Are There Exceptions to the VA Aid and Attendance Eligibility Requirements?

One of the most basic rules when applying for the VA Aid and Attendance pension is that the veteran must have served in the military for at least 90 days, one day of which was during a time of war. This leads many people who served for less than 90 days to believe that they’re ineligible for the pension. However, this isn’t always the case. If the veteran earned the Purple Heart, suffered a service-connected disability, or was killed in the line of duty, the 90-day service requirement no longer applies.
Surprisingly, another exception to the VA’s eligibility rules relates to whether the applicant actually even served in the military. For example, if you or your loved one was in the Merchant Marines during World War II for at least 90 days, he could be eligible for the pension. Also, women who served in the military during World War II, including nurses, qualify for the pension. However, Reserves and National Guard veterans will not qualify unless their unit was active for Federal duty for at least 90 days, one day of which must have been during a wartime period.
Because there are so many exceptions to the VA’s eligibility requirements, it is important to meet with someone who is accredited to practice before the VA before you decide that you or your loved one will not qualify for VA benefits.

How Do I Notify the VA That My Parent Passed Away?

Dealing with the death of a loved one is always hard, and putting off the settling of your parent’s affairs can make it even more difficult. If your parent received the VA Aid & Attendance pension, it is important that you notify the VA of their death as soon as possible so that you will not receive payments from the VA that you will be required to return later.
The consequences of delaying this important step can be unpleasant. If you delay in notifying the VA of your parent’s death, you will have to return the amount of any benefits that the VA sent to your parent after their death. Not only could this create a financial burden to the executor who is attempting to pay debts on behalf of the estate, but it could cause confusion that will complicate the probate process in the future.
There are a couple of ways to notify the VA of your parent’s death. One way is to complete VA Form 21-438, Statement in Support of Claim, and include a copy of the death certificate with the form. Form 21-438 can be found at the following website: http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-4138-ARE.pdf. However, if your parent was receiving their pension through a direct deposit, it may be faster to call the VA at 1-877-838-2778 and request that payment of benefits be stopped.

VA Aid and Attendance for Legally Separated Spouses

It is clear that divorced spouses of veterans cannot receive surviving spouse benefits from Aid and Attendance, but some people may be unsure about the rules regarding spouses who were only legally separated from the veteran at the time the veteran passed away. For legally separated spouses, the rules are identical to the rules for divorced spouses – legally separated spouses cannot receive surviving spouse benefits.
However, the rules become more complicated for veterans who are legally separated from their spouse. Often, veterans who are legally separated will not want the VA to consider their spouse’s assets when they are applying for VA benefits. Not only is the veteran no longer living with their spouse, but their spouse will almost always be reluctant to spend down his or her assets to help the veteran receive Aid and Attendance. In order to ensure that the VA will not consider their spouse’s assets on the application, the veteran must confirm in writing that they are separated and that he and his wife are financially independent from each other. This usually requires proof that the veteran and his spouse do not file a joint tax return and do not contribute to each other’s monthly expenses. This statement, along with all proof of separation and financial independence, can be placed in the “remarks” section of the VA application.
It is important to consult with an accredited attorney to make sure that you or your loved one takes the necessary steps to ensure that the VA does not consider a separated spouse’s income and assets when reviewing an Aid and Attendance application.

New Veterans’ Cemetery Opens in Virginia

According to local news reports, a new cemetery for veterans, the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery, has opened in Dublin, Virginia, in the southwestern part of the state. Because there are over 80,000 veterans living in southwest Virginia alone, retired Lieutenant Colonel Pat Green pushed for the completion of the $7.2 million cemetery. Veterans who wish to be interred at the new cemetery can pre-apply for interment using the form at the following website: http://www.dvs.virginia.gov/downloads/Dublin%20Pre%20App.pdf. In order to qualify for internment in the cemetery, veterans or their family members must produce proof of military service, usually in the form of a DD-214.

