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Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit – Long Term Care Benefits for Veterans

NoeBenefits.Va.Gov – Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit — Long Term Care Benefits for Veterans What Is the Aid and Attendance Benefit? The Veterans Benefits Administration offers a disability income available to veterans who served during a period of war or to their surviving spouses. This special benefit is officially called “pension” but is more popularly known as the “veterans aid and attendance pension benefit”. For a pension benefit for veterans younger than 65, evidence of total of disability must be provided. Veterans 65 and older do not have to disabled.

The National Care Planning Council estimates that as much as 30% of the US population over the age of 65 would qualify for the aid and attendance pension benefit under the right circumstances. That’s how many war veterans or surviving spouses of veterans there are. The benefit is such a well-kept secret that only a small fraction of these eligible veterans are actually receiving it. Death pension — a benefit available to a surviving spouse– is a lesser amount based on the same rules for applying for a living pension claim. In other words, the deceased veteran must have met the rules for pension — with the exception of being totally disabled or over age 65 — or have been receiving pension in order for his or her spouse to receive the lesser benefit. In addition, in order to be eligible or keep receiving the benefit, the surviving spouse must remain single.

Who can submit a claim? A claim is submitted by the veteran or by the veteran’s single surviving spouse in the case of a death claim. A duly appointed service organization, an employee of the local regional VA office, or a VA approved agent may file a claim on behalf of the veteran or the spouse. A claim cannot be filed with a general or durable power of attorney. The application will be sent back requesting proper documentation for a VA power of attorney. The veteran must sign a document specifically authorizing a power of attorney for someone to submit an initial claim for him. Many chagrined children with a durable power of attorney have submitted claims on behalf of a parent only to have the claim rejected by VA.

What happens if the veteran is incompetent? If the veteran can’t submit the original application or sign a power of attorney for a surrogate to file an application, then a duly appointed guardian can complete the application. VA also allows the spouse, a parent or next of kin, or a friend to complete and submit an application on behalf of an incompetent veteran if that person submits the proper power of attorney request and indicates the applicant could be considered incompetent for financial affairs. Even though the veteran or surviving spouse may be incompetent for financial affairs, he or she should always sign the power of attorney request if he or she is competent to do so. VA may appoint a fiduciary to take over the claim and the affairs for the claimant if VA determines he or she is incompetent.

How does VA handle power of attorney? Employees of VA and veterans service organizations already have authorization for power of attorney to file an application on behalf of the veteran. They have forms for the veteran to sign to allow this to happen. An attorney representing the veteran in other affairs can also request a power of attorney in the proper format and on his or her letterhead. Any single individual may also submit a letter requesting power of attorney to submit an application if it is signed by the veteran and if the letter provides certain required information. There is also a VA form in the book support packet that can be submitted for power of attorney. All attorney requests submitted for power of attorney must state that the veteran is not paying a fee to file the application on his or her behalf.

What is an “aid and attendance” or “housebound” rating? A “rating” is granted by a veteran service representative where a condition exists that makes the disability more severe. Medical evidence is required unless someone is a patient in a nursing home, and then the requirement is waived. The rating allows VA to pay an additional monthly amount of pension or compensation to a veteran or a surviving spouse for additional costs associated with this disability.

How does one qualify for aid and attendance or housebound rating? The application form has a block allowing for a request for either rating. Submitting medical evidence in advance instead of waiting for a request from VA can help expedite the process of getting this rating. We have provided in the book support packet, a sample form that might be used for this purpose. This form is also designed around information that VA is looking for and may be a more effective presentation of the facts than typical medical records from the doctor.

What is the effective date? The effective date is generally the day VA receives an original application. If it takes three months for the process of approval or six months, it doesn’t matter. The effective date still reverts to receipt of the original application.

When does payment begin? Generally, payments start on the first day of the month following the month of the effective date. This means that if it took six months to get approval, at least five months of benefit will be paid retroactively. VA requires automatic deposit of awards in a checking or savings account.

