Can VA Benefits Help Cover Long-Term Care?

It is a complicated matter for military veterans to use their Department of Veterans Affairs benefits to cover long-term care costs. An underused pension benefit known as Aid and Attendance can provide some money to cover costs for assistance performing everyday tasks. Aid and Attendance benefits may even be available to veterans with incomes above the eligibility limit if they have a large enough medical expense(s) for which they receive no reimbursement. 

VA benefits also pay for those veterans without service-related disabilities but who cannot pay the cost for necessary care if their income level does not exceed eligibility requirements. Aid and Attendance as a pension benefit are available to those veterans who served a minimum of ninety days with at least one day during wartime. However, the veteran did not have to see actual combat. Find out about eligibility requirements here at the va.gov website. All VA benefits have a service requirement to qualify for long-term care, and the veteran applicant must have an honorable or general discharge to qualify for these benefits.

Typically, long-term care services occur in veterans’ home settings as care in facilities is limited due to availability, staffing issues, and an overall failure of the US long-term care marketplace to provide quality long-term facility care at reasonable prices. At-home care has two programs that help veterans. 

What are Veteran Aid and Attendance Benefits?

The first, as mentioned, is Aid and Attendance Benefits (A&A Benefits) coupled with Housebound allowance. This program provides cash to eligible veterans with disabilities and their surviving spouses to purchase at-home and community-based services. These services include caregiver assistance and personal care. The cash is a supplement to existing eligible veterans’ pension benefits.

What is the Veteran Directed Care Program?

The second is the Veteran Directed Care Program, providing veterans with a flexible budget for purchasing services like counseling or other support provided by the Aging Network in partnership with the VA. The program is available to veterans of all ages who need at-home and community-based services in a consumer-directed way and provide help with daily living activities and more.

While not all long-term care provision is in a home setting, many veterans are most comfortable receiving aid in their own homes, mainly if a spouse or other family member is available for ad hoc caregiving.  For those veterans who live alone, a nursing home, assisted living center, adult health center, or private homes where caregivers support a small group of veterans may be a better solution. Some of these facilities will be run directly by the VA, while others are VA-approved state or community organizations.

Long-term care services for qualifying sick or disabled veterans include:

  • 24/7 nursing and medical care
  • Help with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, personal care, dressing, taking medications, and making meals
  • Pain management and comfort care
  • Caregiver support

Planning for long-term care through VA benefits is a complex set of tasks. The most comprehensive and best solutions generally come from elder law attorneys who specialize in VA benefits. In addition to VA long-term care benefits, your attorney may be able to ensure additional services not covered by the VA but may be available through Medicare, Medicaid, or a private insurance policy. Your attorney also understands techniques of transferring wealth, including the three-year look-back rule and how it affects a veteran’s eligibility for VA long-term care benefits.

The Importance of Long-term Care Planning for Veterans

According to Forbes, many veterans miss out on long-term care benefits with a mere five percent application rate for the assistance funds because veterans are unaware of the programs. Knowing about the programs and if you qualify, locating the necessary paperwork, filling it out, and filing applications can be daunting. Incorrectly filed applications can delay the process of receiving benefits. VeteranAid.org is an online free resource for veterans and their surviving spouses and families. The website details A&A Pension Benefits and how to apply.

If you are a veteran or have a loved one who is a veteran, it is imperative to maximize all long-term care benefits due to them for their military service. The sooner you can identify what is available to you, the quicker you can fill out the applications and get the process of receiving VA long-term care benefits moving forward. As with all long-term planning, you will typically have a better outcome if you address the situation early. Please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 or schedule an appointment to discuss the assistance funds that may be due to you for long-term care.

Opportunities for Wartime Veterans

In the past, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released eligibility rules for the VA pension program. VA pension, a tax-free monthly cash benefit, is available to wartime Veterans who served at least 90 days of active duty service with 1 day during a declared period of war. Surviving spouses of wartime Veterans may also qualify for a monthly cash payment. Veterans or surviving spouses who need care on a regular basis are eligible for a higher payment (often referred to as “Aid and Attendance,” payments of which can be over $2,000 per month, depending on marital status and care needs.

