Katherine O’Connell 2013-07-17 00:11:12
ARE YOU A VETERAN? – THIS BENEFITS YOU! Katherine A. O’Connell graduated cum laude from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and a minor in communication. O’Connell earned her Juris Doctorate degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As an attorney and managing partner of Morris, Hall & Kinghorn, Katherine focuses on estate planning, elder law, life care planning and VA Pension benefit planning. For more information, please call (602) 249-1328 or visit www.MorrisTrust.com. Are you a veteran who needs help paying for long term care? Do you know a veteran, or the spouse of a deceased veteran, who needs help? The United States has over 20 million veterans who have served our country. We thank all of those who have given themselves to serving our great nation. Many veterans are not aware of benefits they have earned through their service. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs provides supplemental income for wartime veterans, and for the spouses of deceased veterans, who have limited income and assets. This cash benefit, called VA Pension benefits, is most often used to assist in paying for long term care such as the cost of in-home care or assisted living. There are three levels of VA Pension benefits: Basic Pension, Housebound, and Aid and Attendance benefits. A veteran or spouse qualifies for benefits based on his or her medical condition and needs. To qualify for Basic Pension benefits the veteran or spouse must be at least age 65, receiving SSDI or SSI, or be disabled. The 2013 maximum benefit for a married veteran is $1,360 per month. If a veteran is permanently and substantially confined to his or her home, the veteran may qualify for the next level, Housebound benefits. The 2013 maximum Housebound benefit for a married veteran is $1,591 per month. If the veteran is blind, in a nursing home or requires the aid and assistance of another to perform activities of daily living (such as bathing, transferring, grooming, feeding, etc.), the veteran may qualify for the highest level of benefits, Aid and Attendance benefits. The 2013 maximum Aid and Attendance benefit for a married veteran is $2,054 per month. To qualify for VA Pension benefits at any level, the veteran or spouse must meet three criteria: military service, income and assets. MILITARY SERVICE A veteran must have served at least ninety consecutive days of active duty with at least one of those days during a wartime period and must not have been dishonorably discharged from the military. No combat or injuries sustained in the military are required to qualify for benefits.The wartime periods are determined by Congress and can be found online on the VA’s website, www.va.gov. INCOME VA Pension benefits are intended for low income veterans and their families. Thus, veterans or spouses of veterans who have significant income may not qualify for the benefit. But don’t stop reading yet, the VA makes several adjustments in your income to calculate what the VA calls Income for VA Purposes (IVAP). IVAP includes all income attributable to the veteran, his or her spouse and dependents, reduced by certain unreimbursed medical expenses. The most common form of unreimbursed medical expense is the cost of an assisted living facility or in-home care. Also included are payments to family members for medically necessary care as long as the care is provided under a care agreement. If a married veteran and his spouse make $10,000 a month, but spend $8,500 each month on unreimbursed medical expenses, the veteran would qualify for VA Pension benefits. This is due to the IVAP ($1,500) being less than the maximum benefit ($2,054). In this example, the veteran and his spouse would receive VA Pension benefits in the amount of $554 ($2,054 - $1,500). The VA will not reduce a veteran’s income by the amount spent on care if someone other than the veteran is paying for the care. If care is being paid by a long term care insurance policy or an adult child, the VA will not reduce the veteran’s income by the cost of care. ASSETS VA Pension benefits are for veterans and spouses who have limited assets. A veteran will not qualify if the veteran has “sufficient means” to pay for his or her own care. Although the VA does not place a specific dollar amount on what constitutes “sufficient means,” a commonly used amount is $80,000 or greater. This number includes all assets owned by the veteran and spouse except for the primary residence, household goods and a vehicle. To complicate matters, the VA will also look at the age of a veteran to further reduce the amount of assets a veteran may have and still qualify for benefits. It is not safe to assume that if a veteran has less than $80,000 the veteran will be eligible for benefits. Some veterans may have much less and still not be eligible. To apply for VA Pension benefits, a veteran or spouse of a veteran must submit a completed application along with supporting documentation. If a veteran or spouse needs assistance applying for benefits, he or she should seek counsel from a Veteran Service Organization or an individual accredited with the VA. Only attorneys and others accredited by the VA are legally permitted to assist a veteran with qualifying for these benefits.
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