Veterans Benefits

Monday, August 24, 2015

Long-Term Care Planning for Veterans

I am a veteran of the United States military. What do I need to know about planning for an eventual stay in a nursing home?

With proper advanced care planning, a U.S. veterans can enjoy peace of mind that they will be able to access necessary nursing services when the need arises – without relinquishing all of their hard-earned assets and savings in the process.

As a practitioner in elder law, Andrew Byers has a keen understanding of the unique dynamics affecting veterans as they reach a more advanced age, including the need for benefits available to surviving spouses. One such benefit, which is, all too often, underutilized by eligible beneficiaries, is known as the Aid and Attendance Improved Pension benefit which works to supplement the income of a veteran or spouse in need of long-term care.

In general, the veteran or spouse must have limited "countable” assets, a designation which does not include the applicant’s primary dwelling or vehicle. Also, the Aid and Attendance Pension is often available to veterans whose income renders them ineligible for the traditional VA pension benefits. This is why it is so important to meet with an elder law attorney as soon as possible to determine eligibility.

In addition to the income eligibility requirements, the VA requires that any Aid and Attendance recipient must have served at least 90 days in the U.S. military, with at least one of those days during wartime. There are, however, no service-related disability requirements to meet, so eligibility is only dependent on financial-and employment-related factors. In sum, a U.S. veteran may be able to receive this sizable supplement if, in addition to the aforementioned factors, he or she requires the aid of another person to complete everyday tasks, defined by the VA to include “bathing, feeding, dressing, or going to the bathroom.”

If you are a United States veteran considering long-term care options, there are a number of ways Andrew Byers can help. Let us get started on a suitable long-term care plan. Serving clients in the areas in and around Auburn Hills, Michigan, we can be reached at 248.301.1511.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Veterans Non-Service Connected Pension Benefits

Veterans’ Non-Service Connected Pension Benefits

The Veterans’ Administration’s non-service connected pension program can help supplement the income of elderly or disabled veterans. The VA deems any veteran age 65 or older to be permanently and totally disabled. This “disabled” classification entitles senior citizens who are veterans, or their widows, to tax-free pension payments regardless of their actual physical condition, provided they meet the needs-based criteria.

One significant advantage of this program is that, unlike a traditional service-connected pension, there is no requirement that your injury or disability be tied to your time in service. On the other hand, this is a needs-based assistance program, so many veterans may not qualify for benefits.

To qualify for benefits under the program, you must have served on active duty for at least 90 days, and at least one of those days must have been during a time of war. Additionally, you must not have had a dishonorable discharge from the military.

Periods of war time are determined by the U.S. Congress as follows:

  • Mexican Border Period: May 9, 1916 through April 5, 1917, only if you served in Mexico, on its borders or in adjacent waters
  • World War I: April 6th, 1917 through November 11, 1918, or through April 1, 1920 if you served in Russia
  • World War II: December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946    
  • Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam Era: August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1965, or beginning February 28, 1961 you served in Vietnam
  • Persian Gulf War: August 2, 1990 through the present

Once qualifying military service is established, you must also pass the income and asset tests. The VA must determine that your net worth is not enough to adequately support you during your lifetime. Your vehicle and primary residence are not counted when determining your net worth.  The VA generally caps net worth, exclusive of your car and primary residence, at $80,000 for a married veteran, or $40,000 for a single person.

Additionally, your countable income must be lower than the available pension amount. Fortunately, countable income is offset by your unreimbursed, recurring health care costs, including prescriptions, insurance premiums or assisted living expenses.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Veteran’s Aid & Attendance Benefit: Avoid Scams and Get Trustworthy Advice

Many veterans are unaware of the Aid and Attendance benefit, a component of the Veteran’s Administration Improved Pension that was designed to provide much-needed financial help to elderly veterans and their spouses.

Read more . . .

Monday, August 12, 2013

Congress Considers Legislation to Restrict Access to Aid and Attendance

Aid and Attendance is a wonderful program that can help elderly veterans and their surviving spouse pay for long-term care in their home, assisted living facilities and, if properly documented, other senior living facilities. 

Read more . . .

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Does the VA Still Count the Cost of Senior Independent Living Facilities for Aid and Attendance?

Often, senior wartime veterans or their surviving spouses can no longer live on their own in their home anymore, but they do not yet need the level of care provided in an assisted living facility or nursing home.  Independent living facilities for seniors are a great option in these situations . . .

Read more . . .

Monday, December 03, 2012

Increases in VA Aid and Attendance Rates for 2013


It appears that wartime veterans and their surviving spouses who are receiving the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Aid and Attendance pension will receive a cost of living adjustment in their pension rate in 2013.  While the official numbers have not been released yet, the 2013 pension rates should be close to the following:

  • $1,732 per month for a single veteran
  • $2,054 per month for a married veteran
  • $1,113 per month for the surviving spouse of a wartime veteran

While that is good news for people currently receiving this benefit, storm clouds loom on the horizon in terms of changes to law that would affect people applying for the benefit in the future.  A look-back period is being considered and the VA and Congress is also considering restricting the program to make it a poverty-level program.  If a senior citizen who is a veteran or their surviving spouse could qualify for Aid and Attendance, it would be wise to have one’s long-term care planning done sooner rather than later so an application can be submitted under the current laws and regulations.

Lawyer Andrew Byers advises older veterans and their families on Aid and Attendance as part of his elder law practice.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The VA's Income Test for Aid and Attendance

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Aid and Attendance program can be an excellent option for older wartime veterans and their widows. Among other requirements, there are four tests to qualify for Aid and Attendance, including military service, medical status, asset level, income level, and then documentation and proof of these requirements. The topic of this post will be the income requirement.