What happens if the veteran dies during the period of application? If the veteran dies during the period of application and the application was not approved prior to the death, there may be accrued benefits. If the regional office had all of the information in its possession that would have led to an approval, then there is an accrued benefit payable. Otherwise there is none. The full benefit is available for the month of death of the veteran and to a surviving spouse through an application on Form 21-534. This is the same form a surviving spouse uses for a death benefit claim for himself or herself. VA will award either an accrued benefit or death benefit to the surviving spouse whichever is larger. If there is no surviving spouse or dependent child, VA will pay the unreimbursed costs of last illness and burial to the person who paid those costs. A special claim must be submitted for these costs, not Form 21-534.

What is a veteran’s federal fiduciary, and does that affect the application? For a veteran who is considered incompetent to handle his own financial affairs, VA will appoint a fiduciary to receive the money and pay the bills. A federal fiduciary is an individual appointed for this purpose, usually a spouse or a family member. In most cases — except for the spouse living with the veteran — there is an interview required and mounds of paperwork. This process can take a long time, and it is to the advantage of the person filing an original claim to request the appointment of himself or herself as a fiduciary or for some other appropriate person or organization to help expedite the process. VA always makes the final decision on whom it appoints as a fiduciary. In fact, the agency might well ignore court appointed fiduciaries. In general, the decision favors declaring the veteran competent and avoiding a fiduciary where at all possible.

What is the income test for pension? If the household income adjusted for unreimbursed medical expenses and a deductible is greater than the maximum allowable pension rate — MAPR — there is no benefit. In 2007, the maximum allowable rate for a couple with aid and attendance allowance is $21,615 a year. For a single it is $18,234 a year. Without aid and attendance or housebound allowance the maximum couple’s rate is $14,313 a year and for a single it is $10,929 a year. Death pension rates are lower. People seeking a benefit with adjusted incomes greater than these levels will be denied.

Can a household with income above the maximum limit qualify for pension? A quirk in the way benefits are calculated can allow individuals and couples earning between $24,000 to $60,000 a year to still qualify for a benefit. It has to do with the treatment by VA of the very large recurring medical costs associated with home care, assisted living, or nursing home care.

What is the pension household asset test, and what can be done if the asset test is not met? As a general rule assets cannot exceed $80,000. A veteran or spouse occupied-house, a reasonable amount of land upon which it sits and a vehicle are exempt from the asset test. In reality there is no specific test in the regulations. Veterans service representatives are required to file paperwork justifying their decision if they allow assets greater than $80,000. Thus this amount has become a traditional ceiling. The service representative is encouraged to analyze the veteran’s household needs for maintenance and weigh those needs against assets that can be readily converted to cash. In the end, the decision as to allowable assets is a subjective decision made by a service representative. In certain cases a benefit award could be denied even if assets are below $20,000 or $10,000 or even zero dollars. There are legal ways to get around the asset test if assets are too high. These are described in our book. eBenefits.Va.Gov

What proofs and documents are required with the pension claim? We have already discussed the requirements for power of attorney and fiduciary if they apply. In addition, an original copy of the discharge from service — typically DD 214 or form WD — is required and the discharge must have been honorable. If there is a question about the marriage relationship, a marriage certificate or other proof may be necessary. Birth certificates of dependent children are usually not required but may be necessary under certain conditions. A dependent child is a minor, a dependent student under age 23, or a totally dependent adult child. There are certain documents that need to be submitted to prove future recurring medical expenses and to prove need for aid and attendance or housebound allowances. VA does not furnish these documents nor provide any information that they are required. Sample documents that could be used for these purposes are included in our book.

Can someone charge to help fill out the form? Federal code and VA regulations prohibit an agent, advisor or attorney from charging a fee to fill out and file a claim for pension. Most practitioners or providers help their clients for free, sometimes in the context of solving other retirement issues or providing long term care services. Some practitioners offer application advice for a fee (which is legal) but will send their clients to a veterans’ service organization to complete the application. Some assisted living facilities or home care providers also offer free advice or help and this seems to be an acceptable practice. An agent or attorney can also be paid by a disinterested third party under certain conditions to complete an application. However, a home care agency, assisted living facility or nursing home that pays an agent or attorney to complete an application on behalf of a resident or client does not meet the definition of a disinterested third party is in violation of the prohibition for charging a fee

How are assets, income and unreimbursed medical expenses determined? The applicant must submit details on the application of all income and all assets including retirement savings accounts such as IRAs. Almost any type of money received or anything received that can be converted into money is income. The only exclusions for assets are a personal residence (occupied by the veteran or spouse) and a reasonable amount of land it sits on as well as vehicles and other personal possessions. Personal possessions used as an investment such as a coin collection are counted as assets. Unreimbursed medical expenses can be almost any expense related to medical needs.

