As you might expect, there are several benefits available to assist wounded or disabled Veterans. But unbeknownst to many, there are also pension benefits that exist for men and women who served and were not injured.
Lack of knowledge leads veterans to miss out on the important assistance they have earned. However, it is essential to understand the various programs available to that planning done for one doesn’t interfere with the individual receiving all the benefits to which he or she is entitled.
The important thing to remember is that every individual and family situation is unique. Estate planning, asset protection, Medicaid, VA programs, and tax considerations all need to be considered.
There are many unknowns and misconceptions attached to Veteran’s benefits. When it comes to Veteran’s benefits Do It Yourself typically doesn’t work. It’s important to get independent advice.
On the one hand, there’s a misconception that only those individuals who have been wounded or disabled while serving are entitled. However, the Veteran’s Pension is an income program available to wartime veterans or their surviving spouses. Even then, to be eligible for this pension, there are certain asset and income requirements that must be met. Most Veterans only reach the eligibility level when they require long term care assistance because the cost of medical expenses is deducted from their income to allow them to qualify.
It can be hard to get accurate information about the program. According to the VA’s own data, people who call the agency’s regional offices for help and advice are likely to receive incorrect information. This is only likely to get worse as new rules just enacted fundamentally changed the program with a substantially higher asset threshold but new penalties on transfers.
The rule change was partly in response to widespread abuse. Many annuity salespeople prayed on Veterans. An annuity may serve individuals well financially. But in many cases, it can work against them. It all depends on an individual’s unique circumstances. It’s imperative to make sure that any financial decision you make will not interfere with other assistance programs, particularly Medicaid. Under the new rule, the ability to use annuities to expedite eligibility for the VA program is largely eliminated.
Wartime Veterans, or their surviving spouses, become eligible for the Special Pension benefit when they are over 65 years of age, are permanently disabled and unable to work, are homebound, or need the regular aid and attendance of another person, whether at home or in an assisted living.
The Pension’s Aid and Attendance rules are designed to help aging Veterans pay for the high cost of medical care when they are suffering from dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, or other health conditions necessitating long term care. The monthly benefit can pay up to $2,170/month for a couple, $1,830/month for a single Veteran and $1,176 for a single surviving spouse.
There’s also the opportunity for seniors to increase their disability ratings as they age and their war-related injuries become more severe. For instance, Veterans with hearing loss and mobility issues which are rooted in their service but aggravated by age should receive an increase in their benefits. Furthermore, many Vietnam and Korea era Veterans are not aware that Parkinson’s disease and many cancers are presumed to be service-related.
There are also additional benefits available for home modification and local stipends for in-home help. At WanderPolo and Siegel, we are committed to making sure the men and women who have served our country receive the full combination of benefits they deserve.
Written by Shana Siegel, Principal with the New Jersey Law Firm of WanderPolo & Siegel. Attorney Siegel is one of the few Certified Elder Law Attorneys (CELA) in Northern New Jersey to be certified by the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF). She focuses her practice on representing seniors, individuals with special needs and their families in connection with life care planning, estate planning, elder law and special needs law. Shana has been involved in health and long term care issues for over 25 years, with a New Jersey practice for almost 10 years. Attorney Siegel is a Member of the National ElderCare Matters Alliance. She and her firm are Featured in ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources to help families plan for and deal with the issues of Aging.