Veterans Affairs Proposes Changes

Veterans-Disability

Last week Elder Law Attorney Victoria Collier visited with the Programs staff of the Georgia Chapter to give us an update about the proposed changes to the VA benefit that most of us know as “Aid & Attendance.” To say that Veteran’s benefits are complex is an understatement. We regularly refer families and individuals to those that are certified experts in the field of VA benefits if/when they may be eligible for benefits. Our recent visit from Victoria confirmed again why we refer to the experts! There are some proposed changes to the application process which can best be explained in Victoria’s own words:

On January 23, 2015, the VA issued “proposed” regulation that would:

  • Implement a 3 year look-back for transfers for less than fair market value
    • This includes all transfers to trusts and annuities
  • Impose a penalty period of up to 10 years
  • Calculate the penalty differently for Veterans and Widow(er)s; wherein the penalty will be almost twice as long for widow(er)s for transferring the exact same amount
  • Treat all the land attached to the personal residence as “countable” for net worth purposes if the lot exceeds 2 acres.
  • Set an asset limit of $119,220, which includes ALL assets and ALL income of both spouses
  • Limit deductible home health care expenses to $21 per hour
  • Exclude all costs of independent living facilities from being considered as permissible medical deductions

The VA acknowledges that only 1% of VA Pension claimants make any transfers before applying for benefits, yet they want to penalize 100% of Wartime Veterans for these actions. The Veterans and Widow(er)s who will be most effected by these proposed changes are those with any type of dementia, to include Alzheimer’s Disease; those who have modest assets, but more than the asset limit; those who need a safe environment and who desire to live in independent living facilities because they can no longer drive; those who need extensive care; and Widow(er)s of Veterans. These changes will push Veterans prematurely into nursing homes to seek Medicaid, creating a further burden to state and federal budgets. Moreover, senior living facilities, less restrictive alternatives to nursing homes, will be financially crippled by these proposed changes.

*The period for public comment has passed, but you can still contact your representative and voice your opinion/concerns over these changes.

Learn more about Veteran’s benefits from the Veteran’s Administration Website: http://www.va.gov/

Learn more about Victoria Collier’s practice on her website by clicking HERE.

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