It is important to know when you are eligible for government assistance, as well as what resources are available. The Veterans Pension Program is one of the most important government assistance programs, as it reimburses long term care expenses for Veterans at all care levels (in-home, assisted living, and nursing facility). If you were on active duty for ninety consecutive days and served one day of active duty during a war period (through the Vietnam War) with any discharge other than a dishonorable discharge, and you are paying out a substantial sum each month for long term care, then you may qualify for the Pension Program.
In addition, since this is a “means tested” program, you must qualify with both an asset and income test in order to be approved. The program limits each Veteran to a certain amount of countable assets based on marital status and age. However, the VA exempts your home with one acre of land, personal property, as well as a vehicle. The VA will count most other assets. However, if you are over-resourced, our law firm can help you place your assets in a trust that is structured for VA compliance or you can gift assets to loved ones, but we don’t recommend the latter. The Pension Program has no look back period, so you will not be penalized for these transfers. Transfers should only be considered after counsel regarding the issues of control, estate planning needs for a surviving spouse, the effect on a future Medicaid claim for a nursing facility, and the potential income tax implications for your children. In addition to the asset test, you and your spouse’s income should be less than the expenses that you pay monthly for the cost of long-term care to maximize the benefit. This excludes those long-term care expenses that your health insurance covers. With professional help, most families can pass these tests and qualify for the Pension Program.
While a Veteran’s health is good, and he or she is relatively independent, it is unlikely that he or she will receive assistance from the Pension Program. We say that a Veteran should not apply for the Pension if he or she is still driving. However, if he or she is homebound, then it is time to apply. If you are unsure whether you would receive assistance based on your level of independence, or can pass the income test or the asset test, you should seek counsel from a VA accredited attorney.
One of the most important things that you can do now is make sure that you have good legal documents in place. It is important to have a financial power of attorney in place that is much stronger than the short form variety you may have had when you were younger. This type of document will insure that a loved-one you have appointed as your agent can help you to receive the Veterans Pension for your long-term care needs when the time comes.
The rules for the Veterans Pension Program can be difficult to understand, and you may not receive government assistance if you fail to seek the help of a VA accredited advisor. If you or your loved one needs assistance with qualifying for Veterans Benefits, or if you have questions about other government assistance programs such as Medicaid, consider W.G. Alexander & Associates – we are VA Accredited Advisors who offer a unique blend of asset protection, Elder Law and estate planning. You can also attend our free seminars, learn more through our website at www.wgalaw.com, or call us at (919) 256-7000. Also, every Tuesday morning at 9 am, you can listen to our radio show, “Asset Protection Today,” on Talk Radio 850 WPTK (AM) with Attorney Bill Alexander.