Question: We are about to begin the process of filling out the VA Application Form for Aid and Attendance for our 83 year old mother. However, we now understand that the Veteran’s Administration recently changed some of the rules; for example, they have changed what they consider to be an “unreimbursed medical expense.” Can you please share with us any other substantive changes made by the VA that may impact families like ours who desperately need this additional money for our elderly parents?
Answer: Changes that benefit all current beneficiaries in 2013 include a cost of living upward adjustment in the monthly rate paid on the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit. However, other changes are in the pipeline for prospective applicants for the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit. On June 7, 2012, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing regarding the VA’s Aid and Attendance program. The purpose of the hearing was to examine the extent to which the spirit of the program is fulfilled, namely to cover the long-term care costs for veterans of limited means and their spouses. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) are introducing new legislation to limit the extent to which veterans of more substantial means are receiving the benefit.
The most significant proposed change in the piece of legislation is that the VA would require a look-back period for applicants applying for the Aid and Attendance program as Medicaid currently does now, which will be three years. The look-back period for Medicaid is five years. In response to this legislation, the Veterans Administration also stated that they are drafting regulations to impose the 3-year look back period. Other changes being examined include determining when specific types of assets such as annuities, trusts, and private retirement income should be considered in determining net worth. One positive change for prospective applicants is the streamlining of the application process, including but not limited to, developing a consumer guide to help prospective applicants better understand the program.
James J. Ruggiero, Jr., Esq., AEP
Ruggiero Law Offices, LLC
Paoli, Pennsylvania 19301