The VA has a benefit called the Veteran’s Improved Pension, commonly known as the VA Aid & Attendance Benefit. In order to qualify for the Veteran’s Pension Benefit, the veteran must not have been dishonorably discharged, must have served at least 90 days active duty with at least one day served during a declared state of war, and must be either disabled or over age 65. Widows of veterans may also qualify. Applicants must meet certain income and asset limitations to qualify, and they must need assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as eating, bathing, and dressing. This benefit can help married veterans may qualify for up to $24,239 of tax free assistance annually. This money can be used to cover the costs of care in the home, in an assisted living community, or in a nursing home.
If you think that you or a loved one might qualify for benefits, the next step would be to enlist the service and advice of an experienced Veterans Administration Accredited attorney who understands the Pension Benefit, as well as Medicaid planning rules and other estate planning issues. Advisors such as a VA accredited attorney and a knowledgeable, experienced financial planner can help veteran households rearrange assets, make legally effective transfers, and assist with other estate planning needs in order to qualify a veteran household for a pension benefit. It is extremely important that you involve an attorney who has experience with Medicaid planning if you plan on moving or otherwise rearranging assets in order to qualify for the Veteran’s Pension Benefit. There is a high probability that the veteran, the spouse, or the surviving spouse of a veteran household may need nursing home care in the future. Such care is very expensive and the individual’s income plus the veterans benefit rarely pay for the cost of a nursing home. This means the veteran may have to rely on Medicaid to cover the deficit. Assets reallocated to qualify for VA benefits could create penalties for Medicaid eligibility, underscoring the importance of planning for the possibility of having to apply for Medicaid in the future.
In addition to the Aid and Attendance Benefit, the VA in its various facilities around the country will provide nursing home care the qualifying veterans. However, the number of beds are very limited. The VA provides service-connected disability ratings that range from 10% to 100%. Those veterans who are 100% disabled because of the service-connected injury or illness will receive priority for admission with priority moving down the rating scale. In addition to the beds available in VA operated facilities in some states the VA has contracted with other nursing homes to make beds available to qualifying veterans.
Henry C. Weatherby, Esq., CLU, ChFC, CEBS
Weatherby & Associates, PC