With any pension claim, there are financial and medical requirements. The medical requirements are straightforward – a Veteran or surviving spouse must be 65 or older or permanently disabled to receive the lowest pension amount. If the Veteran or surviving spouse is blind or nearly so, a patient in a nursing home, or requires assistance with activities of daily living on a regular basis as prescribed by a physician then it is possible to qualify for the highest amount – pension with an aid and attendance allowance. The money paid by the VA goes straight to the Veteran or surviving spouse to help pay for care. The VA doesn’t choose who provides the care – the Veteran or surviving spouse does. And often times, it’s a family member who can be paid.

The financial requirements are a little more complex. Prior to October 18, 2018, there was no clear rule about how much a wartime Veteran or surviving spouse could have before qualifying for VA pension. That is no longer the case! Now, a wartime Veteran or a surviving spouse can have about $130,000 (increased annually), a home, car, and other personal effects and still qualify for a monthly cash payment.  Even if you have more than that there are legal ways to reduce total assets in order to qualify. However, if you give money away after October 18, 2018, you may have to wait months or years to qualify, so make sure you have solid legal advice before doing so.

There are also income limitations, however income can be reduced by recurring out-of-pocket medical expenses. There are certain requirements that must be met before a medical expense can be deducted from income, but most expenses directly related to care will qualify.

The VA pension program can be a huge financial benefit to wartime Veterans or surviving spouses of wartime Veterans. We help families determine whether a claim is possible, and advise how a veteran can qualify. Give us a call today so we can start helping you or a loved one. Please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 or schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help with your long-term care needs.

 

USPS Partners with the VA to Protect Veterans from Fraud and Scams

A division of the United States Postal Service, known as the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is partnered with the Veteran’s Administration Privacy Service (Office of Privacy and Records Management, OPRM) in a two-year agreement continuing to provide veterans and their dependents with important data on avoiding scams and protecting personal information. Operation Protect Veterans is a national anti-fraud campaign that alerts veterans and their families who have a long history of being targeted for financial abuses, often leveraging a veteran’s sense of duty and loyalty to fall prey to scams. The USPS also supports the VA’s More Than a Number campaign, which seeks to educate veterans and their beneficiaries on protecting themselves from identity theft.

Scams that target veterans run the gamut from subtle to outright audacious. Some of the better know scams may include:

  • VA phishing scams: Fraudsters, posing as VA employees in electronic communication, contact veterans via “phishing,” including email spoofing, text messaging, and instant messaging. The goal is to obtain important information like Social Security numbers and personal financial information. The data is then used to access bank accounts or open fake credit card accounts.
  • Benefits buyout offers: This setup involves a scammer taking advantage of a veteran’s immediate financial needs by offering a quick, upfront purchase of future disability or pension payments at a fraction of its true value.
  • Fraudulent records promotions: Scammers will charge fees to veterans’ access to government forms or military records. This information is available for free through the VA for forms and the National Archives for military records.
  • Bogus employment offers: Veterans often fall prey to fake job descriptions posted online. Applying for these fake jobs, veterans provide personal information on applications, and scammers will usually also charge an employment “fee.”
  • Fake charitable request: Scammers, in this instance, will often use plausible branding techniques, making fraudulent claims about charitable donation collection that will not benefit wounded service members or veterans.

The most basic advice to all veterans is, do not provide information to unknown entities. Research and verify all offers and claims from outside sources. If you do not understand an offer, ask a trusted love one for help. If the scammer persists or makes financial threats remember the surest tactic is to hang up the phone, press delete, or don’t open a link you were not soliciting, or that is unknown to you. The links provided can be of great assistance to connect veterans and their loved ones to programs and educational videos to help them identify a scam before personal loss ensues. If you have a loved one that is not web-savvy, help them to understand what to look for to prevent mail fraud, bank fraud, or some other type of scheme.

The VA Privacy Service and USPIS, with their continued partnership, share a common goal: to educate veterans and their families about known scams and provide simple precautions they can take to protect their identity and money. Both the US Postal Inspection Service and the VA want to help veterans and their dependents avoid becoming victims.

If you have questions or would like a private meeting to discuss your planning needs, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 or schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help with your VA planning matters.

