APPLYING FOR VA 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 at least several 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 elder law attorney who works in the veterans benefits area 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 and other legal planning strategies can effectively reduce a veteran’s asset worth. Just keep in mind that giving away assets can affect eligibility for Medi-Cal benefits. Our firm regularly coordinates estate planning, VA considerations, and Medi-Cal considerations to limit risk and maximize benefits.
If you or your loved one meets the requirements, the Aid & Attendance 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 Medi-Cal eligibility, whether now or in the future.
Schedule an appointment with an experienced and qualified attorney to get professional, experienced assistance. The place to start is with an elder law attorney accredited by the VA. Attorney Timothy P. Murphy is so accredited. Our office regularly assists clients in gathering the required documentation and completeing the required VA paperwork. We can help coordinate the Aid & Attendance application, guide you through potential Medi-Cal 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.