Comprehensive Elder Law Services

VA Benefits

Older adults who are looking at moving to an assisted living facility, skilled nursing facility, or receiving health care services at home often ask about Veterans Administration benefits. The VA benefits have different rules than Medicaid, but can provide a very valuable benefit that can help pay for long-term care or even allow a veteran to age in place home longer. The Veterans Administration also recently made major changes to how someone qualifies for a VA benefits, so keep reading!

What Kinds Of Benefits Exist?

There are a multitude of benefits that the VA offers, and trying to access them can involve a lot of red tape. We work mostly with Aid & Attendance.

Aid And Attendance

Aid & Attendance is an Improved Pension program which pays veterans a monthly amount based on disabilities that are non-service related. There are three Improved Pensions:

  1. Low-income pension
  2. Housebound
  3. Aid and attendance

Low-income pension is just that – it provides additional funds to veterans with very low income. Housebound will pay a monthly stipend for those who are confined to their homes. Finally, there is aid and attendance, which pays a monthly stipend to help defray the cost of in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care. Aid and attendance is the most common benefit used to help older veterans pay for long-term care.

A&A Eligibility Requirements

What are the eligibility requirements for aid & attendance?

    1. Qualifying service: military service of at least 90 days, with at least one day during a defined period of war:
      • World War II: Dec 7, 1941 – Dec 31, 1946
      • Korean War: Jun 27, 1950 – Jan 31, 1955
      • Vietnam War: Aug 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975 (or Feb 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975 for Veterans who served in Vietnam)
      • Gulf War: Aug 2, 1990 – Undetermined
    2. A discharge other than a dishonorable discharge:
    3. Veteran or dependent must need assistance with at least two activities of daily living (ADLs);
    4. Income under the maximum pension amounts, which change annually.
    5. Countable assets under a certain amount, which also changes annually.

New A&A Rules

On October 18, 2018, new rules went into effect which make major changes to the Aid and Attendance system. A quick overview:

  1. Income: The treatment of income for VA purposes remains largely the same: you can still offset income with unreimbursed, recurring medical expenses.
  2. Set asset limit: The VA now has a set asset limit to qualify for benefits. This includes any income that is not offset.
  3. Look back period: The biggest change is the VA is now imposing a three year look back period. This requires disclosure of any transfers of assets within the last three years. The transfer of assets can incur up to a five-year penalty.

What Can Katten Benson Zachry Golightly, LLP Help Me Do?

Katten Benson Zachry Golightly, LLP can help you plan around receiving Veteran’s Benefits. We are prohibited by federal law from charging you to help fill out an application. We can, however, help you with any associated planning you may need to do in order to access these benefits. In addition, veterans in need of VA benefits often need to look at other planning documents, such as their wills and powers of attorney, to make sure they are up to date. Finally, we can help you look at the long run to make sure anything that is done to help access VA benefits does not keep you from accessing additional benefits down the road.

VA Frequently Asked Questions

1. I transferred assets before the date of the change in rules. Can I still qualify?

Yes! The look back period does not apply to transfers made before October 18, 2018. You do have to meet the other eligibility requirements, however.

2. My income is over the allowable amount. Will I ever be able to qualify?

There is a very real chance that yes, you can still qualify. While your income may be over the stated amount, you are allowed to “back out” any amounts you spend on unreimbursed, recurring medical expenses such as home health care, assisted living, etc.

3. I was told I have to have a Trust to qualify for VA benefits. Is this true?

Absolutely not. There is no requirement that you set up a trust to access VA benefits. Many planners suggest that you set up a trust to be eligible for benefits. However, veterans should be extremely careful about what kind of trust is set up and how it is funded, as the wrong choice can disqualify you from benefits. In addition, beware of “one-stepper” planners: make sure that any choices you make, especially related to funding trusts, will not disqualify the veteran or dependent from qualifying for Medicaid benefits in the future.

Katten Benson Zachry Golightly, LLP can help you choose a correct path to qualify for VA benefits.

4. My benefits go directly to a facility to help pay my bill. Does this mean I can’t move?

No. Your benefits can go to any facility you choose, or directly to you, should you choose to move.

Contact Us To Learn More

Contact Katten Benson Zachry Golightly, LLP to discuss your legal matter and learn more about your legal options. To schedule an initial consultation with us at our office in Fort Worth, call us at 817-857-4690 or send us an email.