VA Benefits for Aging Louisiana Veterans

The US Census Bureau reports that more than 18.2 million veterans live in the United States, and 38 percent of them are 65 and older. Additionally, the Census Bureau reports that more than 9 million veterans receive services from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) annually. If you are a veteran or have a loved one who is, it is important to understand all the VA benefits and aid that is available. Beyond education programs, home loans, and job search and training resources, the VA also provides a host of other resources to assist you as you transition to your retirement years.

Wartime Veterans Supplemental Income (Veterans Pension)

Supplemental income is available for wartime veterans through the VA pension benefit. If you served at least 90 days of active duty before September 7, 1980, or 24 months after that date, or served the full period for which you were summoned or ordered to active duty with at least one day of wartime, you may qualify.  You must have also been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. There are strict income and asset requirements attached to this benefit as well as the survivors’ pension and the housebound or aid and attendance allowance discussed below.

Survivors pension

If your late parent or spouse served during wartime, you might qualify for the survivor’s pension. This tax-free program provides relief for unmarried children or a widow or widower who has low income. The deceased military veteran must have served a minimum of 90 days active service with a minimum of one day served during a period of wartime before September 7, 1980, and been dishonorably discharged. After that September date, the deceased veteran must have served a minimum of 24 months or the full period summoned or ordered to serve active duty. Pensions are based on annual family income and under a designated amount set by Congress. More details regarding military pension eligibility are found on the VA website.

Housebound Allowance and Aid & Attendance VA Benefits

If you are eligible for or are already receiving a veterans’ pension, you may qualify for additional monetary benefits. If you are permanently disabled and must remain in your current home, the Housebound Allowance will increase your monthly pension. Aid & Attendance (A&A) will compensate a veteran who is either residing in a nursing home, bedridden, requires assistance for activities in their day to day life, or whose eyesight problems meet specific thresholds of degradation. More details for Housebound Allowance and A&A eligibility can be found on the VA website.

Veterans Life Insurance Options

There is a wide variety of life insurance offerings through the Veterans Administration. Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI, VA form SGLV8286) is a group term life insurance that is low cost and is automatic for most active-duty service members. It is also available for those veterans who serve at least 12 periods of inactive training per year with the Ready Reserve or the National Guard. Other automatic qualifiers include belonging to the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the Public Health Service, and for midshipmen and cadets of the US military academies and ROTC members. You can extend the coverage up to two years if you are fully disabled at separation. Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI, VA form SGLV 8286A) allows you to convert your SGLI to a civilian program of lifetime renewable term coverage after leaving military service.

Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance

If you qualify for SGLI, your spouse and children are qualified for Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI, VA form SGLV 8286A). This insurance covers your dependent children free of charge, although the coverage for your spouse cannot surpass your amount of coverage.

Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection

If you sustain a traumatic injury during your service that leads to amputation, blindness, or paraplegia, you qualify for benefit payments made through Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI, VA form SGLV8600).

Service-Disabled Veterans’ Life Insurance

The Service-Disabled Veterans’ Life Insurance (S-DVI, VA Form 29-4364) coverage is provided to veterans who have been given a VA rating for what is called a new service-connected disability within the past two years. Coverage is free for eligible veterans who are fully disabled, and you can purchase additional life insurance.

Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance

As a veteran, if you are disabled and approved for a VA Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant, you may receive mortgage life insurance coverage through the Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI, VA Form 29-8636).

This link takes you to an overview of these VA insurance benefits. You can click on the insurance program by name and be automatically redirected to the appropriate VA web page for that benefit.

Disability Compensation

Tax-free Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC, VA Form 21-534EZ) is available to veterans who sustain or aggravate an injury or disease during their active service. The disability may include physical and mental health issues and secondary or related items diagnosed after your discharge. Your child may be eligible for DIC if they are not included in the spouse’s DIC, and there is an income-based DIC for parents. A disability can also qualify you for a higher, tax-free Special Monthly Compensation if you are housebound and need special assistance or have trouble performing daily living activities. Additionally, housing and insurance benefits through the VA, like Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance, Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance, and Adapted Housing Grants may be available.

