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The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 allocated $1.4 billion -- the largest demonstration grant in Medicaid history -- to a program called "Money Follows the Person." This program is designed to transition individuals receiving Medicaid and who are living in institutions, back into the community.

Life Care Planning, Estate Protection, Disability,
VA & Medicaid Assistance Lawyers

Help for Unsung Heroes

 

 

Some 44.4 million adult caregivers  -  or 21% of the U.S. adult population  -  are unsung heroes.  They provide unpaid care to seniors or adults with disabilities.  Generally these care-givers are members of the same family or other relatives of the care-recipient. On average, they provide 21 hours of care a week and the average length of time spent providing care is 4.3 years.

 

There are several government programs that will pay family members to provide this care. These programs are not publicized and the public is largely unaware of them or how to receive them.

 

Money Follows the Person-MFP (Self-Direction in Care)

 

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 allocated $1.4 billion -- the largest demonstration grant in Medicaid history -- to a program called "Money Follows the Person." This program is designed to transition individuals receiving Medicaid and who are living in institutions, back into the community. In 2007, 31 states, including Illinois, received their portion of the grant money pie to begin demonstration programs offering more choice in care besides an institution. Most of these state programs offer a concept called "self-direction" which allows a budget to be established by Medicaid for the care recipient. Self-direction allows the care recipient to spend this money hiring any caregiver of choice and this typically includes friends and family.

 

Unfortunately, this is not a widespread benefit for elderly Medicaid recipients and in addition only applies to bringing elderly people out of institutions and back into the community to receive care. Over the next five years, only 34,395 elderly care recipients nationwide are expected to be transitioned to community-based care through this program. Even though this represents a fraction of the elderly, who over the next five years are expected to receive Medicaid services in institutions, there is still a possibility for the family to apply for one of these programs and to have the government pay for their care services.

 

Using the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit

 

A totally overlooked source of money to pay family caregivers to provide care at home is the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit. This money is available to veterans who served at least one day during a period of war and were honorably discharged. Pension money also is available to the widows of these veterans. This benefit, under the right circumstances, can provide up to $1,843 a month in additional income to pay family members to provide care at home.

 

It also comes as a surprise to many people that about 33% of all seniors could qualify for the aid and attendance benefit. That's how many veterans or their surviving spouses there are in this country.

 

Getting the aid and attendance benefit to pay for family caregivers is not an easy task. This is because there must be a caregiver contract in place and services for care must be initiated and thoroughly documented before application can be made. Getting these applications approved requires using an advisor who understands the documentation requirements. People simply can not successfully do it on their own.

 

Using Medicaid Spend down to Pay Family Caregivers

 

In order to qualify for Medicaid nursing care, an unmarried individual must spend his or her cash assets down to less than $2,000.  Instead of giving this money to the nursing home and waiting for Medicaid to kick in, the patient can instead transfer this money to a child in return for caregiver services. If set up and implemented properly, this will not be considered a gift and will not create a penalty for Medicaid eligibility. The strategy also allows Medicaid to take over paying its portion of the nursing home costs much sooner.

 

As with the caregiver contracts for VA benefits, an expert in this area of Medicaid benefits is required in order to do it right.  Note that one size does not fit all.  Because Medicaid and the VA have very different rules, a caregiver agreement must meet both sets of rules if it is to be used for obtaining extra income under the veterans benefit and also for use in obtain Medicaid benefits. An attorney who is proficient in both the aid and attendance benefit and Medicaid personal caregiver agreements can be of great service to the community. The attorney can help relieve a great deal of caregiver stress by providing funds to help that caregiver cope with personal financial pressures.

 

Richard Habiger is an elder law, Medicaid / VA benefits, and Alzheimer's planning attorney.  You may contact him at 618-549-4529 or Richard@HabigerElderLaw.com.