May Day for War Period Veterans: What We Don’t Know

The first day in May is important for several celebratory reasons. Among the many celebrations is Law Day: a celebration of the rule of law and its contributions to the freedom we enjoy as Americans. Part of an attorney’s role is knowing the rules and how to use them to help clients. And it’s all about rules when dealing with long-term care: how to properly, ethically, and lawfully use the rules to help you care for yourself and your loved ones. Requiring long-term care means you or a loved one needs assistance performing an activity of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, toileting, eating, and/or taking medicine.

You will be shocked that much of what you think you know about Medicaid and the VA programs is wrong. Most Veterans in need of financial assistance go to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) or the North Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs (“NCDVA”). The problem is that the families who go to the VA often receive bad advice, because it is only “accurate” in that moment. By “accurate in that moment” we mean that the VA initially denies almost every application and only gives people half the truth. This is most commonly seen when families and veterans apply for the Veterans Pension or Improved Pension. Here’s an example to help explain:

Jack and Diane are married and living at home. Both need assistance with typical long term care needs (i.e., walking, dressing, bathing). Jack and Diane worked hard; they own their home and vehicle, and have a nest egg of about $300,000. But Jack and Diane are judicious about spending their money–they want to save as much as possible–and essentially act as each other’s caregivers to cut costs. However, the couple knows they will need assistance soon. Jack is a retired war period veteran, so they go to the VA for help. When the VA learns of Jack and Diane’s nest egg, their application for the Pension Program is denied because they do not qualify under the tests. What can Jack and Diane do now?

The Pension is a means-tested benefit that will reimburse Veterans and widows for long-term care expenses. To qualify, you must meet three tests: (1) war period Veteran status; (2) the asset test; and (3) the income test. The first test requires that you have served in the military on active duty for at least ninety-days (90) with at least one day (1) during a period of war. Our focus is failing on the second and third tests, which must both be met. Each Veteran is limited to a certain number of countable assets and household income based on marital status and age. These tests are difficult to satisfy without the help of a VA qualified attorney; and even more difficult to understand because the information is almost impossible to obtain.

In the example above, Jack and Diane were denied Pension benefits because they failed the asset test; the nest egg was too large. This is true: the nest egg was too much money in its current form. But the VA did not inform Jack and Diane that by moving the property into a VA qualified trust they could apply again and pass the asset test. This couple also failed the income test because they were taking care of themselves. In addition to the VA qualified trust, Jack and Diane need a care contract to pass the income test.

It’s important to remember this solution is not one-size-fits-all. Considering whether you or your spouse will need Medicaid–which provides nursing home care, unlike the Pension—is important because your attorney will need to know how to turn a VA benefits case into a Medicaid case. The bottom line is that it’s crucial to consult an attorney who understands Medicaid as well as VA benefits to determine the most effective financial assistance plan for you and your family. It is complicated.

W.G. Alexander & Associates discusses the Veterans Pension in more depth, along with other assistance programs, during our free seminars every second Wednesday of the month at Independence Village of Raleigh at 2:00pm and 6:30pm. Register for our free seminars through our website at, or call us at (919) 256-7000.

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.

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), from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM, and on Sunday morning on his television show, “Money Secrets with Bill and Mike,” on the CW (WLFL) at 8:00AM.