Getting the most from veterans’ benefits

by Jerrold Bartholomew

Many veterans are unaware of the Aid and Attendance Pension that is available to help them with their medical expenses, which include the cost of assisted living. Some veterans are simply unaware of this benefit. Others have been told that they do not qualify based on “having too much money.” It is important to understand the scope of the Aid and Attendance pension as a starting point. It is also important to realize that veterans who meet the service requirement and who have significant, reoccurring medical expenses can be eligible for this valuable and well-deserved benefit with proper estate planning.

The aid and attendance pension is available to veterans who served during a time of war. It is not necessary to have participated in combat, but simply to have been in the military during a time of war. In addition to the service requirement, it is also necessary to be medically eligible and to meet the income and asset test.

Medical eligibility generally means that the veteran needs assistance with activities of daily living, such as grooming or eating. This requirement is often fairly easily met.

Finally, there are the income and asset tests. The income and asset tests can be the most difficult barrier to qualification for the aid and attendance pension. Among other things, the successful applicant will need to show that reoccurring medical expenses along with standard expenses of daily living exceed monthly income. Regarding assets, there are no hard and fast rules, but having more than $80,000.00 in cash or readily available assets is likely to disqualify a married applicant.

An elder law attorney can accelerate qualification for an otherwise eligible veteran who exceeds the asset or income thresholds. The asset test can be satisfied by use of an asset protection trust. This will allow assets to be preserved for future needs without interfering with qualification for benefits. Moreover, a plan of this kind will facilitate qualification for Medicaid in the future in case nursing home care is required.

Successful applicants for the Aid and Attendance Pension can receive more than $1,800.00 per month in assistance. This money, when combined with the social security and perhaps a pension, is often enough to pay for assisted living and to prolong assets almost indefinitely.

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