The Veteran’s Aid and Attendance (A&A) Pension provides Veterans benefits for qualified veterans and their surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing, and undressing or taking care of the needs of personal hygiene (known as Activities of Daily Living). This could include home care or care in a facility.
Currently, in very general terms, there are several levels of qualification:
- The veteran must have served in active duty for at least 90 days, one of which must have been during a defined wartime period.
- A physician must verify that the applicant requires assistance with two activities of daily living.
- The applicant and spouse must have less than approximately $80,000 of countable assets and the cost of the needed care exceeds the income.
If these terms are met, the A&A Pension can provide up to $1,778 per month to a veteran, $1,149 per month to a surviving spouse, $2,120 per month to a couple, or $1,404 per month to a veteran filing with a spouse who needs care (as of 01/01/15).
Currently, the $80,000 asset limit does not include the applicant’s primary residence on a parcel of “reasonable” size. For example, in some surrounding towns, it is not unusual that planning and zoning and wetlands regulations require parcels to exceed two or three acres. Those parcels are considered “reasonable” given the circumstances and the value of the applicant’s home is not included when calculating the asset limitation. This allows many veterans to obtain their Veterans benefits of care while continuing to live in their home.
In addition, the A&A benefit rules currently do not include a “look back” for the transfer of assets. The “look-back” (which is a common phrase when discussing Medicaid eligibility) is the time period in which the entity that approves or denies the application for Veterans benefits would review the applicant’s transfers to determine if he or she made any gifts. Under Medicaid rules, the “look-back” is five years. As such, if an applicant makes any gifts for the 5-year period prior to applying to the State for long-term care services through Medicaid, he or she could be penalized or disqualified. The VA does not currently look back to any transfers made previous to the date of the application. This could all change.
New Proposed Rules To Change Veterans Benefits Eligibility
On January 23, 2015, the Department of Veteran Affairs proposed a rule that would, among other things, establish new definitions for certain countable assets and new rules regarding the transfer of assets. The proposed rule includes a three-year look-back on asset transfers, the establishment of a ten year maximum penalty period, and a rule that a primary residence with more than two acres would be considered a countable asset. These drastic changes could go into effect as early as October 2015.
Please share this article with all of the veterans you know. Most of our veteran clients are not aware of this benefit. Someone you know may be denying himself the care he needs because he thinks he cannot afford it, when in fact he may qualify right now to receive this monthly stipend. Some of these same people may not qualify if these proposed changes go into effect.
Attorney Joan Reed Wilson is accredited with the Veteran’s Administration. For more information on Veterans benefits, Medicaid, or other elder law concerns, please contact us.
Joan Reed Wilson Esq. – Managing Partner
Practices in the areas of estate planning, elder law, Medicaid planning, conservatorships, probate and trust administration, and real estate. Admitted to practice in the States of Connecticut and California, she is the Vice President of the CT Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), an active member of the Elder Law Section of the Connecticut Bar Association, accredited with the PLAN of CT for Pooled Trusts, with the Veteran’s Administration to assist clients with obtaining Aid & Attendance benefits for long-term care needs and with the Agency on Aging’s CareLink Network.