Tag Archives: VA Benefits

What Exactly is “Elder Law”? | Chicago Elder Law Attorney

I get asked, “What exactly do elder law attorneys do?” all the time. My answer could go on forever. However, briefly stated, elder law attorneys like myself focus on “senior” estate planning (in addition to traditional estate planning) longevity planning (aka long-term care planning), Medicaid, Medicare, special needs trusts, and VA benefits for those over the age of 65.

Many people assume that an elder law attorney’s area of expertise is strictly wills and trusts. Wills and trusts are certainly part of the equation, but the truth is there is so much more to elder law. Here’s something else you may not know: wills really only control what happens after you die. Therefore, today’s seniors need both an estate and a longevity plan because both combined will help their families know what their wishes are in the event that they become incapacitated before they die.

Elder law is still very different in comparison to traditional estate planning (death planning). A traditional estate plan is designed to do the following things:

  1. Minimize estate taxes
  2. Avoid probate court
  3. Distribute assets from the deceased person to his or her heirs

Elder law, however, is essentially death planning plus long-term disability and care planning (longevity planning). So, an elder law attorney is not only thinking about what happens in the event of your death, but also about your long-term health needs during your lifetime.

Today, it is typical to see families spending thousands upon thousands of dollars  ($8,000-10,000) when both a husband and wife have long-term care needs. The operative goal of an elder law attorney is to help families protect their assets during their lifetime, to avoid spending all of that money.

Remember: Elder law attorneys are here to maintain your current quality of life as much as possible on the long term care continuum, make sure you do not go broke in a nursing home and not just decide what your kids inherit after you pass away.

-Anthony B. Ferraro

More on VA Benefits Qualification | Rosemont Elder Law Attorney

If you remember correctly, in order to be considered a “wartime” veteran, you or your loved one must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and must have served 90 consecutive days of active duty. The 90 days must include at least one day in one of the following date ranges:

  • World War II: December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946
  • Korean War: June 27, 1950 to January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam War: August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975
  • Persian Gulf War: August 2, 1990 to (date not yet determined)

In order for you or your loved one to prove that you qualify, you must have you and your loved one’s discharge papers.

If you are unsure about any of these things, don’t hesitate to call my office or a Veteran’s Service Organization.

Anthony B. Ferraro
847-292-1220

VA Benefit Eligibility | Illinois Elder Law Attorney, Anthony B. Ferraro,VA Accredited Attorney

Attention!

Many of today’s Americans are under the assumption that VA Benefits only apply to servicemen and women who were injured or disabled while serving.  VA Benefits do largely apply to those men and women; however, there are also other VA benefits available to wartime veterans who are senior citizens currently paying for long-term care.  Wartime veterans have earned this right simply by serving our country, even if they were not injured during their time of service.

Note, wartime veterans and their spouses who do not have disabilities as a result of serving are eligible for the Special Monthly Pension benefit when they are 65 and older, permanently disabled and unable to work, homebound, or in need of regular aid of another person.  The Special Monthly Pension benefit is based on the need for financial assistance, so there are income and asset limitations.

If any of the above situations apply to you, I recommend getting the necessary paper work ready in order to prove you qualify for such benefits.  This may require a doctor’s visit or paperwork from the nursing home or assisted living facility stating that you or your loved one is permanently disabled.

-Anthony B. Ferraro

Veteran’s Service Groups That May Give You Eligibility for VA Benefits | Illinois Estate Planning, VA Accredited Attorney & Elder Law Attorney-CPA Anthony B. Ferraro

There are some little-known groups whose members may be eligible for VA Benefits. The good news is, there are a lot of these little-known groups, so that means that many of you may be eligible for VA Benefits without even knowing it.

If you or your loved one belongs to any of these groups, and received a discharge from the Secretary of Defense, your service may meet the active duty requirements for benefits:

  • Recipients of the Medal of Honor
  • Honorably discharged veterans, spouses, or children of any military, naval, or air service
  • Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs)
  • Merchant Marines from WWII (ocean-going service)
  • U.S. Civilians of the American Field Service
  • Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs)
  • WWI Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit
  • WWI Engineer Field Clerks
  • Female clerical employees of the Quartermaster Corps serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI
  • Civilian employees of the Pacific naval air bases who actively participated in defense of Wake Island during WWII
  • Reconstruction aides and dietitians of WWI
  • Male civilian ferry pilots
  • Wake Island defenders from Guam
  • Civilian personnel assigned to OSS secret intelligence
  • Guam Combat Patrol
  • Quartermaster Corps members of the Keswick crew on Corregidor during WWII
  • U.S. civilians who participated in the defense of Bataan
  • U.S. merchant seamen who served on block ships in support of Operation Mulberry in the WWII invasion of Normandy
  • American merchant marines in oceangoing service during WWII
  • Civilian Navy IFF radar technicians who served in combat areas of the Pacific during WWI
  • U.S. civilians of the American Field Service who served overseas under U.S. armies and U.S. army groups in WWII
  • U.S. civilian employees of American Airlines who served overseas in contract with the Air Transport Command between 12/14/41 and 8/14/45
  • Civilian crewmen of certain U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey vessels between 12/7/41 and 8/15/45
  • Members of the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) who served between 12/7/41 and 8/14/45
  • U.S. civilian flight crew and aviation ground support of Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corp. who served overseas between 12/14/41 and 8/14/45
  • Honorably discharged members of the American Volunteer Guard, Eritrea Service Command, between 6/21/42 and 3/31/43
  • U.S. civilian flight crew and aviation ground support of Northwest Airlines who served overseas between 12/14/41 and 8/14/45
  • U.S. civilian female employees of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps who served in the defense of Bataan and Corregidor from 1/2/42 to 2/3/45
  • U.S. civilian flight crew and aviation ground support of Brantiff Airways who served overseas in the North Atlantic between 2/26/42 to 8/14/45
  • Chamorro and Carolina former native police who received military training in the Donnal area of central Saipan and were placed under command of Lt. Casino of the 6th Provisional Military Police Battalion to accompany U.S. Marines on active, combat patrol from 8/19/45 to 9/2/45
  • The operational Analysis Group of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, Office of Emergency Management, which served overseas with the U.S. Army Air Corps from 12/7/41 through 8/15/45
  • Honorably discharged members of the Alaska Territorial Guard during WWII

