Elder Law Update – At Large Edition September 2009 Vol I

ATTENTION VETERANS: Qualifying Veterans May Receive Up to $23,396 per year. 

 

These dollar amounts reflect 2009 maximum Veterans Administration Pension rates for qualifying claimant with a spouse. The actual amount awarded may vary according to the claimant’s circumstances.  Widowed Spouses may receive up to $12,681 per year.  Veterans married to Veterans may receive up to $30,408 per year.  There may be additional benefits for dependent or disabled children.

 

“Secret Dollars”: VA Benefits for Long-Term Care Revealed

One of the Veteran Administration’s best-kept secrets, which is an excellent potential source of funds for long-term care (either at home or in an assisted living facility) are veteran’s benefits for a non-service connected disability.  Most VA benefits and pensions are based on a disability which was incurred during a veteran’s wartime service.  There is another benefit, however – a pension program – available for individuals who are disabled due to the issues of old age, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and other physical disabilities.  For those veterans and widows(ers) who are eligible, these benefits can be a blessing for the disabled individual who is not yet ready for a nursing home. 

There is a specific portion of the pension program which is of particular importance.  This program is “Aid and Attendance” (A and A) and is available to a veteran who is not only disabled, but had the additional requirement of needing the aid and attendance of another person in order to avoid the hazards of his or her daily environment (in other words, someone needs to help you to prepare meals, to bathe, to dress and otherwise take care of yourself). 

Under this program, a veteran can receive a maximum of $1,949.00 per month in benefits and a widow or widower can receive up to $1,056.00 as a maximum benefit for A and A for the year 2009.  The applicant must be determined to be “permanently and totally disabled”.  The applicant does not need to be helpless – he/she need only show that he/she is in need of aid and attendance on a regular basis.  Someone who is housebound or is in an assisted living facility and over the age of 65 is presumed by the Veterans Administration to be in need of aid and attendance. 

This particular program has limitations related to the income and assets that are held by the applicant.  However, in computing the income of the applicant, certain items can be deducted.  Specifically, unreimbursed medical expenses (UMEs) paid by an individual may be used to reduce the applicant’s income.  Home attendants or aides are an allowable medical expense deduction, as long as that attendant is providing some medical or nursing services for the disabled person.  The cost of an assisted living facility, and even part or all of the cost of an independent living facility, can also be an allowable medical deduction to reduce your gross income to a much lower net countable income that may qualify you for veteran’s benefits. 

Simplified Example: Bill Robert is a 66 year old veteran and, due to his health needs, has caregivers coming to his home for several hours each day.  His income is $1800/month and he is paying caregivers $3300/month.  Rather than deplete his saving of $45,000, he applies for a service pension through the VA.  The VA considers the $3500/month he is paying to his caregivers unreimbursed medical expenses and “subtracts” the amount from his income.  In other words, when calculating his pension, the VA considers income to be negative $1500.  He applies for benefits and is eligible for $1500/month to help him with his bills!

To file a claim for this benefit, it is wise to seek the involvement of a trained veteran’s service officer.  A Veteran’s Service Officer is critical to the filing of an application with the local VA regional office.  It is also important to seek the guidance of an experienced elder law attorney who is familiar with estate planning, disability, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits.  An attorney skilled in elder law can provide a veteran and the veteran’s family with appropriate pre-filing consultations to determine the appropriate steps that must be taken to be able to determine if it would be right to apply for this VA benefit. 

Next StepIn our office what happens is the spouse or family of the Veteran requests information on the Aid and Attendance Pension benefit.  My paralegal, using a structured intake questionnaire, screens the prospect to determine if they are likely to be eligible for benefits without any legal planning. 

If the family does not qualify for benefits due to having too many assets, we counsel our clients on options and strategies to qualify for the benefit. 

P.S.      Also, don’t miss our new workshop: “Don’t Go Broke in a Nursing Home”, beginning this fall. 

Long Term Care Planning Attorneys

The “3 Phase” Lawyers

 

Legal Counsel Assisting You in the 3 Phases of Your Life:

 

–           Maturing Years – Will, Trust, Taxes, and Asset Protection

–           Senior Years – Long Term Care and Nursing Home Protection

–           Post Death Years – Estate, Probate, and Trust Administration

 

 

“Educate to Motivate”

 

Anthony B. Ferraro

Attorney-CPA

The Law Offices of Anthony B. Ferraro, LLC

The Estate & Trust, Elder and Asset Protection Law Firm

Columbia Centre I

5600 N. River Road, Suite 764 

Rosemont, IL 60018

PH (847) 292-1220

FAX (847) 292-1221

Websiteabferrarolaw.com

Emailabferraro@abferrarolaw.com

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This document is for discussion purposes only and is not intended to be, nor should it be, considered as legal advice.  You should never attempt Medicaid planning, Estate Planning, Probate, or Estate and Trust Administration without the advice of competent legal counsel.