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Nolan Elder Law and Estate Planning, LLC Blog

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Veteran's Benefits- What You Need To Know!

As an accredited attorney for the US Veteran's Administration, I work with many veterans and families to assist in obtaining a wide variety of VA benefits. While there are well over 10,000 attorneys in the state of Alabama, only a couple of hundred or so have been accredited with the VA, so before you walk away from a veteran's benefit, be sure that whoever is advising you knows what they are talking about.

 While the VA offers a wide range of medical and healthcare benefits, burial benefits and of course, educational and home loan benefits, the one that seems to get the most attention is the one people call "Aid and Attendance" , sometimes called "Aid and Assistance" but never called by its real name, the "Improved Pension Benefit". Whatever you call it, this benefit will pay an eligible married veteran up to $2,120 per month in tax-free installments that are direct-deposited to his checking account. For unmarried vets the monthly installment is $1,788. Even for the widow, the benefit is $1,149 per month. This benefit can mean the difference between being able to stay in one's home versus having to moving into an assisted-living facility, so it is a tremendous benefit to qualify for.

To be eligible, the veteran (or the widow) must meet several tests. One is military service during the defined wartime period. This can be easily determined from a review of the DD214 or equivalent document. The next is whether the vet is over age 65. The next is whether the vet is healthy or is having to deal with a wide range of medical problems that are also creating a level of unreimbursed medical expense that is a real hardship for him. The last, and the one that many people feel disqualifies them, is the asset test. The VA reasons that this benefit is not for a wealthy veteran, so they "cap" the veteran's assets and consider anyone going over that cap to be ineligible for benefits. The old cap, no longer considered valid, was $80,000, not including the home or the car. The new formula for calculating assets takes into account the vet's age and health, what part of the country he lives in, whether he is single or married and whether he has any dependents living with him, and then somehow, taking all of those issues into consideration, spits out a proclamation as to whether he is eligible or not. No one can truly predict what the VA will say, so we advise that veterans plan accordingly.

By "plan accordingly" what I mean is that it is perfectly legal for a veteran to transfer his/her assets to a special type of trust and then apply for the benefit. Asking the vast majority of vets what do they want to have happen to their life-savings after they die, they will say that they want everything to pass to their family. The trust allows this very same outcome to take place. But by accelerating the outcome, they are now eligible for the VA pension benefit.

 Stay tuned for the next installment about VA pension benefits and I will explain in more detail what needs to happen in order for a vet to be eligible.

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