Geriatrics and Extended Care Services

The Geriatrics and Extended Care Services (GEC) provides help to veterans with life-limiting illnesses, multiple chronic conditions, or disabilities associated with aging, injury, or chronic disease. The GEC will assist a veteran living at home or in a nursing home, assisted living, or other residential community care facilities. GEC services include home health aide care, daily care, telehealthcare, palliative care, respite care, hospice care, and even veteran-directed care.

Military Burial

Veteran, burial benefits include a gravesite in a national veteran’s cemetery, a government marker or headstone, the opening and closing of that grave and its perpetual care, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate. The marker, headstone, burial flag, and certificate are provided at no cost to the veteran. Additionally, dependents and spouses buried in a national veteran’s cemetery may also qualify for some benefits such as burial with the veteran, inscription on their headstone, and perpetual care. For a complete description of your veteran benefits, check this VA website link.

Percentages of veterans receiving benefits:

  • 25-34 years 24.7 percent
  • 36-44 years 21.5 percent
  • 45-54 years 25.8 percent
  • 55-64 years 19.8 percent
  • 65-74 years 5.0 percent
  • 75+ years 1.3 percent

If you are a veteran or have a loved one who is, it is crucial to understand that veteran resources go far beyond career and end-of-life issues. Many veterans are not taking full advantage of VA offerings. Many VA age-related programs can benefit a veteran’s life beyond simply planning their future care. Become acquainted with the many options available and determine which programs you qualify for and best serve your interests. With so many benefits available through the VA, you can improve your living situation during your retirement.

The overview is just a summary of what may be available to a wartime veteran or a veteran who is disabled as a result of their prior service. If you or a loved one would like to explore whether you are eligible for benefits, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our Ruston, LA office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help.

Now More Than Ever Veterans Benefits Planning is Essential

The COVID-19 virus is not going away as many had hoped. And studies have shown it is deadlier for those over the age of 65. Individuals living in senior living communities, such as independent living, assisted living, memory care, and nursing homes have the highest risk of becoming infected and possibly dying from the virus or secondary illness, such as pneumonia, after being weakened from the virus. For many families, providing long term care for a loved one in the home has become an even bigger priority than normal. In-home care can be costly, which makes the Aid and Attendance Benefit provided by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs of critical importance to help pay for such care.

Veteran Aid and Attendance Benefit

The Aid and Attendance Benefit, technically called the Improved Pension Benefit, is a cash benefit paid to wartime veterans that are over the age of 65 and require another person to assist them with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, feeding, and assistance with incontinence, or requires a protective environment due to mental decline. The Aid and Attendance Benefit is also available to similarly disabled spouses of deceased wartime veterans that are over the age of 65. It is this need for assistance with care or a protective environment that has the family looking into long term care facilities for their loved one.

The Aid and Attendance eligibility rules also require the person receiving the benefit of having limited income. Simply put, all income of the applicant and the applicant’s spouse must be offset by the medical expenses of the applicant and the applicant’s spouse. Any income not offset by medical expenses reduces the amount of the benefit. Under the Aid and Attendance rules, when the wartime veteran or surviving spouse requires assistance with activities of daily living or a protective environment, paying an in-home caregiver to provide that care is a medical expense. It does not matter whether the caregiver is a child or hired through an agency.

Current Veteran Benefits

For 2020, the maximum benefit paid to a married wartime veteran is $2,266 per month. The maximum benefit paid to a single wartime veteran is $1,911. The maximum benefit paid to a surviving spouse of a wartime veteran is $1,228. Working carefully through the math, if a married wartime veteran needs long term care and has a household income of $4,000 per month, he or she will need to spend $4,000 per month on medical expenses to receive $2,266 per month. That veteran likely already has medical expenses in the form of two Medicare and two Medicare supplement premiums, as well as possibly two Medicare prescription supplements. The remaining income needs to be spent on additional medical expenses, specifically an in-home caregiver.

The family must now decide the best way to navigate paying the in-home caregiver. If the couple has children, perhaps the remainder of the household income can be paid to a child, or split among the children, as payment for caregiver services. In many cases, using a child or children as a caregiver allows for flexibility in the amount a caregiver is paid. The income calculation can be manipulated to net out at exactly zero, instead of going into the negative. This allows the veteran to use the $2,266 per month benefit to pay for the couple’s non-medical living expenses.

