This is the second half of a 2-part article. To read the first half, click here.
APPLYING FOR BENEFITS
Gathering and preparing the right documents is critical. Once you gather the right documentation, the next step is to complete and submit the appropriate application form.
The process generally takes four to six months, so make sure you do your best to avoid any additional delays along the way.
Keep in mind, while applying and qualifying does take time, benefit payments are retroactive to the date the VA received the application. During this time, the applicant must be actually incurring the costs of care. Time is of the essence and an incorrect application will create a nightmare of expense and uncertainty.
Important Note: If you are applying on behalf of a parent who is incapacitated, you will need to complete additional paperwork. Without this paperwork you will not be allowed to deal with the VA on behalf of your parent. If you wish to receive benefits on their behalf as a fiduciary, you will have to be interviewed and approved by the VA. The VA does not recognize Powers of Attorney they have not approved.
CALCULATING THE BENEFITS
The Aid & Attendance monthly pension benefit amounts are based on a simple formula:
Total income minus cost of unreimbursed care costs.
The formula is simple, but determining your actual benefit amount can be complicated.
It is not easy to calculate the actual benefit unless you are an expert. It is highly recommended that you work with a qualified benefits consultant.
In general terms, the VA will evaluate the applicant's assets and income against the total cost of care. (That's why documenting all care expenses is so critical.) If the veteran has significant assets or a monthly income over the program limits, they may not qualify for Aid & Assistance. Roughly speaking, if an individual or couple has assets - not including their home, automobiles, and personal property - over $80,000, qualifying may be difficult. However, it is no longer possible to assure a Vet that he/she can qualify for benefits if his assets are below a certain amount. The asset threshold depends upon the age and life expectancy of the applicant (and spouse) and the ratio of health-related expenses to income and is to some degree discretionary with the VA caseworker. But an experienced benefits consultant can help to make a highly educated guess about how much the Vet can have.
With proper planning in advance, making qualifying gifts and setting up appropriate trusts can effectively reduce a veteran's asset worth. Just keep in mind that giving away assets can affect eligibility for Medicaid benefits. Our office can help coordinate estate planning, VA considerations, and Medicaid considerations to limit risk and maximize benefits.
If you or your loved one meets the requirements, the Aid & Assistance Pension Benefit could provide thousands of dollars each year to meet medical expenses and provide necessary care.
But the application process is complicated and time-consuming. For some people, reallocating assets and shifting income may be necessary - and those reallocations could have a significant impact on Medicaid eligibility, whether now or in the future.
Schedule an appointment with our office to get professional, experienced assistance. Our office can help you gather the required documentation and complete the required paperwork. We can help coordinate the Aid & Assistance application, guide you through potential Medicaid issues, and create or modify your existing estate plan to ensure a veteran receives all the benefits he or she has earned by service to our country.
About Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years. Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, powers of attorney, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects. We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead. Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!