If I Have Power of Attorney, Can I Access My Spouse’s Account Online?

We always advise our clients to have a power of attorney in place so that they can handle their spouse’s finances if their spouse becomes unable to do so. However, according to the Chicago Tribune, some banks have changed their power of attorney policies for online banking. Many people who have managed their spouse’s finances for years have recently tried to log on to these accounts online, only to find that they no longer have access to them. Because caregivers often write several checks a month for services like adult day care, in-home care, nursing homes, and prescription medications, it is important for spouses who serve as power of attorney to have daily access to their spouse’s accounts. However, even though you may have your spouse’s social security number, online banking password, and other personal information, some banks will not permit you to use online banking if you do not have the credit card number, credit card expiration date, and the security code on the back of the card. This can be a problem if your spouse has destroyed the card or cannot remember where he put it.
While this rule can be frustrating, there is one simple way to prevent it from becoming a problem in the future: holding the account jointly with your spouse. Joint account holders are permitted to use online banking and can monitor the account as often as they wish. However, because owning an account jointly with your spouse can affect eligibility for Medicaid and VA benefits, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney before making these changes. Whatever option is best for you, having a financial plan in place will allow you and your spouse to be more prepared for any future difficulties that arise.

VA Benefits and Long-Term Care Insurance

Many of our clients find it helpful to use a long-term care insurance policy to help pay for the cost of assisted living facilities or nursing homes. However, if you use your policy after you have begun receiving VA benefits, it is important to remember to notify the VA about the new policy as soon as possible. Because you will begin receiving periodic payments from your long-term care insurance, your income will rise after the policy becomes active. Failing to notify the VA of the new insurance policy could cause the VA to send you a bill later for any VA benefits that you received that you were not entitled to.
In order to notify the VA of the change, you should send a copy of the long-term care insurance policy to the VA, along with a revised medical expenses form (VA Form 21-8416). This form will show the VA what you will be paying the nursing home or assisted living facility for the rest of the year from the date that the insurance policy became active. To access the medical expenses form, you can visit the following website: http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/vba-21-8416-are.pdf.

What If Mom and Dad Got Married After Dad Was Discharged from the Military?

The VA Aid and Attendance Pension is for veterans and their surviving spouses. Many of our clients do not believe they are eligible for the surviving spouse benefit because they married their husband after his military service had ended.  However, the VA has no rule that the spouse had to be married to the veteran before he was discharged from the military. As long as Mom meets all of the financial and medical requirements for the VA pension, she will still qualify for the surviving spouse benefit no matter when the marriage took place. Because the rules surrounding the VA pension can be confusing and complicated, it is important to consult with an experienced elder law attorney when completing your Aid and Attendance application.

I’ll Only Get $50 Per Month from the VA. Should I Still Apply for the Pension?

Many of our clients become unsettled when they realize that they do not qualify for the maximum amount of the VA Aid and Attendance Pension. These clients often do not wish to go through the lengthy process of applying for the pension when they will not receive a significant amount of money from the VA each month. However, even if your pension amount is quite small, there are important advantages to receiving VA benefits.
The first advantage is that when you file the yearly Eligibility Verification Report (EVR) with the VA, you can claim all medical expenses, such as mileage to and from doctors’ offices, doctor and hospital co-pays, over-the-counter medications and vitamins, and hearing aids and batteries. This means that you could receive a higher pension amount because of those additional costs.
Second, recipients of the VA pension have a higher priority at the Veterans Health Administration and can qualify for a variety of free medical supplies, including hearing aids, prescriptions, glasses, medical equipment, and incontinence supplies. Additionally, receiving the VA pension can help improve your financial situation in the long-term. Should you receive Medicaid in the future, you will qualify for a monthly personal allowance of $90. Also, the families of veterans who received the pension will be able to receive burial benefits once the veteran passes away.
Finally, when your medical or care expenses do increase, receiving an increase in your pension takes considerably less time than starting a new pension claim.
Although the amount of your pension may seem insignificant when compared to the amount of time it takes to complete the application, it is important to keep in mind all of the potential advantages of receiving the aid and attendance pension.

