A Pension that Isn’t Really a Pension

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a monster of bureaucracy, making it difficult for Veterans to receive any kind of assistance. The VA requires an application in order to get anything—you must fill out lengthy forms to apply for disability, for pension and the like—and the first answer is always “no.” Receiving a denial is typical for those applying for the first time. The first denial often does not mean you’re not eligible for a benefit; it’s the government’s way of saving money. If you accept the denial, the VA pays less in claims and reduces their budget. In fact, Veterans really have to fight for their benefits so it’s important that, if you’re applying for a VA benefit, you select the best option for your needs and consult a professional about how and when to apply.

Most Veterans are aware of the service-connected Disability Compensation and its importance. However, one beneficial program many Veterans are not aware of is the Veterans Pension or the Improved Pension. The Pension is a means tested benefit the VA will pay Veterans who served in the military on active duty for at least ninety (90) days with at least one (1) day during a period of war, as defined by the VA; it can also apply to ill spouses or widows of Veterans. This benefit is not a pension as most people think of a pension; it is a reimbursement program primarily for long-term care expenses. The VA says the benefit is for Veterans and widows for recurring, unreimbursed medical expenses, which doesn’t sound like long-term care. But after paying for medical insurance (which includes Medicare premiums) the only thing left is recurring long-term care expenses. In order to determine eligibility, it is important to consider assistance from an Elder Law attorney who understands the Veterans Pension benefit because the process is complex and may become more complex if and when the VA changes their Pension rules.

The VA is considering implementing new rules for the Veterans Pension program in December of 2016. These new rules, if implemented, will delay processing times significantly.  Average times for processing claims today is about 8 months; we suspect that processing will take about 2 years if new rules are implemented.  Our World War II Veterans—who are now in their mid-nineties (90’s)—are unlikely to receive any VA help because of death; if a claimant passes away while an application is pending, the claim is denied. The VA is already short staffed and struggles to process claims.  The proposed rules will delay just and earned benefits; and justice delayed is justice denied.

The bottom line is getting approved for Veterans Pension is complicated and confusing without the right help.  Veterans, and their spouses or widows, in need of long-term care should seek professional assistance to apply for Veteran’s Pension now.  Applying now will save you from worrying about the new rules delaying your application.

W.G. Alexander & Associates discusses the Veterans Pension in more depth along with other assistance programs during our seminars on the second Wednesday of every month—at Independence Village of Raleigh with Attorney Bill Alexander and Attorney Kathryn Bowman.

If you have questions about elder law, asset protection or retirement planning, consider W.G. Alexander & Associates—we are experienced attorneys 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.

Attorney Bill Alexander of W.G. Alexander & Associates discusses these issues and more every Saturday morning on his radio program, “Asset Protection Today,” on TalkRadio 680 WPTF (AM). Be sure to listen from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM.