In Troy, Rochester, and Sterling Heights, Michigan
A veteran whose disability is non-service connected may be eligible to receive A&A (Aid and Attendance) benefits under the Disability Pension Program and a surviving spouse may be eligible for A&A under the Death Pension. According to various professional studies as recently as five years ago, only about 1.2 percent of a large sample group of veterans who served in wartime receive pension benefits. Not all those veterans would qualify based on their yearly incomes, officials said, but they said it is clear only a small fraction of eligible vets are getting the benefits to which they are entitled. Nationally, the VA concluded up to $22 billion a year in pensions goes unspent because many vets "are completely unaware the program exists." As an attorney, I had the chance to experience this firsthand with my own father, who became my first Aid and Attendance pension client a number of years back. He had served in the United States Navy during WWII, but had been stationed near San Diego, and saw no combat. Nonetheless, when he and my mother needed assisted living care, and were stunned by the high cost, I told him about this benefit, and he was convinced I was lying to him. Only after he began receiving his VA checks of almost $2000 per month did he come to believe in his son!
In order to be eligible for these benefits, the veteran must have served 90 consecutive days of active duty with at least one day of that duty occurring during a period of conflict (war) period. However, none of the service need be involved with combat. In addition, the veteran must have received a discharge other than dishonorable and must have limited assets and income. Finally, the claimant must be permanently and totally disabled or 65 or older at the time of the application.
Income & Deductions
In counting up the veteran's income, medical costs (including most assisted living charges) can be deducted. This handy subtraction enables most of our veteran clients, and their spouses, who reside in assisted living facilities to easily qualify for the maximum benefits allowable if the veteran is otherwise eligible. The requirement that the claimant have limited assets is often where we spend the bulk of our time. First, certain assets can be excluded. Most significantly, a home and a vehicle need not be counted. Other less common assets may also be omitted. After excluding the assets that do not count at all, the VA allows the veteran to retain a certain amount of assets while still remaining eligible for the maximum benefit. The amount that can be retained in this category is somewhat nebulous. It will vary depending upon age and projected expenses. A highly trained Elder Law attorney should be consulted to assist when filing any application where the non-excluded assets exceed $40,000. The VA continues to permit a limited form of divestment as a precursor to the filing for benefits, but this should be undertaken only with a skilled professional, since the risk of losing control over one's assets, or disqualifying yourself for Medicaid in the future is a continuing potential problem.
If you are considering the VA benefits described above, call or email us. Our attorneys have successfully managed numerous cases and can provide the professional assistance needed for your matter.
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