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VA gives money to veterans and their widow(er)s to pay for care at home or in assisted living.

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

Veterans Administration Gives Money to Veterans and Their Widow(er)s to Pay for Care At-Home or in Assisted Living

Older Veteran Gives SaluteMany seniors, who are either war-time veterans or their surviving spouses, could qualify for up to $1,949 a month in additional income from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Unlike the Medicaid program, which provides long-term care services, the VA will give the senior cash to help pay for long-term care at home or in an assisted or supportive living facility.

For example, the VA money can help make a private apartment in an assisted living facility with 24-hour assistance and all the amenities truly affordable when it might not be financially doable without the extra VA money.  Or where the senior would like to continue to live at home but is needing help, the VA money can be used to pay just about anyone to provide elder care services at home.  For example, under the right circumstances, the VA money can be used to pay adult children or other relatives, home care companies, or domestic workers to help the senior continue to live at home.

When family members or other non-professional workers are paid, there must be a written contract and other documentation that meets all of the VA requirements.  It is not easy to get this money, but with the right guidance, corroboration and evidence, the VA benefits can make a huge difference in the senior’s quality of life.

This little-known source of money for paying long term care costs  –  at home or in assisted living  –  is known as Veterans’ Pension and is available to veterans who served on active duty during a period of war.  It also is available to the single surviving spouses of war-time veterans.  This benefit is sometimes known as the "aid and attendance” benefit.  Of approximately 35 million Americans age 65 and older in this country, about 11.5 million are veterans who served during a period of war or their surviving spouses.  This represents about 33% of the senior population.

The Pension (or “aid and attendance”) benefit has an income and an asset test.  Veteran households with income or assets above the test levels will not qualify for the benefit.  Fortunately, there are special provisions that allow  –  under certain circumstances  –  individuals who would normally fail the income and asset tests to still qualify for a Pension benefit.  Unfortunately, however, the VA never tells potential applicants about the special provisions.  Like many other governmental benefits, the special provisions are the key to qualifying for the “aid and attendance” benefit  –  and, until recently, have been a well-kept secret.

The VA uses guidelines instead of specific rules.  In fact, unlike the long-term care benefits available under the Medicaid program, there is very little written guidance to help the veteran . . . or the VA bureaucrats who are charged with making appropriate decisions.

For example, there is reputed to be a guideline that net worth in excess of $80,000 disqualifies the veteran or single surviving spouse household. But this guideline is not written.  More importantly, the reputed guideline is misleading. In southern Illinois, a substantially smaller net worth will cause a disqualification, particularly when the veteran or surviving spouse is, for example, 85 as opposed to 65 years of age.

A personal residence, automobiles used for transportation, personal property that is not an investment, and a reasonable amount of land on which the personal residence sits are exempt from the net worth determination. A personal residence occupying land or sitting on a farm owned by the veteran or in the same building as a business is only exempt to the extent of the personal residence itself and a reasonable amount of land on which it sits. The balance of the property is counted for purposes of calculating net worth.

There are a number of strategies that an experience and knowledgeable elder law attorney, one who is certified by the VA to assist veterans, might recommend as a means of helping the veteran or surviving spouse to meet the VA’s net worth guidelines. One that can be particularly beneficial  – when set up “just right”  –  is to convert excess assets into an income annuity.  This strategy works by converting the excess assets into income, but works only when the extra income does not cause the household income to exceed the income test. Accordingly, the strategy must be carefully calculated, taking into consideration all allowable medical and care expenses.     

Moreover, if there is a concern about the need for future nursing home care, then the income annuity also must be structured to meet the Medicaid rules.  Otherwise, when the veteran or surviving spouse eventually declines and care in a nursing home becomes medically necessary (a very strong probability for someone who already needs assistance), the individual may be unable to qualify for the nursing home benefits available under the Medicaid program.  If this should happen, the veteran and his or her loved ones could go broke privately paying for nursing home care.

This article will be published in the November 2009 issue of the Southern Business Journal. To view the article on the SBJ website click here.


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1808 Clark Street, Carterville, Illinois 62918
Phone: 618-985-4529
Toll Free: 800-336-4529

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Phone: (618) 985-4529