by Samuel V. Butcher Esq
What Can We Do for Veterans and their Spouses?
We, like so many of our clients, have close personal connections to many of the unsung heroes who served our country bravely as members of the U.S. Armed Forces. We’re also proud of some very special family members who are actively serving in the U.S. military today. Most notably among them is Cadet Gregory D. Henry (who held the rank of Sergeant), the son of our Director of Operations, Pat Henry, and her husband, Doug. Greg, after completing his initial tour of duty as a member of the “Old Guard” at Arlington National Cemetery, was selected to become a commissioned officer following completion of his graduate studies at Cleveland State University, where he is currently enrolled. We thank Cadet Henry for his continued service and commitment to our country.
As Veteran’s Day approaches this November 11th, we want to be sure that our wartime veterans and their spouses are aware of a significant benefit known as the VA Improved Pension with Aid and Attendance. This benefit can help those with declining health pay for needed care that Medicare and traditional health insurance doesn’t cover. We are certified to assist our veterans in filing a claim for this benefit that can often help aging veterans in need of extra care, remain in their homes longer by providing an additional source of funds to pay for that care. The benefit can also be applied to help meet the monthly cost of an assisted living facility when care in the home is no longer a viable option.
This pension benefit is available to veterans who served for a minimum of ninety days, at least one day of which was during a wartime period, and who were other than dishonorably discharged (an honorable, general, or medical discharge will qualify). The benefit is also available to the spouses of deceased wartime veterans. Wartime veterans with dependent spouses can currently receive up to $2,127.00 monthly ($25,525.00 annually). Surviving spouses may be eligible for up to $1,153.00 monthly ($13,836.00 annually). The veteran or surviving spouse seeking this benefit must also prove the need for assistance with two or more of the activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs include, bathing, dressing and grooming, toileting, functional mobility (making transfers), meal preparation, and incontinence.
There are also income and resource restrictions applied to those who file a “claim” for this benefit and are otherwise eligible. Historically, those who had made gifts of their assets to loved ones were not disqualified. Unlike the five- year lookback period applicable to those seeking Medicaid (a strictly needs based benefit), the VA had no lookback period. That is changing. The VA has proposed a three-year lookback period prohibiting the transfer of assets into vehicles such as trusts, annuities or gifts. Though the VA regulations have not yet officially been changed, the VA is now asking the IRS for 1099 income (dividends and interest) paid to the claimant over the past three years. If the VA cannot correlate the information received with what is shown on the claim, the claimant will be asked to explain the discrepancy. If it appears that the funds were transferred or gifted in order to “preserve assets” or just in order to qualify for federal programs, or to enrich an heir, the gift may be disallowed.
Our goal is to help clients prevent mistakes and preserve assets. We will continue to stay abreast of changes as the VA further implements its proposed regulation and the three-year lookback period. Our best advice to clients is to plan early to avoid issues that are certain to arise in a crisis when health declines rapidly and additional funds are needed to pay for care not covered by other sources. Please contact us if you have questions about whether you or a loved one may be eligible or can become eligible for this important benefit. Our wartime veterans earned this benefit and we want to make sure it is available to them when they need it most.