Veterans Benefits

Monday, March 16, 2015

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.

Monday, September 22, 2014

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. Even veterans who know about this pension benefit, however, are frequently targeted by scam artists attempting to take advantage of elderly or infirm veterans and their families.

By educating yourself about the Aid and Attendance benefit and learning how to recognize a scam, you can ensure your family gets the help it deserves without falling prey to veteran’s pension fraud.

What is the Aid and Attendance benefit?

The Aid and Attendance benefit provides additional financial benefits to veterans and their surviving spouses, over and above any other veteran’s pension they receive.  The benefit is available if the veteran or spouse requires a regular attendant to accomplish daily living tasks such as eating, bathing, undressing, taking medications, and toileting.  The benefit is also available to veterans and their surviving spouses who are blind, who are patients in a nursing home due to physical or mental incapacity, or who are living in an assisted care facility.

The Aid and Attendance benefit is not limited to veterans with service-related injuries.  Furthermore, it provides assistance to a veteran who is independent but has a sick spouse.  In these situations, the pension benefit provides financial assistance to compensate for the income depletion caused by the care needs of the sick spouse.

How to avoid Aid and Attendance benefit scams

The most common scams target veterans through seminars and other types of outreach programs about the Aid and Attendance benefit.  Usually, they promise to file a claim with the Veteran’s Administration on behalf of the veteran, for a fee, but the claim is never filed or is filed incorrectly.  Not only does this type of scam harm the veteran financially, an incorrectly filed claim could damage the veteran’s ability to get approval of a correctly filed application.

Another type of scam targets homeless veterans.  The scam artist promises to file an Aid and Attendance benefit application for the veteran, in exchange for a monthly fee taken out of the veteran’s benefit check.  The veteran agrees to have the check mailed to the scam artist’s home or business address, and the scam artist takes the entire check or continues to take a monthly fee without performing any work for the vet.

If you or a family member has questions about the Aid and Attendance benefit or any other aspect of veteran’s pensions, find a qualified veteran’s pensions attorney or accredited service officer to give you the answers you and your family deserve. 


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Five Estate Planning Documents You Should Understand Part III

In addition to having a Health Care Power of Attorney you should also consider executing a Living Will and a “stand alone” HIPAA Medical Release.  A Living Will is a simple document in which you give instructions to your health care providers as to when and if to cease providing you with life prolonging measures. 

The North Carolina provides a statutory form that allows you to indicate the different scenarios where you do not want life support, as well as, whether you would like any exceptions such as artificial nutrition and hydration. This form is called an Advanced Directive for a Natural Death.  Also, in the wake of the Terri Schaivo case in Florida, the North Carolina Legislature had the forethought to provide the opportunity for your Health Care Power of Attorney to override the Living Will if you desire.  As with many statutory forms, you are free to draft a document of your own in consultation with your advisors.  Depending on your particular situation drafting a custom document may be the more prudent course.

A HIPAA Medical Release is a companion document to a Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA).  Any recent HCPOA worth its salt will comply with HIPAA regulations giving the named persons access to your medical records.  Having a “stand alone” HIPAA document gives you greater flexibility, allowing you to grant access to your records to persons without granting them the decision making authority that accompanies the HCPOA. It’s great for keeping family members in the loop and for obtaining records on your behalf.  

In our next and last installment on this topic we will cover Trusts testamentary, living, revocable, irrevocable, etc.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

DIED in Committee-Adding a Medicaid style look back period to Aid and Attendance and lengthening Medicaid

In an era of trillion dollar deficits, more than a few politicians are looking for possible ways to slow down the growth of government spending if not reduce it.  Almost every government program is a target.  In the last 12 months legislation was introduced proposing to add a three year medicaid-style look back period to VA Aid and Attendance (see Senate Bill 3270) and to lengthen the look back period for medicaid from 5 years to 10 years (see House Bill 6300).  Both bills have essentially died in committee and will likely never been introduced for a vote.  However, it would not surpise me if both were revisited in the future in some fashion. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Revisiting VA Fast Letter 12-23

Recently, I have encountered many folks with questions about whether Independent Living will qualify as an unremibursed medical expense for purposes of qualifying for Aid and Attendance.  In October of 2012 the VA issued Fast Letter 23, which among other things, clarified under what circumstances room and board may be deducted as an UME and what constituted "custodial care."  I thought it was worth posting again. I found a link to the actual letter on the mid-atlantic Regional Group Blinded Veterans                                                                                                         

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Based in Charlotte, NC the attorneys at Sanford Law Firm, PA assist clients throughout North Carolina including Charlotte, Monroe, Cornelius, Gastonia, Mecklenburg County, Cabarrus County, Lincoln County, Iredell County, Catawba County, Gaston County, Rowan County, Union County, Pineville, NC and Matthews, NC.

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