Other Veteran Benefits for Caregiving

The other option is to hire a caregiver from an agency. This option is more expensive than using a child as a caregiver, but it comes with the added benefit of ensuring taxes are withheld and workers’ compensation insurance is provided in case of an accident. If the family wants the income calculation to net out at exactly zero, the veteran typically will not get as many hours of service from the caregiver hired through an agency compared to hiring a child since an agency typically charges a higher per hour rate. This would work well for a veteran that does not need a lot of care, or that has a wife and/or children that can cover the additional hours of care for free. Otherwise, the agency will need to be paid to provide the additional hours of service, which means the $2,266 benefit paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs will also be used to pay for the care and the couple will have to use assets to pay for the couple’s non-medical living expenses.

The Aid and Attendance Benefit also has an asset limit the applicant must meet, along with a penalty for giving assets away and a 3-year period to look back at the applicant’s assets to see if any gifts were made. These rules should not dissuade a wartime veteran or surviving spouse from seeking this benefit. The need for long-term care will only increase. The cost of care will only increase. And now the COVID-19 virus makes it critical that everything possible is done to protect this vulnerable community.

If you have questions or would like to discuss whether you or a loved one may qualify for Veterans Benefits, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your VA planning needs.

Did you Know? Wartime veterans can qualify for a VA Pension without being disabled.

Many wartime veterans receive a disability pension due to injury. It is a challenge to keep up with US Military benefits as they are always changing, and many veterans miss out on what can be life-changing aid. But did you know that wartime veterans age 65 or more may qualify for a VA Pension without being disabled? The Veteran’s Administration qualifications for this type of VA Pension include:

  • Your military service discharge is deemed anything other than dishonorable conditions,
  • Your service was 90 or more active duty days with at minimum one day of service during a period of wartime.
  • You are age 65 years or older,
  • Your countable family income is below a threshold set every year by law.

2020 Family Income Limits (Effective December 1, 2019)

If you are a… Your yearly income must be less than…*
Veteran with no dependents $13,752*
Veteran with a spouse or a child $18,008**
Housebound veteran with no dependents $16,805
Housebound veteran with one dependent $21,063
Veteran who needs aid and attendance and has no dependents $22,939
Veteran who needs aid and attendance (A/A) and has one dependent $27,195
Two veterans married to each other $18,008
Add for each additional child to any category above $2,351

 

*Some income is not counted toward the yearly limit (for example, welfare benefits, some wages earned by dependent children, and Supplemental Security Income. It is also important to note that your medical-related expenses are considered when determining your yearly family income. *To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed $687 ** To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed $900

 

The financial information chart above, published by military.com, is commensurate with the numbers posted on the Veteran’s Administration website.  Be aware; there is a look-back period that will determine if you have transferred assets in the three years previous to filing your claim. There would be a penalty period rate of $2,266 if you did move assets for less than fair market value during this period.

The VA will pay a qualified veteran the difference between personal countable family income and the yearly income limit category into which they fall. Payments are made in 12 equal installments per month and rounded down to the nearest dollar. As an example, a single veteran with a $5,000 annual income qualifies for an annual limit of $13,752. Subtracting that veteran’s income from the income limit yields an annual pension rate of $8,752, which translates into a VA monthly pension check of $729.33 or $729.00 rounded down to the nearest dollar value.

The VA website recognizes the following wartime periods that determine if your service was during an eligible wartime period:

  • World War II (December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946)
  • Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam War era (February 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served outside the Republic of Vietnam.)
  • Gulf War (August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)

In addition to VA pension, wartime Veterans may also qualify for an additional allowance called Aid and Attendance. To qualify medically for VA Aid and Attendance, one of the following must be true:

  • Another person is required for you to perform daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and feeding, or
  • You spend a large portion, or all of your day in bed due to illness, or
  • Due to a loss of mental or physical abilities related to a disability you are a patient in a nursing home, or
  • Your eyesight is severely limited (wearing glasses or contacts your eyesight is 5/200 or less in both eyes or your concentric contraction visual field is 5 degrees or less)

There are similar benefits available to surviving spouses of wartime Veterans. If you are a wartime veteran or the surviving spouse of a wartime Veteran, we can help you determine whether you could qualify for pension benefits.

