VA Aid and Attendance Pension to Get New Eligibility Rules–Updated 2015 Rules Below

HERE’S THE LINK FOR THE 2015 newly-implemented VA AID AND ATTENDANCE BENEFITS, courtesy of the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. It’s the most comprehensive article I found with an excellent chart– updated December 11, 2015.

http://www.canhr.org/factsheets/misc_fs/html/fs_aid_&_attendance.htm

It replaces the originally proposed changes below which I’ll temporarily leave posted should anyone want to compare preliminary and final versions.

Help! Aging Parents has presented information for–and about–Veteran’s since a June 2010 post. This reblogged post by John Roberts, Esq. offers new and important information, in hopes that as many Vets and their spouses as possible have this information in a timely manner, read the proposed regulations, and submit comments in the link provided at the end of the article– if they feel the need.
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Veterans’ Important Aid and Attendance Information
Reblogged from AgingCare.com  Note-this is Part 1. Click here for Part 2.

February 12, 2015  |  16 Comments  |

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VA Aid & Attendance Gets New Eligibility Rules

Editor’s note: This is part one of an overview of some of the proposed changes that will impact veterans and their caregivers.

Have you or a family member benefitted from elder care reimbursed by an Aid & Attendance pension?

An Aid & Attendance pension can provide a wartime veteran with up to $21,466 this year ($1,788 per month) to cover care at home or in assisted living. The surviving spouse of a wartime veteran can get Aid & Attendance pension reimbursement for up to $14,353 per year or $1,196 per month.
Source for Veteran’s Pension Rates
Source for Surviving Spouse Pension Rates
The Department of Veterans Affairs gave notice on January 23, 2015 that it will be changing the rules for pension eligibility. You have an opportunity through March 23rd to comment on the proposed changes. (My addition, Susan)

The web address to connect with the VA and comment is posted at the end of this article.
Read HTML version of proposed rules (24 pages–my addition, Susan)
Read PDF version of proposed rules
Here’s part one of an overview of some of the proposed changes that will impact veterans and their caregivers:

Net worth will track Medicaid asset amounts; assets will include your annual income.

Across the country, VA claims processors have been inconsistent about the amount of assets that veterans and their spouses who’ve applied for Aid & Attendance are allowed to have.

$80,000 has been the most commonly mentioned asset amount, but there has never been a written rule. The new “proposed net worth limit” will be a nationwide number that tracks Medicaid’s maximum community spouse resource allowance. This amount is currently $119,220.

But unlike Medicaid, the VA’s calculations would add an applicant’s annual income and assets to see if a veteran or spouse is over the $119,220 limit. “The amount of a claimant’s net worth would be determined by adding the claimant’s annual income to his or her assets,” according to the new rules.

There will be no hardship exceptions. The VA has concluded: “we do not believe that a hardship provision is warranted” because the proposed income and asset limit is greater than the $2,000 SSI asset limit that Social Security allows for people who’ve been impoverished by disability.

The VA would calculate (or recalculate) a claimant’s net worth when it receives a new pension claim after a period of non-entitlement, gets a request to establish a new dependent, or finds information that net worth has increased or decreased. An example of a change in information would be the income tax reporting that is required whenever anyone sells real estate, such as a house.

Your home doesn’t count as an asset, but there is a two acre lot limit.

The VA net worth limit “would not consider a claimant’s primary residence, including a residential lot area not to exceed 2 acres, as an asset.”

So, if your home sits on a farm or a plot of land greater than two acres (87,120 square feet), the extra land would disqualify you, “unless the additional acreage is not marketable. The additional property might not be marketable if, for example, the property is only slightly more than two acres, the additional property is not accessible, or there are zoning limitations that prevent selling the additional property.”

It doesn’t matter that you are not living in the home, even if you are being cared for in another state. The VA “would exclude a claimant’s primary residence as an asset regardless of whether the claimant is residing in a nursing home, medical foster home, or an assisted living or similar residential facility that provides custodial care, or resides with a family member for custodial care,” according to the new rules.

But soon after you sell the home, the sale proceeds count as assets. “Proposed § 3.275 would also provide that if the residence is sold, proceeds from the sale are assets unless the proceeds are used to purchase another residence within the calendar year of the sale,” the VA says. For instance, if you sold your house in December, you would have only a few days to decide what to do with the sale proceeds.

If you rent the home, the rent counts as income. “Any rental income from the primary residence would be countable annual income under § 3.271(d) for pension entitlement purposes (and thus would be part of net worth under proposed § 3.274).”

Additionally, the VA “will not subtract from a claimant’s assets the amount of any mortgages or encumbrances on a claimant’s primary residence.” Conversely, you could take excess assets and pay down a primary residence mortgage without causing a transfer penalty.

A 3-year look-back on asset transfers can cause a 10-year penalty period.

Unlike Medicaid, which has a five-year look-back to catch any disqualifying asset transfers, the VA has never in the past imposed a transfer penalty on veterans who gave away money to qualify for the Aid & Attendance pension.

But now, the “new requirements pertaining to pre-application asset transfers and net worth evaluations” will “establish a 36 month look-back period and establish a penalty period not to exceed 10 years for those who dispose of assets to qualify for pension. The penalty period would be calculated based on the total assets transferred during the look-back period to the extent they would have made net worth excessive.”

The transfer of a ‘‘covered asset” would “mean an asset that was part of net worth, and was transferred for less than fair market value. Transfer of “a smaller covered asset amount” would incur a shorter penalty period.

If you make a transfer during the three-year look-back period, then you must have clear and convincing evidence that transferring the asset was not “for the purpose of reducing net worth to establish entitlement to pension.”

