Mayhone Elder Law’s Veterans Benefits Planning

The Veterans’ Administration offers a Special Monthly Pension benefit to qualifying wartime veterans and surviving spouses of wartime veterans that is largely unknown. This Special Pension allows for veterans and surviving spouses who require the regular aid and attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing, undressing, or taking care of the needs of nature to receive additional monetary benefits. It also includes individuals who are blind or a patient in a nursing home because of mental or physical incapacity. Assisted care in an assisted-living facility may also qualify.The additional money can help pay for care for the ailing loved one.

This is a “pension benefit” and is not dependent upon service-related injuries. This special pension benefit addresses the needs of the veterans and their surviving spouses who have non-service related disabilities and who require regular assistance with the activities of daily living.

The following are the VA’s defined “periods of war”:

WWII: 12/7/1941 to 12/31/1946
Korea: 6/25/1950 to 1/31/1955
Vietnam: 8/5/1964 to 5/7/1975
Persian Gulf: 8/2/1990 to present

Income and liquid assets are also a determination of eligibility. The VA utilizes an age-based analysis to determine eligibility. The adjudicator takes into consideration the age of the veteran and/or surviving spouse, the amount of monthly income, and the cost of unreimbursed medical expenses to determine the maximum amount of assets they can have in their name and still qualify. Currently, it is taking 6-8 months to get a claim approved. Once approved, the benefit is provided retroactive to the month after application.

Most people think of veterans benefits as being only for servicemen and -women who were wounded or disabled while serving in the armed forces. By and large, that is true. But—we have learned that there are substantial benefits that may be available to wartime veterans who are now senior citizens and are facing the burden of long term care due to a host of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and many others. In fact, the Veterans Administration estimates that millions of wartime veterans and their spouses may be eligible for Special Monthly Pension benefits, and not even be aware of it!

Wartime veterans, or their surviving spouses, become eligible for the Special Monthly Pension benefit when they are over 65 years of age, are permanently disabled and unable to work, are homebound, or need the regular aid and attendance of another—whether at home, in assisted/supportive living, or in a nursing home. The program is based on actual financial need for assistance, so there are income and asset limitations…

A Medicaid trap…
Another important factor that one must consider when thinking about trying to meet the VA asset limitation test is that giving away cash or other things of value can create terrible problems for senior citizens if or when they later need to apply for Medicaid to assist them with skilled nursing home care. Giving away assets can create a long penalty period of ineligibility for Medicaid benefits. Any senior facing long-term care needs to seek capable legal advice from an attorney who is skilled in the areas of estate planning, financial planning options, Medicaid, Medicare, income tax, and gift tax, as well as having experience regarding VA rules.

The big question for many families will be, “What will it cost me to seek advice in this area?” Although an attorney who chooses to actually file a claim for veterans benefits must do that portion of his/her work for free, the attorney may charge the usual fees related to any estate planning, financial planning options, Medicaid, Medicare, income tax, or gift tax work, as well as the determination of the financial suitability of filing for a veterans benefit claim. No one should pay an attorney fee unless receiving a fair return on his/her investment.

Only three types of persons are authorized to provide a veteran with assistance filing a claim for veterans benefits:

  1. An attorney licensed to practice law in your state and accredited through the VA;
  2. A veterans service organization such as VFW, American Legion, Amvets, etc.;
  3. A state or county official of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs in your state.

Attorney Dennie Mayhone of Mayhone Elder Law is accredited with the VA. Various members have attended numerous intensive training sessions to learn how to help our veterans and families qualify for this important earned benefit.

Contact Mayhone Elder Law today if you think you may qualify.

For more information and details you can visit http://www.benefits.va.gov/pension/ or one of your local Veterans Service Offices.