Landmark Senior Living prides itself in being a trusted resource for assisted living information for both civilians and Veterans. We have written several articles about the pension benefits available for veterans to help cover some of the costs associated with assisted living and home care. Recently, the Veterans Administration published changes to their pension guidelines that will go into effect starting October 18th.
These rules do make changes to federal laws but are administrative regulations that merely affect some of the eligibility requirements for “wartime” pension benefits, including Aid and Attendance. This article is intended to help inform those who are affected by these changes so that they can best protect their assets and ensure they are eligible to attain pension benefits for assisted living. Below, we’ve laid out the specific changes to pension benefits.
Changes to Asset Cap
VA Pension Benefits have traditionally been “means-tested”, meaning that the applicant’s income and assets are averaged out to determine eligibility for benefits. This has usually been determined on a case by case basis and based on an income cap. However, these new rules now provide a countable asset cap that is exactly the same as the Community Spouse Resource Allowance for Medicaid, which is $123,600 for 2018. An applicant annual income has always been included in calculating someone’s countable assets, along with the assets and income of the spouse, but now there is a limit to this.
Changes to Transfer of Assets and Lookback Period
If an applicant has total countable assets that are in excess of the cap, under current regulations, A VA pension applicant can transfer those assets to an annuity, a trust, or a family member without a penalty. After October 18, 2018, there will be a penalty for transferring assets. The new rules include a lookback period of up to 3 years beginning with the effective start date, October 18, 2018, meaning the VA will ignore asset transfers prior to this time and not penalize them. If there has been an incorrect transfer of assets that occurred in the three years prior to the application date for benefits, a penalty period may be incurred. This is to dissuade false applications and attempts to cash in on senior Veteran’s pension benefits. The penalty can be an ineligibility period of up to five years and is assessed on a case to case basis. The new rules specifically outline that transfer to annuities, trusts, and family members are considered penalizable for family members, trusts, and annuities.
Changes to Unreimbursed Medical Expenses (UME) and for Caregivers
Some of the changes made in these updates are simply expansions of existing rules. One example would be the fees related to living in an independent living facility. More fees related to this are now counted as Un-reimbursed Medical Expenses under certain circumstances, meaning they can be covered by pension benefits from Aid and Attendance. Additionally, items such as prescriptions, supplements, dietary items, costs related to service animals, transportation for healthcare purposes, and vitamins can all be deducted from income when they are prescribed by a physician. For caregivers, family members can now be paid and the payments will count as Un-reimbursed Medical Expenses. However, any application for this UME must be accompanied by a physicians certification that the Veteran “requires a protected environment due to a “physical, mental, developmental, or cognitive disorder.” Now, additional payments including services such as shopping, preparing meals, housekeeping, laundry, medication, and helping with the applicant’s finances can also qualify for Un-reimbursed Medical Expenses.
These and other changes to pension guidelines may or may not affect your Veteran. The best approach for moving forward is to protect your family and yourself by being prepared. Get in contact with a Veteran’s financial adviser or qualified elder law attorney prior to the October 18th starting date. By planning ahead and timing your application properly you can help ensure that the earliest possible date for receiving benefits is achieved.
What is the VA?
The VA, known officially as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is an agency that provides benefits for military Veterans and their families. The VA is broken up into three distinct divisions that administer different aspects of the VA’s programs and services. These are as follows:
- The Veterans Benefits Administration
- The Veterans Health Administration
- The National Cemetery Administration
The Benefits Administration deals primarily with providing eligible Veterans with their full benefits amount, as determined by their income, disability status, service status, and age. The Health Administration is primarily concerned with administering to the VA hospitals and providing care for Veterans in need. The National Cemetery Administration honors the fallen Veterans of the United States with nationwide VA grave sites as well as burial services. Burial benefits available include grave sites, a Government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, all at no cost to the family.
Who is Eligible for Benefits?
Eligibility requirements for benefits depend on several factors. In general, however, the following groups are eligible to receive some sort of benefit from the VA:
- Uniformed Service members
- Veteran’s Dependents
- Surviving Spouses
- Caregivers for Veterans
No matter where you are in life, Landmark Senior Living is here to make the process of growing older less worrisome and stressful. In the business of helping seniors for more than 30 years - our mission is to provide the best care in thriving communities that foster meaningful relationships for the rest of your life. We care about those who served our country and those who continue to do so. That’s why we’re unveiling a new campaign to help senior veterans and their spouses unlock the benefits available to them through the Aid and Attendance Program offered by the VA. If you’re looking for assisted living benefits for Veterans, visit Landmark Senior Living in Fall River.