Otherwise, the VA will deny your Aid & Attendance benefits for months or years, based on how much you transferred. The amount you transferred will be divided by “the maximum annual pension rate at the aid and attendance level” and the result (quotient) is the number of months you will be disqualified.

In the example of “a surviving spouse with no Dependents” the applicable MAPR (Maximum Annual Pension Rate) is $13,563, and the monthly penalty rate is $1,130. So, the formula for the penalty period is $10,000 ÷ $1,130 per month = 8 months.

After the penalty period is imposed, there will be a very tight time frame to solve the problem.The VA will only recalculate the penalty if (a) they made a mistake or (b) “if all of the covered assets were returned to the claimant before the date of claim or within 30 days after the date of claim.”

The regulations don’t explain how a veteran would know they needed to get assets back if the VA doesn’t give notice of the penalty during the month after the claim is filed.”Return of covered assets after the 30-day period provided would not shorten the penalty period,” according to the new regulations.

The VA justifies their strict time frame by saying the “[n]umerous penalty period recalculations would detract from the primary mission of paying pension benefits to those in need.”

Also be aware that, “[e]vidence showing that all covered assets have been returned to the claimant” must be provided to the VA within 3 months of the penalty notice.”

Do you have a problem with any of these changes? Do you have an experience with the Aid & Attendance program that can help the VA reform its Aid & Attendance rules more fairly?

Read proposed regulations and submit comments.

In my next article, I’ll provide more in-depth information on how the proposed changes will impact the cost of caring for a loved one and the restrictions the VA plans to place on Annuities and Trusts.

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Help Aging Parents: Veteran’s Benefits Revisited–on Blogtalk Radio

                 All three levels of Veteran’s Benefits:

Healthcare (includes prescriptions)
Service-Related
Pensions 
(3 pension levels including Aid and Attendance)
 

are discussed on blogger Dale Carter’s March 5, 2011 Blogtalk radio interview. Victoria Collier, a Vietnam Veteran, who’s now an attorney specializing in elder law and veteran’s benefits, is Dale’s guest.

While attorney Collier obviously can’t cover everything in depth, there are 2 reasons I highly recommend taking the time to click the link below and listen to this half-hour program.
— As an educator I know that some of us are better visual learners; others are auditory learners who learn best by listening.
— While the Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Pension Program is no secret to my readers, attorney Collier brings up more helpful details in a half hour than one can include in a blog. (We’re told blogs won’t hold readers’ attention that long. Is that a surprise?)

Since our goal is to help parents age well–during the good times and during the challenges, if there’s a veteran in your family–especially an aging one–check out Dale Carter’s interview. It’s packed with information that can help parents (and grandparents), who are veterans, age well.

….And who knows, this might just turn into a life-changing gift for Mother’s…or Father’s…Day, a birthday or any day. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/dalec/2011/03/15/veterans-benefits-for-your-aging-parents

3/26/14 Help! Aging Parents was just nominated again for the Seniorhomes.com Best Senior Living Awards 2014, “Best Blogs by Individuals” category.  It was a finalist in 2013. I appreciated your votes last year and would very much appreciate them again this year by clicking http://www.seniorhomes.com/d/help-aging-parents/2014-best-senior-living-awards/ if you’re on Facebook. Deadline 4/28/14 Thanks so much!

Changing often: “Of Current Interest” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some fun stuff–to help parents age well.

Help Aging Parents: Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Pension Benefits Revisited

Note; latest update Feb. 2015-  New eligibility rules for Aid and Attendance program
 
Having money helps when we’re trying to help parents age well.  My June post, focusing on a friend’s 90+ year-old mother (a WWII veteran’s widow) and the Aid and Attendance Pension benefit, “Aging Veterans and their Spouses,” https://helpparentsagewell.com/2010/06/01/962/) attracted many viewers .  Next The Wall Street Journal wrote about the Aid and Attendance Pension (called “the pension”).(

To help aging parents who may qualify, I’ve selected websites and blogs that can untangle and clarify needed information– and  help families with aging parents gain new insights into how this program may work for them.

You might start with my June post (click link above).  I’m including annotated links from that site plus other sites and blogs below:

Department of Veteran’s Affairs Information provides concrete information about the pension:  http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/pension/vetpen.htm

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703824304575435932585741218.html
In an excellent, comprehensive article, the Wall Street Journal, reports on this being an underused program, with available funds; and provides specific financial information with helpful examples.

http://www.rightathome.net/blog/government-program-pays-family-members/ –an informative, detailed 2009 post about the the pension, spells out everything. But you might skip everything following the recommendation for:  “How to Apply for the Veterans Aid & Attendance Pension Benefit,” either because it’s repeated on the following book site or it discusses “Veteran’s Benefits Advisors,” which carries a cautionary note on the blog and in the Wall Street Journal article.

http://www.longtermcarelink.net/a16Veterans_standard_book.htm –site with the excellent, instructive How to Apply book.  Includes testimonial letter from a book purchaser who followed the directions and received the pension benefits within a month.

http://www.underhilllaw.com/veterans-benefits: my friend found this firm helpful with the paperwork. (I don’t know if she knew about the How to Apply book.)

For further advice about applying on your own, check out: http://www.veteransaidbenefit.org, which is illegal to reproduce without permission. So paste the website into your browser, then go to #11 “When the Family Can Submit a Claim Without Help.”

Love, sensitivity, caring and a lot of information go into helping parents age well. Obviously extra money, if available, helps too.

UPDATE: If you want to listen to a discussion of Veteran’s Benefits (including the Aid and Attendance Pension) with an elder law attorney, link to this March 2011 Blogtalk radio program http://www.blogtalkradio.com/dalec/2011/03/15/veterans-benefits-for-your-aging-parents

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.