Are there any other reporting requirements? VA requires that any change in income or assets be reported immediately. The award is calculated for 12 months in advance, but at the beginning of each calendar year, a formal report called an EVR (Eligibility Verification Report) must be filed detailing all income, assets and unreimbursed medical expenses for the coming calendar year. For example if the award is granted in April for 12 months in advance, an EVR must be submitted in January of the next year that could affect the award amount for the remaining four months of the initial 12 month period. The EVR will be used for determining benefits for the calendar year on which it is based.

What is a veteran’s federal fiduciary, and does that affect the application? VA can appoint a number of different types of fiduciaries to manage the funds on behalf of an incompetent veteran. A federal fiduciary is typically an individual such as the spouse or a child whom the VA is most likely to appoint. If VA is not notified with the application that the veteran may be incompetent and that a fiduciary appointment is requested, this could slow down the application and approval process.

Will the pension benefit pay a nonlicensed homecare provider? VA does not pay providers directly but provides extra income to make up for the cost of licensed medical care. Medical conditions or injuries or diseases that require a need for ongoing licensed homecare will allow the applicant to reduce household income by the cost of homecare making it possible to receive the additional income from a pension award. If the beneficiary has an aid and attendance or housebound allowance, VA will allow deductions for nonlicensed providers as well.

Will the pension benefit pay a member of the family to provide care at home? As explained above, VA will not pay providers directly but only indirectly through extra income. If the beneficiary receiving care in the home has received a rating for aid and attendance or housebound, VA will allow expenses paid to a family member for care to be counted as unreimbursed medical expenses to qualify for the benefit. The care arrangement must be legitimate and appropriate evidence must be provided.

Does the pension benefit pay the costs of a nursing home? The application form has provision for indicating residency in a nursing home and whether or not the applicant is eligible for Medicaid. VA will automatically apply the monthly cost of the nursing home in determining the pension benefit. If the applicant is single with no dependent children at home and is eligible for Medicaid, VA is required to stop any payment of full benefits and only provide the veteran with $90 a month.

Does the pension benefit pay the costs of assisted living? As explained above, VA will not pay providers directly but only indirectly through extra income. If the beneficiary receiving care in assisted living has received a rating for aid and attendance or housebound, VA will allow expenses paid to assisted living for aid and attendance or housebound ratings — including room and board — to be counted as unreimbursed medical expenses. The cost of assisted living being used as a retirement residence is not considered a medical expense. It does not warrant a rating and cannot be deducted.

What are the requirements to receive a death pension benefit? The applicant must be a surviving spouse or a dependent child of an eligible veteran. VA form 21-534 is used to apply for death pension, death compensation, accrued benefits, or dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC). The surviving spouse must be single. A surviving spouse of any age is eligible as long as the deceased veteran served at least 90 days during a period of war. They had to be married at least a year prior to death or have a child as a result of the marriage. There is no requirement for total disability for the surviving spouse nor for the deceased veteran to have been totally disabled or older than age 65.

How does one prove that unreimbursed medical expenses will recur every month? VA has specific rules for proving future recurring medical expenses. Information in our book outlines the type of paperwork that must be submitted for each type of long term care service. The book also contains appropriate forms for this purpose. Neither the claims form nor information from the regional office provides any guidance on the rules for proving future recurring medical expenses for home care or assisted living. One simply has to know how to do it. This one crucial step often makes the difference between a successful claim and a denial. eBenefits.Va.Gov

What if the veteran or spouse is currently receiving Medicaid? Our interpretation of the rules leads us to believe that VA will not consider Medicaid payments as income. However, Medicaid will consider the nonallowance portion of the pension to be income. This could affect Medicaid eligibility in income test states. There is evidence that some income test states count the entire pension benefit including the allowance as income. According to federal Medicaid rules this should not happen.

