Elder & Disability Law Office, Ltd., John Belconis
350 South Northwest Highway, Suite 300
Park Ridge, IL 60068
“Secret Dollars”: Vet Benefit for Long‑Term Care Revealed
One of the Veteran Administration’s best‑kept secrets, which is an excellent potential source of funds for long‑term care (either at home or in an assisted living facility) are veteran’s benefits for a non‑service connected disability. Most VA benefits and pensions are based on a disability which was incurred during a veteran’s wartime service. There is another benefit, however – a pension program – available for individuals who are disabled due to the issues of old age, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and other chronic illnesses. For those veterans and widows (ers) who are eligible, these benefits can be a blessing for the disabled individual who is not yet ready for a nursing home.
There is a specific portion of the pension program which is of particular importance. This program is “Aid and Attendance” (A and A) and is available to a veteran who is not only disabled, but has the additional requirement of needing the aid and attendance of another person in order to avoid the hazards of his or her daily environment (in other words, someone needs to help you to prepare meals, to bathe, to dress and otherwise take care of yourself).
Under this program, a veteran and the veteran’s spouse together can receive over $2,000 per month, a single veteran can receive over $ 1,700 per month and a widow or widower can receive up to $1,000 per month in benefits. The applicant must be determined to be “permanently and totally disabled”. The applicant does not need to be helpless ‑ he/she need only show that he/she is in need of aid and attendance on a regular basis. Someone who is housebound or is in an assisted living facility and over the age of 65 is presumed by the Veterans Administration to be in need of aid and attendance.
This particular program has limitations related to the income and assets that are held by the applicant. However, in computing the income of the applicant, certain items can be deducted. Specifically, unreimbursed medical expenses (UMEs) paid by an individual may be used to reduce the applicant’s income. Home attendants or aides are an allowable medical expense deduction, as long as that attendant is providing some medical or nursing services for the disabled person. The cost of an assisted living facility, and even part or all of the cost of an independent living facility, can also be an allowable medical deduction to reduce your gross income to a much lower net countable income that may qualify you for veterans’ benefits.
Simplified Example: Robert is a 66 year old veteran and, due to his health needs, has caregivers coming to his home for several hours each day. His income is $1500/month and he is paying caregivers $3300/month. Rather than deplete his savings of $45,000, he applies for a service pension through the VA. The VA considers the $3300/month he is paying to his caregivers unreimbursed medical expenses and “subtracts” the amount from his income. In other words, when calculating his pension, the VA considers his income to be a negative since his care costs are greater than his income. He applies for benefits and is eligible for over $1,700/month to help him with his bills!
To file a claim for this benefit, it is wise to seek the involvement of a trained veteran’s service officer. A Veteran’s Service Officer is critical to the filing of an application with the local VA regional office. It is also important to seek the guidance of an experienced elder law attorney who is familiar with estate planning, disability, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits. An attorney skilled in elder law can provide a veteran and the veteran’s family with appropriate pre‑filing consultations to determine the appropriate steps that must be taken to be able to determine if it would be right to apply for this VA benefit.
* If there is an area of elder law you would like to know more about or if there is a topic you think our readers may find helpful, please don’t hesitate to call our office and offer your suggestions. Be sure to consult an experienced elder law attorney for guidance.
Disclaimer-This newsletter does not constitute legal advice. This information is provided for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing is meant or intended to create an attorney client relationship. For specific legal advice relating to your situation contact a competent attorney in your jurisdiction.
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The Elder and Disability Law Firm offers in-service training on topics related to:
Medicaid Planning Personal Care Contracts
Medicaid Spend down Powers of Attorney
Wills & Living Trusts Other Elder Law Issues
This newsletter is written by John M. Belconis, Attorney at Law and published as a service of the Elder & Disability Law Office, Ltd., John Belconis, JD, dedicated to serving the needs of older Americans, people with disabilities, and their families.