You or your loved one must have served in active duty for 90 consecutive days (either in the U.S. or abroad), at least one day of which was during a period of war, in order to meet these requirements.  That does not however mean that you must have served overseas, you could have served either at home or abroad.

-Anthony B. Ferraro

CPA, MSTax, JD

A Warning on VA Benefits | Chicagoland Estate Planning & Eldercare Attorney-CPA Anthony B. Ferraro

Because it is illegal to charge veterans any fees for filing VA Benefit claims, there are few attorneys out there who know anything about these kinds of benefits.  Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) are very knowledgeable on this subject and are eager to help, but they are all too often hard-pressed to have the resources to handle so many veterans.  Therefore, it can unfortunately be difficult for a veteran and/or his or her surviving spouse to get the sufficient help that they need to file a claim.

The only other common source for information regarding VA Benefits are annuity salespeople, who sometimes offer to consult with veterans and/or their families regarding VA Benefits for free.  This offer usually consists of a consultation for the veteran to meet the asset and income limitations of the VA Benefit by buying an annuity from that salesperson, and the veteran giving away his or her assets to his or her children.

In reality though, annuity salespeople are often being paid by an annuity company to sell a financial product to the veteran.  Sometimes an annuity can turn out to be a great thing for a veteran and his or her family, but other times an annuity can end up being a very poor financial decision.  In order to avoid making a poor financial decision, your first step in the VA Benefit process should be to get advice from a VA accredited attorney BEFORE transferring any assets and/or purchasing an annuity.

Remember, the VA Benefit process does not have to be stressful if you follow the correct steps.

-Anthony B. Ferraro

How to Get Help with VA Benefits | Chicago Estate Planning & Eldercare Attorney-CPA Anthony B. Ferraro

The truth is, very little of the general public knows about VA benefits because Congress keeps them, for the most part, under wraps.  There are a select few who are legally authorized to provide information to veterans about benefits, and they are:

1)      Federal Veterans Administration employees;

2)      Employees of state Departments of Veteran’s Affairs;

3)      Authorized representatives of Veterans Service Organizations (like the VFW and American Legion, among others); and

4)      Attorneys licensed to practice law in the veteran’s state and accredited by the VA.

Lawyers, such as myself, are authorized to provide information on VA benefits.  However, federal law prohibits a lawyer from charging a veteran to assist in helping them prepare the VA claim form for benefits; we are supposed to work for free. Congress does not always allow lawyers to charge a veteran in order to help with a VA benefit claim form because Congress has the idea that:

1)      There are plenty of capable and trained VA employees available to help veterans fill out VA claim forms for free;

2)      There are plenty of capable and trained volunteers available at the various Veteran’s Service Organizations to help fill out VA claim forms; and

3)      Veterans should be protected from attorneys who would overcharge them by doing something that is supposedly as simple as completing and submitting a VA claim form.

So, I truly do recommend that if you have not already tried to get help from the Veterans Administration or a Veteran’s Service Organization, you do so immediately.

Like myself, they’re there to help.

-Anthony B. Ferraro

Monthly Checks from the VA | Chicago Estate Planning & Eldercare Attorney-CPA, Anthony B. Ferraro

Did you know that you may be eligible for a monthly check from the VA?  Depending on your situation, you (or your spouse) may be able to earn as much as $1,000 or $1,500 per month for serving our country, even if you served many years or even decades ago.

Take a quick look at this 2010 VA Benefits chart. The 2014 numbers just came out and they are more favorable.  This may seem daunting, but don’t worry.  We’re here to help.

VA Benefits Chart (2010 figures)

Service Pension Rates (The veteran is alive):

Category: Service Pension

  • Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $11,830
  • Monthly Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $985
  • With one dependent:
    • Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $15,493
    • Monthly Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $1,291

 

Category: Housebound

  • Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $14,457
  • Monthly Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $1,204
  • With one dependent:
    • Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $18,120
    • Monthly Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $1,510

 

Category: Aid and Attendance

  • Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $19,736
  • Monthly Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $1,644
  • With one dependent:
    • Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $23,396
    • Monthly Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $1,949

 

For each additional dependent child:

  • Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $2,020
  • Monthly Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $168 additional

 

Death Pension Rates (The veteran is NOT alive):

 

Category: Death Pension

  • Maximum Annual Pension Rate- $7,933
  • Monthly Maximum Annual Pension Rate- $661
  • With one dependent child:
    • Maximum Annual Pension Rate- $10,385
    • Monthly Maximum Annual Pension Rate- $865

 

Category: Housebound

  • Maximum Annual Pension Rate- $9,696
  • Monthly Maximum Annual Pension Rate- $808
  • With one dependent child:
    • Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $12,144
    • Monthly Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $1,012

 

Category: Aid and Attendance

  • Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $12,681
  • Monthly Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $1,056
  • With one dependent child:
    • Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $15,128
    • Monthly Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $1,260

 

For each additional dependent child:

  • Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $2,020
  • Monthly Maximum Annual Pension Rate: $168 additional

 

I know that this is a lot to take in at once, so stay tuned for further explanation.

-Anthony B. Ferraro