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The truth about V.A. benefits

Veterans: Those who served during qualified periods could be eligible to receive income

Posted: May 2, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 2, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Veterans may be eligible for Non-Service Connected Pension plus Aid and Attendance benefits if they served in the military during qualified wartime periods.

 

If you or your spouse has actively served in the U.S. Military for a minimum of 90 consecutive days, including at least one day during a qualified war period, there is a federal government benefit available called Non-Service Connected Pension plus Aid and Attendance benefits. 

According to Veterans Administration-accredited elder-law attorney Jane McNamara, who practices in Valencia, the V.A. Aid and Attendance benefit provides a monthly income to veterans or their surviving spouses to help offset high in-home care or assisted-living costs. It can also be beneficial if a veteran is privately paying for care in a skilled-nursing facility.

The Veteran’s Administration Pension plus Aid and Attendance Benefit offers monthly, tax-free income of up to $1,644 for single veterans, $1,949 for a married veteran ($2,540 if both are veterans) and $1,065 for surviving spouses of veterans. General qualifications to obtain these benefits include a discharge other than a “dishonorable” one, high care costs versus income and limited assets.

The Veteran’s Administration considers qualified wartime periods as World War I (Apr. 6, 1917 - Nov. 11, 1918), World War II (Dec. 7, 1941 - Dec. 31, 1946), the Korean War (June 27, 1950 - Jan. 31, 1955), the Vietnam War (Aug. 5, 1964 - May 7, 1975 or Feb. 28, 1961 - May 7, 1975 in Vietnam) and the Gulf War (Aug. 2, 1990 through date to be set by law by presidential proclamation).

“Right now, World War II-era veterans are in the 80- to 90-year-old bracket and are experiencing illnesses, dementia and other life-changing health issues. As a result, their care needs have increased as well as their care costs,” McNamara said.
“A lot of these veterans are on fixed and/or limited incomes. They may not even know this benefit exists — which can make such a difference in their lives.”

McNamara will host a seminar titled, V.A. Aid and Attendance Benefits: The Myths and the Truth at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, at Summerhill Villa in Newhall. Santa Clarita Valley veterans, their families and/or caregivers are invited to attend.

Myths surrounding the benefit include not being able to qualify if you own a home, having too many financial assets or receiving a pension, as McNamara illustrated.

“The V.A. uses a formula that is based on life expectancy, income, assets and unreimbursed medical expenses,” she said.
“If V.A. calculations indicate that a veteran’s assets will last their lifetime with their current care costs and income, eligibility will be denied. However, a V.A.-accredited attorney may assist veterans to qualify for these important benefits, or to plan for future eligibility.”

Unfortunately, some companies present seminars to seniors with a “V.A. specialist” speaking.

“Like anything else, there are always people who are looking to take advantage of seniors,” McNamara said. “They give the wrong information on how to qualify, often advising their clients to liquefy all assets and put the funds into an irrevocable trust or an annuity, on which these companies often make a sizable profit.”

Taking such actions can be disastrous, especially when a senior might eventually need to apply for Medi-Cal long-term care benefits in a skilled-nursing facility.

“Seniors and veterans may need to obtain Medi-Cal benefits so as not to impoverish themselves or a spouse,” McNamara said. “Medi-Cal has different qualification rules than the Veteran’s Administration. If assets aren’t structured properly, a senior may not qualify for this important benefit.  That’s why working with an elder-law attorney with a long-term view and approach to asset and care planning is so important.”

“This is especially true when a spouse is involved, so that the healthy spouse will not become impoverished, and can remain in the family home. Such planning pays for itself,” McNamara continued.

“Every situation is different. Working with an accredited Veterans Administration/Elder Law lawyer will give you the tools and legal documents for the long-term.”

McNamara said veterans could apply directly for Veterans Administration benefits by filing an application with the Veterans Service Organization. However, the Veterans Service Organization can only submit an application; it cannot give legal advice regarding eligibility.  

Healthy veterans, however, do not need to apply for the Veterans Administration Aid and Attendance benefit.

“It’s not for everyone. Many people call and say, ‘I want V.A. benefits,’ but when asked what their care costs are, they don’t have any. Care costs are an important part of the qualification for this V.A. benefit,” McNamara said.

V.A. Aid and Attendance Benefits: The Myths and the Truth with Veterans Administration accredited elder-law attorney

Jane McNamara, Thursday, May 5 at 6:30 p.m., at Summerhill Villa, 24331 Lyons Ave., Newhall. Refreshments will be served. For more information, visit vabenefits4seniors.com or call (661) 287-3260.

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