The tristate area of West Virginia (WV), Kentucky (KY), and Ohio (OH) is home to more than 1.3 million United States (U.S.) military veterans. Those veterans and their families should be aware that there is an aid and attendance benefit available through the US Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA) to those who qualify.
Veterans and survivors of veterans who require long-term care and meet the aid and attendance eligibility requirements can receive additional monthly pension payments to cover the costs of veterans' assistance for activities of daily living and other long-term care expenses.
This is the sixth and final blog in a series on the topic of long-term care and estate planning in WV, KY, and OH. To read the full series, start with blog one, "Elder Care Planning in WV, OH, and KY: How to Pay for Long-Term Care."
What Veterans and Families Should Know about the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit
To receive VA coverage for nursing home or other long-term care available through the aid and attendance benefit, veterans must first qualify for a basic VA pension. Spouses or other qualifying dependents of a veteran may also be eligible for benefits based on the military record and status of the veteran in addition to the financial and medical requirements of the person requesting the payments.
The addition of aid and attendance benefits to a pension increases the amount to which the veteran is entitled. It also increases the income threshold for VA pension eligibility, which means some individuals who do not qualify for a standard VA pension might qualify after aid and attendance benefits are calculated. An attorney for veterans' long-term care in WV, KY, and OH can assist you and your family in determining your eligibility for VA benefits of various kinds.
Eligibility for a Basic VA Pension
The annual countable family income maximum for a veteran to qualify for a pension is $13,535. However, increases in that threshold are allotted for those who require aid and attendance or housebound benefits as well as for spouses and dependent children.
Medical expenses that exceed five percent of the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) can be deducted from the calculation of countable income, so individuals with significant medical bills could become eligible after those amounts are adjusted. In addition to the income requirements, these conditions must be met:
- The applicant's net worth, or countable assets and yearly income, must not exceed $127,061.
- The veteran must have served a minimum of 90 days of active duty in the U.S. military.
- A minimum of one day of the veteran's active duty must have occurred during a recognized wartime period.
- Those who enlisted after September 7, 1980, must have served at least 24 months or the full term of enlistment.
In addition, the applicant must meet at least one of the following requirements:
- The applicant is 65 or older;
- The applicant is totally and permanently disabled;
- The applicant resides in a nursing facility; or
- The applicant has been approved for either SSDI or SSI benefits.
Aid and Attendance Eligibility Requirements
As mentioned earlier in this blog, to qualify for veterans' assistance for activities of daily living, VA coverage for nursing home care, or other long-term care assistance, a veteran or veteran's eligible spouse or dependent must first meet the requirements for a basic VA pension as outlined above. The applicant must also meet specific aid and attendance eligibility requirements.
The purpose of additional VA aid and attendance eligibility requirements is simply to confirm that the individual requesting the benefit needs additional care that will result in increased expenses. Therefore, the applicant must: need assistance in activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing, or eating; be bedridden; be confined to a nursing home; or have specific vision impairments.
Individuals who do not meet these requirements but need additional care because they are unable to leave the immediate area of their residence due to a permanent disability can apply for VA housebound benefits, another available VA pension benefit. Individuals cannot receive aid and attendance and housebound benefits at the same time.
Recent Changes to the Aid and Attendance Benefit Program
New regulations related to aid and attendance eligibility requirements went into effect on October 18, 2018. The new rules include the addition of a look-back period of up to three years for asset transfers.
If an applicant has transferred assets for less than fair market value (FMV) within the last three years, the VA will now implement a penalty period if that transfer caused the person to become eligible for benefits. However, the look-back period applies only to transactions that occurred after October 18, 2018.
The new regulations also changed details of the calculation of net worth. The net worth limit is now equal to the community spouse resource allowance for Medicaid. A veteran's primary residence and two acres of property are exempt from the net worth calculation. This represents a reduction in the amount of property that is not considered in the evaluation of assets.
Transferring assets to a trust can effectively protect your property while ensuring you receive the benefits you need. While there might be a penalty of delayed benefits related to the transfer of assets into a trust, at times it is still the best decision.
There are also exemptions for the inclusion of property in asset calculations if the property is deemed not marketable. An attorney for veterans' long-term care can provide guidance on how these rules and definitions apply to your case.
How to Apply for the Aid and Attendance Benefit and Incorporate Payments into Your Estate Plan
Veterans can visit a local VA benefits office or write to the appropriate Pension Management Center to apply for a VA pension, aid and attendance, and housebound benefits. Applicants must provide a physician's report establishing the need for veterans' assistance for activities of daily living, VA coverage for nursing home care, or other long-term care needs.
An attorney for veterans' long-term care and estate planning can help you evaluate your options related to VA pensions and the aid and attendance benefit and can explain how these benefits fit into your overall long-term care and estate plans. Anna M. Price at Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC is an experienced and compassionate estate planning attorney serving WV, KY, and OH. Call Anna at (304) 523-2100 or toll-free at (866) 617-4736 or complete our online contact form today.