living costs
  • Nursing home costs
  • Home Care service costs
  • Health Insurance premium
  • Medicare premium
  • Monthly prescription costs

Add up these monthly costs and multiply by 12 for the annual healthcare expenses.

Third Step Subtract annual healthcare expenses from annual income.

Total annual income — (minus) Total annual healthcare expenses

= Countable Income.

This amount determines the veteran’s eligibility for one of the three tiers of the Pension program.

Proposed Changes to VA Pension Eligibility Rules

It’s a basic right to know when legislation is introduced that affects large groups.

The proposed changes to the VA Pension Eligibility were on the table January 23, 2015 by the Department of Veteran Affairs.

The VA Pension Eligibility is a needs-based program. Benefits awarded to veterans and their families provide help throughout the years.

Below are proposed changes and how they may impact you if you’re a veteran, or family member of a veteran.

Current Reading of the Law

Since 1980, the law stated that to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits, a veteran must have served a minimum of 24 months. At least one of those days must be actively served during a “wartime period”. Veterans who have been dishonorably discharged do not qualify. Allowances can be made for veterans 65 years of age and older who have a permanent disability.

In terms of income, the veteran’s household income cannot exceed the amount the veteran is trying to qualify for in assistance and benefits. Much of the language regarding income is about countable income.

What Might Change

Below are some proposed changes for Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits qualifications. These changes, if imposed, make it harder for veterans to qualify, and allows them to keep and protect less money and property.

Proposed changes:

  • A clear net worth limit. The VA proposed that the net worth limit a veteran can claim when applying for the Eligibility program cannot exceed $119,220.
  • Income and net worth calculation. The Federal Register has provided an example breakdown of how calculations will be made. First, the VA will calculate income to establish the pension entitlement. They will “subtract all applicable deductible expenses to include appropriate prospective medical expenses”. When calculating the net worth, the VA will take the annual income and add it to the assets. For instance, let’s say a veteran’s net worth limit is $115,000. The annual income of the spouse is $7,000 and the total assets are $116,000. The total net worth would come to $123,000, which exceeds the net worth limit by $8,000.
  • Exempt asset. A primary residence will not be included as an asset in the calculation of net worth as long as the residence sits on an area not exceeding 2 acres. Right now, there is no limit on the acreage of the primary residence and it is exempt from the net worth calculation.

 

If you want to read the full legislation, go to FederalRegister.gov and read their article entitled “Net Worth, Asset Transfers, and Income Exclusions for Needs-Based Benefits”.

I strongly urge you, if you are a veteran, or you are the spouse or child of one, to sift through the proposed changes to see how you might be impacted.

Should you have any questions or need would like to discuss qualification for Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefits further, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Greg McIntyre

V.A. Certified & Elder Law Attorney

McIntyre Elder Law

704–259–7040

greg@mcelderlaw.com

http://www.mcelderlaw.com

 

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