Read more . . .

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Applying for Aid and Attendance is Not a Do-It-Yourself Project

The VA Aid and Attendance benefit is one of the best options for older wartime veterans or their widows who need elder care assistance.

Long term care is expensive, and the receipt of these veterans services can help avoid the high costs of nursing home care, assisted living, or home care in depleting an older person’s assets.  That’s important because, once an older person is out of money, their only care option is to apply for Medicaid. 

Read more . . .

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Aid and Attendance benefits to Increase in 2012

There is good news for older veterans and their surviving spouses who rely upon Aid and Attendance to pay for their home care, assisted living, and nursing home costs.  The amounts veterans and their surviving spouses receive in Aid and Attendance will increase in January 2012.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has indicated that single veterans receiving Aid and Attendance will receive $1,703.00 per month.  Married veterans receiving Aid and Attendance will receive $2,019.00 per month.  Surviving spouses of veterans receiving Aid and Attendance will receive $1,094.00 per month.

These are the first increases in the VA’s Aid and Attendance program since 2008.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Difference Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Many people use the terms Alzheimer's disease and dementia interchangeably, but they have very different meanings. Although dementia is a group of symptoms that include memory loss, the term itself doesn't explain what is causing the symptoms. Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of dementia, but here are many other causes.

Dementia is a general term for memory loss that is severe enough to interfere with daily life. The signs of dementia may include forgetfulness, difficulty making plans, thinking ahead, or using language, as well as changing character traits, among other symptoms. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases according to the Alzheimer's Association, but there are other causes, including vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

Alzheimer's disease is a partially hereditary disease that causes a loss of brain cells. The symptoms start out mild but grow progressively worse over time. There is no cure, but there are medications that can treat the symptoms and slow the disease's progress. An early symptom of Alzheimer's is difficulty learning new information. It can then progress to more severe symptoms such as forgetting names and places, disorientation, mood and behavior changes, and an inability to relate to others. Eventually, it can lead to the inability to talk, walk, or eat.

Dementia, whether caused by Alzheimer's disease or some other underlying disease, is not a normal part of aging. If someone you know is exhibiting signs of dementia, they should get immediate medical attention to understand what is causing it.  As the dementia progresses, people often lose the ability to care for themselves and may need assistance with the activities of daily living such as eating, taking medication, bathing and getting dressed.  In many cases, it becomes unsafe for the person with dementia to be alone, resulting in the need for care at home, in an assisted living facility or nursing home.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Understanding the Law and Net Worth for Veteran's Aid and Attendance

“Aid and Attendance” is an income-tax free special monthly pension available to wartime veterans and their surviving spouses.  The monthly pension available ranges from $1,056.00 to $1,949.00.  The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) administers the program.  The receipt of these funds can help a veteran or their widow pay for long-term care without spending all of their money.  That is important, because once the older person’s money and assets are gone, their care options can be extremely limited.

One of the factors the VA considers when processing an application for Aid and Attendance is the amount of the claimant’s estate and net worth.  A “claimant” is either the veteran or their surviving spouse.  The VA’s rules define corpus of the estate and net worth to mean the market value, less mortgages or other encumbrances, of all real and personal property owned by the claimant, except the claimant’s home, including a reasonable lot area, and personal effects.  Personal property means all tangible property that is not land. 

In regards to a home, in general this means you can own a home and obtain Aid and Attendance.  However, if the home is sold, the cash proceeds received from the sale are countable and could disqualify a claimant from continuing to receive Aid and Attendance.  This can be avoided by transferring title to the home to a properly drafted irrevocable trust for VA purposes before applying for Aid and Attendance.  In regards to personal property, generally clothing and household furniture and furnishing would not be countable for Aid and Attendance qualification purposes.  However, personal property that could be considered an investment, such as a coin collection, would be countable.

In processing an application for Aid and Attendance, the VA will determine whether or not the claimant’s financial resources are sufficient to meet the claimant’s basis needs without receipt of the special monthly pension. If the VA determines that the claimant’s assets are sufficiently large that the claimant could live off the assets for a reasonable period of time, the clerk who is processing the application can deny it.  This is a subjective standard and there is no specific dollar amount that can be designated as excessive net worth.  The VA’s rules provide they are to consider the facts and circumstances in each case.  Variables to consider are the claimant’s income, expenses, life expectancy and the extent to which assets can be converted into cash to pay for the claimant’s needs.  These needs will typically include unreimbursed medical expenses, including the cost of home health care, assisted living care, or nursing home care.

As such, before applying for Aid and Attendance, it is a good idea to make sure the veteran or their surviving spouse qualifies first.  Do not apply to see what will happen, especially if you are acting as a fiduciary for an older person as their agent under a Power of Attorney or as successor trustee of their revocable living trust.  An elder law attorney who is also accredited by the VA can assist in calculating the claimant’s net worth for Aid and Attendance purposes before an application is submitted, thus increasing the chances that the application for the pension will be approved.  If a veteran who is living in an assisted living facility that costs $4,000 to $6,000 a month receives the monthly $1,644 Aid and Attendance pension, the receipt of these funds can help the veteran avoid becoming out of money, and out of options, thus enhancing their well-being by not having to move to another facility and avoiding a financial crisis in the family.

Andrew Byers is an Elder Law attorney in Auburn Hills, Michigan and is accredited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  Assisting veterans and their surviving spouses with long-term care planning and Aid and Attendance are part of his Elder Law practice.

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