The VA is a gigantic system with millions of veterans enrolled. There are several "divisions" within the VA, but of concern to most vets is non-service connected disability benefits, known as "aid and attendance." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's article, "Elder Law: Veterans - Never Give Up,"explains that these benefits were designed to provide a monthly cash reimbursement benefit to qualifying veterans and their spouses who pay out-of-pocket medical costs, whether at home or in a facility.
The article says that Pennsylvania is in the top five states with the highest veteran populations in the country. There are between 700,000 and 1 million people (including veterans' widows) in the state who could qualify for benefits. Unfortunately, only a small percentage qualifies because of the complex application system—and the abundance of misinformation about the program.
Many veterans receive benefits advice from an initial source, which may be a negative message, and they leave it at that. They never bother to inquire further. It would be like receiving a terminal medical diagnosis and not getting a second opinion.
Here are a few of the biggest offenders that warrant further investigation before accepting the response:
1. You can't get aid and attendance if you live at home. Not true. The benefit is meant to reimburse out-of-pocket medical expenses—it doesn't matter where you live. Even if you're at home with a family member providing care, there are still ways to secure this benefit.
2. You have too much money or income to qualify. The article says this is just a math problem. There is no set income or asset limit to qualify for VA benefits. The VA uses an age-weighted asset/income test to determine eligibility. In addition, there are legitimate estate planning strategies that can help you expedite financial eligibility.
3. Why bother? If the veteran or his spouse dies before the VA application is approved, no money is paid. There are ways to file for a post-death payment to the surviving spouse or heirs—provided the original claim was properly filed and is decided after the applicant's death. Many people don't know that you can get retroactive benefits even after the applicant dies, but there are deadlines. The next of kin must follow up promptly with the VA.
There are plenty of other inaccuracies floating around that stop would-be applicants from pursuing their aid and attendance benefits. Get the real scoop from a qualified source of information, such as a VA accredited attorney.
The secret for receiving a successful award from the VA is not in filling out the form but in knowing what documents and evidence must be submitted with the application. Knowing the secrets for a successful award – with the special case of long term care recipients – is 95% of the battle. A knowledgeable, accredited consultant can provide information to shorten the VA’s decision window of 6 to 12 months to possibly 2 or 4 months.
At Idaho Estate Planning we understand how to maximize the benefit or avoid a denial. We can also provide guidance for meeting the asset test. We provide the best strategies for reallocating assets through trusts or income conversions to allow for the best possible accommodation of assets for beneficiaries thus avoiding or reducing taxes, family disputes and Medicaid penalties.
We are VA Accredited and we know how to help veterans get the benefits they have earned through their greatly appreciated service to our country. Remember, good planning is no accident.