VA benefits come up often in discussions about funding for long term care payment. Here is a timely and useful article on WHO should be helping with applications for VA benefits from the National Care Planning Council.
I warn families to be careful in this arena because there are organizations that have learned a lot about Veterans' Benefits to use them as a marketing ploy to entice elders to move to a particular senior community with the promise that VA benefits will help cover their costs or worse, to sell annuities as part of VA benefits planning. You have to know what is motivating the person who is offering to assist with the benefits application process.
VA benefits can be a true boon to a retired service person and their spouse. The rules are different from other federal programs, however, and what can be helpful to obtain Veterans' cash benefits may hurt in later or simultaneously obtaining Medicaid benefits. Education is key.
As always, we are here to assist with your long term care planning and we only refer to trusted individuals and organizations who have exhibited proper motivations.
In the year 1919 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as Armistice Day to honor those Veterans who served during World War I. On November 11, 1954, Armistice Day was proclaimed a legal national holiday and the name was changed to "Veterans Day" to honor all veterans of all wars.
Every November 11, ceremonies are held throughout the United States
honoring Veterans of wars. A National Ceremony is held at Arlington
Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the laying of the
presidential wreath and military playing of “Taps” is presented.
Since its establishment in 1930, the Department of Veterans Affairs has evolved to supporting and aiding the nation’s veterans in numerous ways. One of these services for example, the Veterans Health Administration, is the largest single provider of medical care in the United States. Its 22 regions with 154 hospitals and their associated 875 outpatient clinics offer the following services.
Hospital, outpatient medical, dental, pharmacy and prosthetic services
Domiciliary, nursing home, and community-based residential care
Sexual trauma counseling
Specialized health care for women veterans
Health and rehabilitation programs for homeless veterans
Alcohol and drug dependency treatment
Medical evaluation for disorders associated with military service in the Gulf War, or Treatment for exposure to Agent Orange, radiation, and other environmental hazards
Other special benefits
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides three types of long term care services for veterans.
The first are health care benefits provided to veterans who have service-connected disabilities, who are receiving VA Pension or who are considered low income. These services include free medical care, possible free prescription drugs, orthotics and prosthetics, home renovation grants for disabilities, home care, assisted living, domiciliary care, nursing home care, and a possible host of other services or benefits.
The second benefit is state veterans homes. The majority of these homes offer nursing care but some may offer assisted living or domiciliary care. The Department of Veterans Affairs in conjunction with the states helps build and support state veterans homes. Money is provided to help with construction and a federal subsidy of $72.71 a day is provided for each veteran using state veterans nursing home services. These homes are generally available for most veterans and sometimes their spouses and in some cases for so-called "Goldstar parents." Veterans homes are run by the states, sometimes with the help of contract management. There may be waiting lists in some states.
The third benefit for veterans is disability income programs. The most familiar of these benefits is an income for service-connected disabled veterans called "Compensation." The least known of these is a program officially called "Pension" but popularly known as the "aid and attendance benefit."
The aid and attendance benefit can pay additional income to provide for the costs associated with home care, assisted living, nursing homes, adult day care and other unreimbursed medical expenses. It can also pay for a family member other than a spouse to be the care giver. The amount of payment varies with the type of care, recipient income and the marital status of the recipient. Here are some examples of how this benefit can help veterans.
The National Care Planning Council receives many calls from family members of veterans, asking if there is any help available to them. One such call came from a woman who had been juggling her job and caring for her father in her home for over five years. She had just lost her job and with no income, did not know how she would keep her home or give her father the care he needed. She read an article that had been written by the National Care Planning Council and published in her local newspaper and called their phone number. The article mentioned that a member of the family -- not including a spouse -- can be paid through VA to provide care for a loved one at home who is either a war veteran or the surviving spouse of a war veteran. Her father is a war veteran. When told that she could get an additional $1,644 a month through her father by providing her father's care she was shocked. She was also extremely grateful and ended up sobbing into tears over the phone when she found out about the benefit and realized it would help her keep her home and her father may probably get a check for her retroactive previous care from VA worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Another recent caller’s mother is 89 years old and has been in assisted living for four years. As a widow of a veteran she did not qualify for the Aid & Attendance Pension 4 years ago because her assets were too high. In the meantime she has been using up her assets along with her income to pay for the assisted living. The local veterans service office has not been helpful in getting this claim approved even though she had reached the allowable asset limit over two years ago. The family was considering putting her in a less desirable facility under Medicaid. The family knew this would be devastating for their mother. Her health was still good and she had many friends and comforts at the assisted living.
The National Care Planning Council directed the caller and his family to a more cooperative veterans service office that will submit the claim and likely get it approved retroactively so that this woman can get a check for roughly $40,000 worth of previous care costs for which she was not reimbursed. In addition, she will likely get the full benefit of $1,056 a month to help pay the cost of the assisted living where she is happy.
These types of claims require medical evidence in order to receive a
rating for aid and attendance or housebound allowances. These ratings
must be received or certain non-medical expenses associated with long
term care are not deductible from income. Special rules also allow for
deducting the annual anticipated cost of month-to-month long term care
from household income in order to meet the income test. This special
treatment requires special documentation and evidence. In addition,
those households with substantial assets will be denied for a Pension
income unless those assets are below a certain level determined for
each case by VA. The personal residence, personal vehicles and personal
property are exempted from this asset test. Finally, evidence must be
supplied every year in January that the anticipated costs for the
previous year were actually incurred or VA will likely demand for its
The National Care Planning Council has compiled the necessary forms, rules and information about claims together in one book titled “How to Apply for the Veterans Aid & Attendance Pension Benefit.”
This book contains information about how a typical applicant receives a successful pension award. VA often tells callers to go ahead and fill out the application but generally provides no information on the special treatment of annualization of anticipated recurring medical costs. The claims form also contains no information on this important issue. One simply has to know how to do it. This crucial information can make the difference between a successful award and being declined. All necessary forms for filing a claim are in the book.
Veterans who have substantial assets may need to do some estate planning and realigning of assets to qualify. An expert in this area should be sought to help with the application in order to avoid lengthy delays in awarding a benefit or a possible denial of benefits. For a list of individuals or companies in your area who understand how to get this benefit go to http://www.longtermcarelink.net/ref_veterans_consultants.htm
To learn more about this benefit go to http://www.veteransaidbenefit.org/
November 11th was officially Veterans' Day, celebrated today with many business closures. Many of my clients are veterans, although most do not volunteer that fact unless asked. They are proud of their service to the United States, but given the things they saw, friends they lost and scars they bear, they do not easily talk about their experiences. While I can advise them to check their eligibility for veterans' benefits, such as Aid and Attendance (see the VA website at www.va.gov), I cannot help with the emotional scars. I can, however, say "thank you," to them and to our active duty service men and women. And you can, too - go to www.letssaythanks.com and send a postcard. It will be the best thing you did today.