Veterans Benefits

AID AND ATTENDANCE PENSION

The Attorneys of SSR Law Office are dedicated to helping Veterans receive the benefits they so rightfully deserve.  So many Veterans we see have never received any benefits for their service and the sacrifices they have made for their country.

There are many VA Benefits; however, the Attorneys at SSR Law Office specialize in one particular benefit known as the Aid and Attendance Pension.  This pension is available to Veterans, or their surviving spouse, who meet basic service requirements and eligibility criteria.

Basic Service Requirements

The basic service requirements for VA Aid and Attendance Pension are:

  • The Veteran must have served at least 90 days active duty military service;
  • One day of the active duty military service had to be during a wartime, which is outlined below; and
  • The Veteran must have been discharged from service under conditions other than dishonorable.

Eligible Wartime Dates

World War I ▪ April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918

World War II▪ December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946

Korean War ▪ June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955

Vietnam Era ▪ August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975

(February 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975 for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period)

Gulf War ▪ August 2, 1990 – through a future date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation)

Eligibility Criteria

Medical Need

The Aid and Attendance Pension requires a Veteran, or the surviving spouse, to be in need of daily custodial care.  Custodial Care is defined as:

• assistance with two or more Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), or

• supervision because a person with a mental disorder is unsafe if left alone due to the mental disorder.

The VA has recognized 5 ADLs, which are eating, bathing/showering, dressing, transferring (for example, from a bed to a chair), and using the toilet.

Income

The Veteran, or surviving spouse, must have monthly, reoccurring, medical expenses that exceed their gross income.  Reoccurring medical expenses include health insurance premiums, assisted living costs, and in-home care costs.  Unfortunately, VA no longer considers prescriptions as a reoccurring medical expense.  Also, physician co-pays or any other non reoccurring medical expense will not count.

Assets

As of October 18, 2018, VA now has a defined asset limit, which is $126,400 in 2019.  This amount will probably increase slightly each year.  Because of this new asset limit, it is now more important than ever to start planning early.  You need to start planning for VA Benefits 3 years prior to when the need arises.

AID AND ATTENDANCE PENSION AMOUNTS

Single Veteran  — up to $1,830/month

Married Veteran — up to $2,169/month

Surviving Spouse of Veteran — up to $1,176/month

Veteran Healthy – Spouse Needs Care – up to $ 1,408/month

ASSET TRANSFERS

Under the old VA rules, there was no look-back period.  This meant that clients could move assets into an Irrevocable Trust, in which they pick their child or trusted friend to be the trustee and in charge of the money, and become asset qualified for VA benefits the next day with no penalty.

The new VA rules impose a 3 year look-back and transfer penalties.  Applicants will have to disclose all financial transactions in which an asset was transferred and the applicant did not receive fair market value in return within the 3 years prior to the application. Any asset transfers made prior to October 18, 2018 will not be penalized.  Any asset transfers made after October 18, 2018, will be assessed a transfer penalty, meaning a period of ineligibility, based on the amount of assets transferred. Now, this penalty will only apply to assets that are transferred in excess of the asset limit.

Example:  Joe transferred $15,000 to his son.  Joe then applied for VA benefits with $50,000 in his name.  Joe will not be penalized by the VA for this transfer because he was below the asset limit prior to the transfer.

Example:  Joe transferred $50,000 to his son.  Joe then applied for VA benefits with $100,000 in his name.  Prior to the transfer, he had $150,000 in assets and was over the asset limit.  Because the transfer brought him under the asset limit, he will be penalized.  In calculating the penalty amount, VA will take $150,000 (Joe’s asset amount prior to the transfer) – $126,400 (VA asset limit) = $23,600 will be subject to penalty.  This number is also called the “covered asset” amount.

HOW WILL THE VA CALCULATE THE PENALTY?

VA will divide the value of the covered asset (the amount subject to penalty) by a divisor that will always be the “Maximum Annual Pension Rate” (MAPR) for a veteran with one dependent.  The MAPR for a veteran qualifying for Aid and Attendance with one dependent is $26,765 annually.  You divide this number by 12 and drop the cents, which is $26,765/12 = $2,230.42.

Even when you have a single veteran or a surviving spouse applying for benefits, you will always use the MAPR for a veteran with one dependent divided by 12 to calculate the transfer penalty divisor.

After calculating the divisor, take the amount gifted or the “covered asset” amount, which in Joe’s case is $23,600, and divide it by the penalty divisor of $2,230.42 in 2019.  $23,600/$2,230.42 equals a 10.6-month penalty.