While eligible veterans or surviving spouses can apply for benefits on their own through the www.va.gov  website, it is advisable to seek the advice of counsel before applying. There may be planning options available to avoid a penalty period and speed up the qualification process. If you would like to explore whether you might qualify for VA pension benefits. Please contact our office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your VA planning needs.

Understanding Veterans, Home Health Care, and Technology

In the quest to provide cost-effective, quality in-home care for veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been surprising trailblazers. Although the agency has long been mired in controversies surrounding its programs, particularly arbitrary caregiver dismissals, the home health services sector of the VA has long been touted as an overall success story. As Thomas Edes, director of comprehensive geriatrics and palliative care programs for the VA puts it “We’re working in this environment of challenging budget constraints, and at the same time, we’re a very mission-driven organization. Put those together and what happens? That really pushes us to innovate.”

The VA Innovations

This innovation has seen home-based primary care for veterans quadruple since 2000, and all VA medical centers throughout the US now have a palliative care program as well. The VA Medical Foster Home program care has expanded from a pilot to a national program, recognized in at least 45 states and providing veterans housing as well as in-home care. These success stories are great news for veterans and a must for the Veterans Administration in part because the median age of a veteran is now 64 and the US aging veteran population is growing even faster than the senior civilian population.

It is not just the “new-comer” seniors straining the VA health care system. Nationwide the 85 plus population is on track to increase 70% from 2000 to 2020 according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. The overall unsustainability of the US health care system has forced the hand of the VA, and there is no more cost-effective way than through subsidized, at home family and community-centered health care and technology to meet veterans’ care needs.

The Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that Telehealth is revolutionizing veteran care and providing high-quality treatment for them. The VA Video on Demand is delivering convenient, accessible health care particularly to those 24 plus percent of veterans who live in rural and remote access locations. Telehealth is also important for those veterans who are disabled. Although a veteran might live in a city they might be unable to get themselves to a medical center for an appointment

Technology Trends for Veterans

Assisted living technologies for veterans include assistive mobility equipment – an ever-expanding category including wheelchairs, all-terrain vehicles, exoskeletons, and in-home ceiling track mobility systems. Each of these continue to be refined and specialized to meet the individual veteran’s needs. The Veterans Administration awards grants to develop technology to assist veterans and service members in modifying their homes. Adapted computer access and electronic aids to daily living and environment control units (personal assistants) provide customized interactive abilities for veterans.

Electronic cognitive devices help veterans who struggle with activities of daily living (ADL). These devices include personal digital assistants (PDAs), smartphones, pocket personal computers (pocket PCs) and other handheld devices, global positioning systems (GPS), reminder watches, pagers with reminder features, and digital voice recorders. The use of these devices helps a veteran stay on schedule with medications as well as stay connected with family, friends, and their medical monitoring community. Those veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are further helped with their ADLs when robots with artificial intelligence (AI) are introduced into their environment. These AI “tech bots” are capable of reading human facial expressions and can identify when a veteran is feeling particularly stressed, isolated, angry, or depressed. The robot can upload the information to the veteran’s caregivers thus alerting them to the need for human intervention. Wearable sensors can also alert a caregiver or medical professional when vital signs are outside of a normal, healthy range.

Disabled Veteran Opportunities

The VA will provide a payment to disabled veterans toward the purchase of a car or other transportation and additionally will pay for adaptive equipment, repair, reinstallation or replacement of necessary equipment due to disability. If a veteran has lost the use of at least one foot, hand, or has a permanent impairment to their vision or severe burn injuries or immobile joints that their limit mobility, the VA will help to fund the adaptation of the vehicle to make it fully operational to the veteran.

While the latest technology brings benefits to all seniors opting to age in place, the veteran community is especially helped. Many veterans would like the luxury of aging without combat or noncombat injury so inherent to military service. Some of the aging in place obstacles they must overcome are extreme, commensurate with the injuries (psychological and physical) they have endured. Navigating the benefits that are available to a senior veteran is complicated if you are not well versed in the process. Getting enrolled in the correct program and receiving benefits can also be a lengthy process, so it is best to seek help before wasting valuable time.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your particular situation, please don’t hesitate to contact our office by calling us at (318) 255-1760 and schedule an appointment.