What happens when the veteran or spouse wants to receive pension & Medicaid together? Federal law requires that a single veteran receiving Medicaid with no spouse or dependent children can receive no more than $90 a month from VA. Veterans in state veterans homes are exempt from this requirement. The veteran with a spouse can receive the benefit to help defray the costs of a nursing home. As a general rule, the pension benefit would probably not work if Medicaid were paying the bill. But the benefit does work well for non-Medicaid nursing home beds and while the recipient is going through the Medicaid spend down.

This article is an excerpt from the book — “VETERANS AID AND ATTENDANCE BENEFIT — LONG TERM CARE BENEFITS FOR VETERANS” — published by the National Care Planning Council and written and edited by Thomas Day, Council Director. This first-of-its-kind book is available in two editions — the Standard Edition (209 pages) for the general public and the Professional Edition (443 pages) to be used as a handbook for advisors and care providers. Both books contain the necessary information and forms to complete an application for the benefit. The Professional Edition also includes citations from rules and regulations, hypothetical planning cases, asset reduction strategies and a software CD with benefit estimate software, all applicable forms and planning sheets. To review and purchase the book go to http://www.longtermcarelink.net/a16veterans_books.htm or type in your browser window www.veteranbook.com.

Thomas Day specializes in the area of long term care planning. As director of the National Care Planning Council and chief spokesman for the Utah Elder Care Planning Council he maintains a busy schedule giving advice to concerned caregiving families and conducting radio and reporter interviews. He is also responsible for maintaining several Internet sites one of which, http://www.longtermcarelink.net is a frequently visited and popular site for long term care issues. The site currently is receiving the equivalent of 6 million hits a year. Tom is also busy writing articles and has completed three new books on long term care planning published by the National Care Planning Council.

Tom graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in physics and math and an MBA in finance. He holds a CLU designation from the American College. Tom and his wife Susan live in Centerville, Utah. They have seven children and 17 grandchildren.

Please contact Tom at 800-989-8137 or [email protected]

Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension Often Overlooked

eBenefits.Va.Gov – When you,re planning for the eventualities of aging you do need to state your wishes concerning the distribution of your assets at the time of your death, but you also need to prepare for life as a senior citizen. No one knows for sure how they will feel when they enter into their twilight years, but it is important to make sure that you recognize the possibilities and act accordingly. Many people will ultimately reside in assisted living facilities or nursing homes as they find it increasingly difficult to tend to their own day to day personal needs, but facilities such as these can be quite expensive.

Planning for the possibility of a stay in a nursing home or assisted living facility is prudent, and when you are doing so it is a good idea to make sure that you are not overlooking any government benefits that you may be entitled to. Many veterans are not aware of a benefit that is called the Veterans Aid and Attendance (A&A) Pension, a monthly payment that is available to qualified veterans who need daily help with personal care matters such as bathing, dressing, eating, etc. At this time the maximum monthly benefit for single veterans is $1,632 per month; for couples it is $1,949 per month; and for eligible surviving spouses it stands at $1,055 per month as of this writing. eBenefits.Va.Gov

The thing about this benefit that may keep it hiding in plain sight, as it were, is the fact that many veterans would not think that the amount of time that they served could warrant such a significant reward. To qualify for the Veterans A & A Pension, one must have served a minimum of 90 days on active duty with at least one day taking place during a time of war. If you are interested in applying for this veterans benefit or learning more about it directly from the source, the best course of action is to contact the United States Veterans Benefits Administration.

Charles Pyke is a leading provider of expert estate planning guidance in Atlanta, GA. For more information on veterans aid and attendance and other estate planning services, visit our website.

eBenefits.Va.Gov

Veterans Benefits Help Make College Education More Affordable

eBenefits.Va.Gov – If you have served your country in the United States military for any period more than 90 days of active duty, you are eligible to receive some sort of education benefits for your service. The new Post 9/11 GI Bill makes it possible for veterans to receive three different benefits to help defray costs of their college education.