WHEN DOES MY PENALTY BEGIN AND END?

The penalty begins to run on the first day of the month following the month of transfer.  The penalty ends on the last day of the month in which it is set to end.  The applicant is eligible for benefits on the first day of the following month.

Example:  Joe transferred the $50,000 to his son January 2, 2019.  His 10.6-month penalty will begin on February 1, 2019.  His penalty will end sometime in November 2019 and he will be eligible for benefits staring December 1, 2019.

CASE STUDY #1 - Children Caring For Mom At Home

Eleanore is 91 years old and has some dementia but is still living at home.  She has had a few falls and her daughters would like her to move to assisted living to ensure she is safe.  Her assets are $10,000 in the bank and her house.  Her income is $1,500 per month from her social security and pension.  Currently, her daughters, Carol and Susan, have been taking shifts caring for her.  They found an assisted living that they like; however, it is going to cost Eleanore $2,500 per month at this assisted living.  With her income and limited assets, she cannot afford it.  Here is the problem, she needs the VA Benefits to move into the facility; however, she has to have the medial expense before she can apply.  

The attorneys at SSR Law Office created a Care Contract between Eleanore and her two daughters.  She paid each on $750 per month for the care that they were providing.   This counted as a medical expense for VA purposes, even though the daughters were not licensed caregivers.  We applied for VA and three months later, Eleanore was approved for the maximum benefit of $1,210, which brought her income to $2,710.   She was then able to move into the assisted living facility and afford to pay the $2,500 per month.  If they had decided to keep her at home, they could have continued providing care and stayed eligible for the benefit.

CASE STUDY #2 - Dad in Independent Living

Ron is 83 years old and had decided to move into an assisted living facility due to his physical limitations and lack of socialization.  His children have helped him move some of the items from his home into the assisted living.  Everything is set up nicely.  Ron is provided with three meals per day, housekeeping, and intends to participate in all the activities that are happening around the facility.  The facility will cost him $2,700 per month.  Ron’s income is $2,200 per month and he has $80,000 in assets.  Although he has the assets to sustain the shortfall each month, because of his age, he may need those assets for several years and wants to maximize them to the fullest extent possible.  

Ron comes into SSR Law Office to apply for the VA Aid and Attendance Pension.  Ron sat down with one of our attorneys and when through a VA analysis and strategy session.  Ron had a physician statement that said he needed help with activities of daily living, and he was under the $126,000 asset limit.  But what about the medical expenses?  Will VA count the $2,700 per month to the independent living?  

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

How long does it take for my benefits to get approved?

Currently, our average approval time is between 3 and 4 months.

Are my benefits retro active?

Yes to the month following the application.  For example, if you apply in January, your benefits are effective and will be paid retro active to February 1st.

Did I have to serve in combat?

No.  You just have to be 90 days active duty, one day during a wartime period.  Even if the veteran was serving in the United States he can still qualify if he was active duty.

I was divorced from the Veteran, can I still qualify for the VA Benefit?

No.  You had to be married to the veteran up until the time of his passing.  Divorce will cut off access to any VA Benefits.

Does paying my spouse or child count as a medical expense?

You cannot pay your spouse to care for you and meet the medical expense requirement for VA.  However, if done properly, you are able to pay a child.  You will need to set up a Care Contract between the patient and the caregiver that spells out exactly what the caregiver will do and how much they will be paid to do it.  Attached to this Caregiver Agreement, you will want to attach a physicians statement that says, without the care the caregiver is giving, the patient would need to be transferred to a nursing home.  With this in place, you can qualify for VA benefits and insure the payments to the caregiver are not penalized as a gift if the patient ever needs to seek medicaid benefits in a nursing home.

HOW CAN WE HELP?

The attorneys at SSR Law Office are certified through the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Each client will sit down with one of our experienced attorneys to see if, or how, they can qualify.  Many times the VA will look at the persons assets and income and say they do not qualify.  Unfortunately, they do not tell you what you can do to qualify.  The attorneys at SSR Law Offices will.  

After getting you, or your loved one, qualified for the VA benefits, the attorneys will give you all documents required to be filled out by the physician and any others that are necessary.  You will also receive a checklist of documents needed to actually submit the application.  Your attorney will fill out all the VA forms for you and then hand deliver them down to the Department of Veterans Affairs in Detroit, Michigan.

If you think you or a loved one may qualify for VA Benefits, call our office today  at 586-239-0871 for your strategy session to find out!