 

VA Pension Eligibility for Non-Disabled Wartime Veterans

It is a challenge to keep up with US Military benefits as they are always changing, and many veterans miss out on what can be life-changing aid. Many wartime veterans receive a disability pension due to injury. But did you know that wartime veterans age 65 or more may qualify for a VA Pension without being disabled? The Veteran’s Administration qualifications for this type of VA Pension include:

  • Your military service discharge is deemed anything other than dishonorable conditions,
  • Your service was 90 or more active duty days with at minimum one day of service during a period of wartime.
  • You are age 65 years or older,
  • Your countable family income is below a threshold set every year by law.

2020 Family Income Limits (Effective December 1, 2019)

If you are a… Your yearly income must be less than…*
Veteran with no dependents $13,752*
Veteran with a spouse or a child $18,008**
Housebound veteran with no dependents $16,805
Housebound veteran with one dependent $21,063
Veteran who needs aid and attendance and has no dependents $22,939
Veteran who needs aid and attendance (A/A) and has one dependent $27,195
Two veterans married to each other $18,008
Add for each additional child to any category above $2,351

 

*Some income is not counted toward the yearly limit (for example, welfare benefits, some wages earned by dependent children, and Supplemental Security Income. It is also important to note that your medical-related expenses are considered when determining your yearly family income. *To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed $687 ** To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed $900

 The financial information chart above, published by military.com, is commensurate with the numbers posted on the Veteran’s Administration website.  Be aware; there is a look-back period that will determine if you have transferred assets in the three years previous to filing your claim. There would be a penalty period rate of $2,266 if you did move assets for less than fair market value during this period.

The VA will pay a qualified veteran the difference between personal countable family income and the yearly income limit category into which they fall. Payments are made in 12 equal installments per month and rounded down to the nearest dollar. As an example, a single veteran with a $5,000 annual income qualifies for an annual limit of $13,752. Subtracting that veteran’s income from the income limit yields an annual pension rate of $8,752, which translates into a VA monthly pension check of $729.33 or $729.00 rounded down to the nearest dollar value.

The VA website recognizes the following wartime periods that determine if your service was during an eligible wartime period:

  • World War II (December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946)
  • Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam War era (February 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served outside the Republic of Vietnam.)
  • Gulf War (August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)

In addition to VA pension, wartime Veterans may also qualify for an additional allowance called Aid and Attendance. To qualify medically for VA Aid and Attendance, one of the following must be true:

  • Another person is required for you to perform daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and feeding, or
  • You spend a large portion, or all of your day in bed due to illness, or
  • Due to a loss of mental or physical abilities related to a disability you are a patient in a nursing home, or
  • Your eyesight is severely limited (wearing glasses or contacts your eyesight is 5/200 or less in both eyes or your concentric contraction visual field is 5 degrees or less)

There are similar benefits available to surviving spouses of wartime Veterans. If you are a wartime veteran or the surviving spouse of a wartime Veteran, we can help you determine whether you could qualify for pension benefits.

While eligible veterans or surviving spouses can apply for benefits on their own through the www.va.gov  website, it is advisable to seek the advice of counsel before applying. There may be planning options available to avoid a penalty period and speed up the qualification process.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning for a loved one, please don’t hesitate to contact our Ruston, Louisiana office by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

 

Newly Associated Diseases from Exposure to Agent Orange

During the Vietnam War (1962-1975), the United States military, as well as the Republic of Vietnam, used defoliants for tactical purposes to reduce cover for enemy forces, improve perimeter visibility of military installations, and even to kill enemy food crops. Agent Orange is the most infamous of the tactical herbicides whose names became shortened to the identifying color band on the drum in which they were shipped and stored. These toxic herbicides have created a host of health problems in Vietnam Veterans who are now in and around their sixtieth decade. The illnesses are even linked to the offspring of these veterans.

