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Veteran Planning

It is regrettable that our government does not do more to disseminate critical information regarding the benefits available to our country's veterans of war. Each eligible veteran has served his or her country with honor and is entitled by their sacrifice and service to the pensions and benefits that are provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

One such well-hidden is S-38. S-38, otherwise known as the "Aid and Attendance Special Pension," can represent up to $20,000 a year to help take care of your parents, as many of us are now faced with acting as attending caregivers. This is one of the various benefits or pensions that often go unclaimed and unused. A recent ten-part series on MSNBC highlighted the plights of several serviceman and care-giving children, including that of Brian Williams and his father. It pointed out that the program is little known. Today, just 143,000 veterans or their surviving spouses receive the benefit; the government says that hundreds of thousands more could be eligible.

Eligibility is based on need, but you do not have to be impoverished to qualify. The Aid and Attendance Special Pension ( S-38) is available to veterans who served during wartime and their spouses, if they are not able to live on their own.

We talk about honoring our country's veterans, but then the powers-that-be withhold critical information that would allow most to live above their current standard of living. Where is the dignity in this?

How to Use Veterans Benefits to Pay for Long-Term Care

Section taken from Don Quante's book Don't Go Broke in a Nursing Home!

The Veteran's Administration offers a special pension with the Aid and Attendance Benefit that is largely unknown. This Special Pension allows for Veterans and surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing, undressing, or taking care of the needs of nature to receive additional monetary benefits. It also includes individuals who are blind or a patient in a nursing home because of mental or physical incapacity. It is not a benefit for a person needing housekeeping or respite or part-time care. Assisted care in an assisted-living facility also qualifies. This most important benefit is overlooked by many families with veterans or surviving spouses who need additional monies to help care for ailing parents or loved ones. This is a "pension benefit" and is not dependent upon service related injuries for compensation. Many veterans who are in need of assistance qualify for this pension. Always seek professional advice when considering this type of assistance.

This special pension benefit addresses the needs of veterans and their surviving spouses who have non-service related disabilities and who require regular assistance with the activities of daily living. In order for a veteran to qualify for this benefit, he or she must have served 90 days of active duty with one day of active service during a defined period of war.

The following are the VA's defined "periods of war":

  • WWI: 4/16/1917 - 11/11/1918
  • WWII: 12/7/1941 - 12/31/1946
  • Korea: 6/25/1950 - 1/31/1955
  • Vietnam: 8/5/1964 - 5/7/1975
  • Persian Gulf: 8/2/90 - present

Income and liquid assets are also a determination of eligibility. Most people believe that if a single veteran has assets in his name below $50,000, or if a married couple has assets below $80,000, they may quality. However, the reality is that the adjudicator, the person who approves claims at the VA, should apply an age-based analysis that takes into consideration the age of the veteran and/or surviving spouse, the amount of monthly income, and the cost of non-reimbursed medical expenses to determine the maximum amount of assets they can have in their name and still qualify. As a result, using the $80,000 number or $50,000 number may be problematic.

So the million-dollar question is, "What should the veteran do if their assets exceed the maximum amount determined by the age-based analysis?" One option is to take advantage of the fact that, unlike Medicaid, the VA currently has no five-year look-back rule. Put another way, if a veteran or surviving spouse of a veteran has assets that exceed the age-based analysis amount, they could consider transferring assets to a properly drafted irrevocable trust. By doing so, assuming the rest of the planning has been done properly, they may be eligible for VA Aid and Attendance beginning the first day of the following month. A word of warning is that it is currently taking, in many cases, between 6-8 months to get a claim approved. In these cases, the VA does provide retroactive payment back to the first day of the month following the application.

How Much Does VA Pay?

Aid and Attendance can help pay for care in the home, nursing home, or assisted-living facility. A veteran is eligible for up to $1,732.00 per month, while a surviving spouse is eligible for up to $1,113.00 per month. A couple is eligible for up to $2,054.00 per month.

In many cases, if a person has a paid caregiver such as a nurse's aide, or they pay an assisted-living facility, those expenses impact so greatly on a person's net income that they will meet the criteria for the income level.

If a veteran or veteran's widow has cash assets above the limit, they are allowed to place those assets into certain investments in order to have them "sheltered." This sheltering does not have a penalty or "look-back period" associated with it. Proper asset sheltering for Aid and Attendance should be done under the supervision of the financial and legal Eldercare professional well versed in Medicaid planning. One could easily ruin the chances of ever getting Medicaid if the VA pension planning was done incorrectly.

With a little professional planning, many veterans and veteran's widows can receive pensions that make a significant difference in the amount of care they receive. After all, the reason for this particular pension is to assure that a veteran or veteran's widow does not live in a substandard environment in their old age. It takes a little work to apply for this pension, but anything worth having usually does.

Securus will help direct you to find the resolution most appropriate for your individual situation.