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Michigan Elder Law Today

Thursday, November 1, 2018

New Opportunities for Wartime Veterans and their Widows

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently released new 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 up to $123,600 (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, but these recent changes have made it more complex. I help families determine whether a claim is possible, and how to qualify. Give me a call today so we can start helping you or a loved one.


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