Benefit Eligibility Percentages:

For those veterans that have met these active service requirement, they can receive the following percentage of the maximum benefits as outlined here:

  • 90 days to 179 days = 40 percent of benefit
  • 180 days to 364 days = 50 percent of benefits
  • 12 months to 18 months = 60 percent of benefits
  • 18 months to 24 months = 70 percent of benefits
  • 24 months to 30 months = 80 percent of benefits
  • 30 months to 36 months = 90 percent of benefits
  • Greater than 36 months = 100 percent of benefit

Tuition and Fees Benefit:

Based on your eligibility percentages above, the GI Bill will pay you up to the highest in-state tuition for a public school education in the state where you plan to attend college.

Example: If the maximum in-state tuition is $6,000 and your service was for 26 months (80 percent), you would receive up to $4,800 for tuition and fees.

Housing Allowance:

You would also qualify to receive a housing allowance on a monthly basis to help offset the cost of room and board or off campus housing. This amount is determined by the basic allowance for housing based on the zip code for the college that you plan to attend.

Example: If the monthly allowance for housing in your zip code is $950 and your service was for 19 months (70 percent), you would receive $665 per month to help offset housing. eBenefits.Va.Gov

Books and Supplies:

As for books and supplies, you can qualify for up to $1,000 annually to help pay for these expenses.

Example: If your service was for 4 months (40 percent) you would receive a check for $400 for books.

Summary:

As you can see, the education benefits for veterans can add up quickly. There is also the possibility of transferring these benefits to your dependents if you do not plan to use them for yourself. You can find more information about this by visiting the Veterans Administration website or a local VA office.

If you would like to discover some additional strategies to help increase financial aid and reduce college costs, you can download your FREE College Cost Savings Kit by clicking here [http://www.CollegeEducationForLess.com/].

Please print this article and share it with your friends. You just might help them save hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands off the high cost of a college education.

About the Author:

Keith Maderer is the father of five college age students, with three currently in college, and has been a financial, investment and tax adviser in Buffalo, New York since 1981. He is the author of “How To Get Your College Education For Less”. Available on Amazon.com – ISBN No: 978-1-4538-2053-7

To get your FREE College Cost Savings Kit, visit [http://www.CollegeEducationForLess.com/]

Asset Protection Trust in Veterans Benefits Planning

8eBenefits.VA.Gov – An Asset Protection Trust (“APT”) is an Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust. An Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust is a trust that treats the assets in the trust differently for income tax purposes than for estate tax and gift tax purposes. The veteran will be the grantor, but not a beneficiary. The trust utilizes Internal Revenue Code § 671-677 which afford differential tax treatment for income tax purposes.

For most veterans their major asset is their residence. As long as the veteran retains the home it is not part of his or her net worth for Veterans Administration (“VA”) eligibility purposes; it is a “non-countable resource.” However, if the veteran qualifies for the monthly pension benefit and later sells the home the proceeds will disqualify the veteran from receiving any further Veterans pension benefits – until the veteran spends down to an allowable asset level.

However, if the residence was placed in the trust prior to the VA application and later sold by the trustee the sale proceeds would not jeopardize the veteran’s pension benefits. Additionally, if the veteran needs Medicaid benefits more than five years following the date the trust was established and funded (the later of the two events) the trust corpus will not be part of the veteran’s Medicaid application. eBenefits.VA.Gov

The veteran will be the grantor of the trust and the veteran’s children will be the beneficiaries. The trust agreement provides rights and duties of the trustee so that the trustee can make discretionary distributions to the beneficiaries. Also, it is recommended that the trust agreement provide for a trust protector who has an absolute power to remove and replace the trustee who is not acting in the best interest of the trust’s purpose. By establishing the trust the veteran can have more control over how the assets in the trust are going to be distributed and used, although the veteran has no legal right to the trust’s corpus.

Some advantages of Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts include:

The trust can hold and sell a veteran’s residence and keep the proceeds. The proceeds will not disqualify the veteran for pension benefits or Medicaid during the lifetime of the veteran;
The proceeds from the sale of the residence will not be subject to estate recovery by Medicaid;
The trustee can sell the residence with the grantor still being able to take advantage of Internal Revenue Code § 121 – capital gain exemption up to $250,000;
At the death of the grantor, the trust assets will receive a stepped-up basis for income tax purposes; and
It will keep the assets out of the hands of irresponsible children.