In 2017, then Veterans Administration Secretary David Shulkin decided to add more diseases like bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and symptoms akin to Parkinson’s to the VA’s growing list of illnesses and health concerns with highly likely links to the toxic herbicide according to an Institute of Medicine 2016 report (IOM).  In addition to these findings, in 2018, the National Academies of Sciences found evidence linking Agent Orange to more diseases like hypertension and associated stroke. The Academy also links Agent Orange to monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), which is the presence of abnormal proteins in the bloodstream. The addition of these health concerns and diseases is in large part due to the change of their evidence classifications from the “limited or suggested” to “sufficient” category.

Earlier in 2019, then acting head of the Veterans Health Administration, Dr. Richard Stone, informed Congress that the VA was hoping to make a final decision on these “new addition” illnesses within 90 days. 90 days came and went. At a time when giving ailing senior veterans quicker access to rightful disability compensation and health benefits, thousands of veterans have lost hope. Unfortunately, for some, the culpability delay tactics are costing veteran lives; the longer the delay, the fewer lives to be addressed.

The Military Times is reporting these documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by a veteran, are being broadly overlooked or objected to by the White House. According to the documents, there are about 83,000 veterans currently experiencing one of the three newly proposed presumptive illnesses. However, the current director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Mick Mulvaney, expressed concerns regarding the budgetary impact of disease expansion within the current program and its potential adverse effects on the existing disability benefits program. Budgetary concerns seem to be overriding over 40 supportive scientific studies, peer-reviewed studies and additional documents Shulkin presented in a letter addressed to Mulvaney. The position of the White House remains to expand veteran care through the private sector.

Much of the inability to form a consensus in providing additional benefits revolve around the use of the term “presumptive” in describing the illness. Presumptively linking hypertension to Agent Orange exposure may be scientifically valid; however, the case can also be made linking hypertension as a disease typically found in older people, like Vietnam Veterans. Thus as Vietnam Veterans age, presumptive illnesses and their sources become difficult to isolate. The Veterans Health Administration, upon reviewing the results of their Vietnam Veteran Morbidity Study and the Vietnam Mortality study, concluded in May of 2018 that there is insufficient scientific data and information to overcome the limitations that exist in the scientific support requirement for rulemaking.

The years go on, and the back and forth continues as more Vietnam Veterans suffer Agent Orange-related illnesses and die. The longer political ploys are used to delay the approval of adding presumptive disease, the more intact the Veterans Health Administration budget will remain. This country’s policy and the legislative process should not hinder America’s support of its veteran population. It is unconscionable to use delay tactics in the hopes this issue will self-resolve with the impending deaths of tens of thousands of sick Vietnam Veterans who may be fully deserving of additional medical care and benefits, but not receiving them. The VA must redouble its efforts to free up more benefit monies to right this egregious wrong.

If you need help planning for your veteran’s benefits, please get in touch with our Ruston, Louisiana office by clicking here to send us a message or by calling us at (318) 255-1760.

 

VA Increases Pension Benefit Rates for 2019

Veterans Pension Benefits have been given a Cost-of-Living-Adjustment for 2019.

Basic Improved Pension Rates for 2019

The Basic Improved Pension is for wartime veterans that are 65 years old or disabled. Based on the veteran’s finances, a single veteran can receive up to $1127 per month or $13,526 annually. A veteran with one dependent receives up to $1476 ($17,233 annually), and a veteran’s widow can receive up to $755 per month ($9,072 annually).

Veterans Housebound Pension Benefits for 2019

If a wartime veteran is eligible for housebound pension benefits, he or she can receive up to $1,378 per month ($16,533 annually). If the veteran has a dependent, then the amount increases to $1,726 per month ($20,723 annually). Widows under this benefit will receive $923 per month ($11,085 annually).

Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefits for 2019

For a wartime veteran to receive the Aid & Attendance level of benefits, he or she must general need assistance with two or more activities of daily living. Once qualified, the single veteran can receive up to $1,880 per month ($22,573 per year). With a dependent, the veteran will be entitled up to $2,230 per month ($26,763 per year). Widows at this level will receive up to $1,209 monthly ($14,507 per year).

Ff we can be of assistance in estate planning regarding your or your loved-one’s eligibility for VA Pension benefits, please give us a call.

Add Goff, VA Accredited Elder Law Attorney.

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