Mom and Dad are separated, but not divorced. Will Mom’s assets be counted on Dad’s VA Application?

Many couples choose to separate without ever becoming divorced. This can cause confusion when it comes to completing the application for the VA Aid and Attendance Pension. Normally, the VA requires married applicants to provide financial information for both spouses. If your parents are separated, this could mean that Dad has to provide Mom’s financial information to the VA even though they no longer live as a married couple, which could affect his eligibility for the VA pension.
Despite this potential difficulty, there is a way to solve this problem. If it can be proven that neither spouse has knowledge of the other’s financial situation, neither spouse contributes financial resources to the other, and that the couple does not file a joint tax return, then the veteran may be able to apply as a single veteran.
If accepted by the VA, this means that he will not be required to report his spouse’s assets or income on the application. However, it is still important for the veteran to disclose all of his martial information on the VA application, then state that he is separated, show that he has no knowledge of his spouse’s financial information, and state that he is therefore filing as a single veteran. If you believe that proving that the veteran is single could be difficult, it may be helpful to submit a Statement in Support of Claim (VA Form 21-4138) signed by a third party who has knowledge of the separation.
Each veteran has unique circumstances. Because it can be difficult to understand how to complete the VA Application in a way that will allow your parent to receive the maximum amount of benefits available to him, it is important that you consult with an experienced elder law attorney when you decide to apply for VA Benefits.

War Veterans May Be Unaware They Qualify For VA Aid and Attendance Benefits

One of the services Elder Law and Estate Planning attorneys often provide is helping clients navigate the application procedures and bureaucratic systems for the various state and federal medical insurance programs; and one thing that remains a surprise throughout the years is how many people forget about the VA Aid and Attendance Program for war veterans.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs website, VA Aid and Attendance is “a benefit paid to wartime veterans [or their spouses] who have limited or no income, and who are age 65 or older, or, if under 65, who are permanently and totally disabled.” Unfortunately, too many veterans and their spouses are unaware that they qualify for this benefit, or even worse, have never been informed that the program exists.

An informative article in the Washington Post quotes the VA’s deputy undersecretary for disability assistance as saying that he believes they are only reaching “about one in four eligible veterans.” Part of the reason for this is that “there are a lot of veterans where it’s been 40 years or more since they’ve been on active duty. It just doesn’t occur to them there may be a benefit from the VA.”

If you are a war veteran over the age of 65 it is very likely that you and/or your spouse qualify for Aid and Attendance Benefits. Eligibility requirements include:

  • You served at least 90 days of active military service 1 day of which was during a war time period. (If you entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally you must have served at least 24 months, or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty.)
  • You were discharged from service under conditions other than dishonorable.
  • Your countable family income is below a yearly limit set by law (The yearly limit on income is set by Congress.)
  • You must need help with at least one activity of daily living: dressing, eating, walking, bathing, adjusting prosthetic devices or using the toilet. Those who are blind, living in nursing homes or require in-home care may also be eligible.

For many veterans and their families the financial assistance they receive from their VA Aid and Attendance benefits can be an incredible help. Unfortunately, the application process required to receive the benefits can be daunting. “It’s not a simple process. A&A applicants must mail the forms, copies of service records, marriage certificates, proof of insurance and medical records to the regional VA office. If a third party is making the application, an additional form, 21-22-a or 21-0845, must be completed.”

This is why many veterans ask a knowledgeable Elder Law or Estate Planning attorney to help with the application process. The right attorney can help you find and fill out the correct forms, gather the necessary records and materials, and keep track of progress throughout the entire process. If you think you may be eligible for VA Aid & Attendance Benefits please don’t hesitate to contact our office.