Dale M. Krause, J.D., LL.M., has provided Medicaid Compliant Annuities to elder law attorneys, and their clients, throughout the United States. As a result of his practice, Mr. Krause has been labeled “The Pioneer of Medicaid Compliant Annuities.”

http://www.medicaidannuity.com/
http://www.krauseinsuranceservices.com/

Returning Veterans, Get the Benefits Your Entitled To

eBenefits.VA.Gov – According to a 2009 study performed by researchers at Harvard Medical School, there are approximately 1.5 million U.S. veterans who went without any form of health insurance in 2008, and of those, an estimated 2,266 suffered preventable deaths due to the lack of health care.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs finds that each night 131,000 of those who have served in the military spend the evening homeless – with people from every generation and war being represented in the statistic.

Lieutenant Commander Bruce C. Brown, a Deputy Chief of the Resource and Performance Management Division of the Seventh Coast Guard District in Miami, FL, refers to realities like these as nothing short of “discouraging.”

“The federal and state governments, and private foundations, have scholarships and military discounts available only to veterans,” Brown writes in a book dedicated to veterans’ entitlements and benefits. “There are billions of dollars in aid available, waiting to be claimed, but the problem is finding and properly applying for these programs.”

Therefore, the importance of making sure returning veterans have a clear knowledge and understanding of the resources available to them is crucial. In addition to the wealth of information that can be found on government Web sites, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the following five descriptions can be used as a educational guide to give military persons a head start to receiving the maximum amount of benefits they are entitled to:

1. One of the main benefits veterans enjoy is access to quality healthcare. This comes at little or no cost through the VA network of hospitals and medical treatment facilities. It is important to be aware that VA healthcare is not just for retirement military members, but depending on various circumstances, you could be eligible for this insurance and receive anywhere from two years to lifetime benefits, depending on how long you served, disability status, combat-related duties and several other factors. eBenefits.VA.Gov

2. As a disabled American veteran you are entitled tomedical, vocational and other benefits.Disability compensation is a monetary benefit paid to veterans who are disabled by an injury or disease that was incurred or aggravated during active military service. These disabilities are considered to be service-connected. Disability compensation varies with the degree of disability and the number of veteran’s dependents, and is paid monthly. Veterans with certain severe disabilities may be eligible for additional special monthly compensation. The benefits are not subject to federal or state income tax.

3. Veterans are entitled to enrolling in a plethora of educational and training programs through GI Bills.These include: Institutes of higher learning, non-college degree programs, on-the-job and apprenticeship training, flight training, distance learning, internet training, correspondence Training, licensing and certification programs, entrepreneurship training, work-study programs, Co-op training, and tuition assistance programs.

4. Another outstanding benefit, is eligibility of a veteran and their family members for a wide variety of scholarships, grants and other financial support options for things like the education programs mentioned above.A search of your state Web site will reveal a wealth of military financial support benefits you may be entitled to, which are either federally or state funded. For example, the state of Florida publishes their veterans’ benefits information at http://www.floridavets.org.

5. The VA is the only federal agency that provides substantial hands-on assistance directly to homeless people and many of America’s homeless citizens are also military veterans of the armed forces.VA’s homeless programs constitute the largest integrated network of homeless assistance programs in the country, offering a wide array of services and initiatives to help veterans recover from homelessness and live as self-sufficiently and independently as possible. These programs strive to offer a continuum of services that include: aggressive outreach to homeless veterans who otherwise would not seek assistance, clinical assessment and referral for treatment of physical and psychiatric disorders, long-term transitional residential assistance, case management and rehabilitation as well as employment assistance and linkage with permanent housing. eBenefits.VA.Gov

For any veteran returning from war, it is essential for him or her to know their service is valued, and the best way to do this is to make sure he or she receives the same privileges as the American’s they defend. By investigating some of the benefits mentioned about, a returning veteran will surely be on the right path to discovering all the opportunities they have available upon a safe return to the United States.

For more information on references regarding benefits available to those returning from war, visit the Atlantic Publishing Group Web site.

Atlantic Publishing Group Inc. is your No. 1 source for nonfiction books. We publish nonfiction books, focusing on small business, management, online media, and real estate, as well as parenting, cooking, and traveling. For more information visit Atlantic Publishing Group. Follow us on Twitter @AtlanticPub.