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In January 2015, the Veteran’s Administration (VA) proposed a number of significant changes to the pension allowance eligibility rules that are likely to take effect as early as this summer. Although these changes in eligibility rules will likely clarify some of the issues that currently lead to inconsistent decisions, they will also create new barriers for many veterans and increase complexity in filing claims.
For a veteran (or the surviving spouse of a veteran), the VA pension program, commonly known as Aid and Attendance, can provide financial assistance to help pay for care at home or in an assisted living facility. This can be a tremendous help to pay for needed care, which can be very costly.
The VA pension actually has three levels:
- Basic Pension
- Homebound Allowance
- Aid and Attendance
The VA has limits as to the amount of assets the veteran and/or the veteran’s spouse can retain (with a few exemptions) to qualify for the pension benefit. If the veteran has excess resources, he or she can spend them down to the allowable limit or transfer assets out of his or her name (typically to a Veteran’s Asset Protection Trust), and apply for the pension benefit the following month.
Unfortunately, this will all change in the next few months. New legislation is on the way that will impose a “look back” period of 36 months and a “transfer of assets” penalty of up to 10 years, similar to that imposed by Medicaid. The penalty will be determined by dividing the value of the transferred asset(s) by the maximum annual pension rate.
For example, for a surviving spouse with no dependents, the applicable Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) is $13,794, and the monthly penalty rate is $1,149. So, if she transferred $10,000 during the 36-month “look back” period, the formula for the penalty period is $10,000 ÷ $1,149 per month = 8 months.
In light of this pending change, it is important to implement planning now to protect assets in the event a veteran or his/her spouse needs long-term care in the future.
For example, assets can be transferred to a Veteran’s Asset Protection Trust to protect them from the costs of long-term care and allow the veteran or surviving spouse to qualify for veteran’s pension benefits.
These changes are not being implemented as of yet. Hence, it is important to act early in order to protect yourself and your assets from these changes and other life altering events.
Russo Law Group, P.C.
100 Quentin Roosevelt Blvd., Suite 102
Garden City, NY 11530