VA Pension Benefits | Knowing What is Available,
How to Qualify and
Who to Trust with Assistance
Applying for pension benefits with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is not simple. It is a long complicated process that even the department’s own staff is not well versed. Not only has the VA done little to inform their own staff, they have done much less to inform veterans and their families of the types of benefits available and criteria for qualifying. Our Firm is dedicated to changing that by assisting veterans and organizations that serve them in effectively maneuvering the VA system and legally qualifying for the benefits that they deserve.
What is the VA Pension Program?
The VA Improved Pension was established to assist veterans, their spouses, widows and widowers. It was designed to assure a level of income above the minimum subsistence level, allowing veterans and their survivors to live out their lives in dignity and afford basic necessities.
This pension benefit is not dependent upon service related injuries. There are three levels of the program – Basic, Housebound, and Aid and Attendance (also referred to as A&A). A&A assists veterans and their surviving spouses who require attendance of another person to assist with activities of daily living. It helps cover the cost of qualified non-reimbursed medical expenses, in-home care and assisted living facility care. Though it has been in existence for decades, it is widely unknown and under-utilized.
How to know who qualifies?
The VA does not make it clear who qualifies for the Improved Pension. Applicants are told that it is based on income, but it is actually needs based. Once the applicant deducts their qualified non-reimbursed medical expenses and assisted living care from their income, many will qualify that might not have without those deductions. There is no time limit to apply for the pension, but determining if you meet the criteria to qualify can be a complex process.
The Basic Criteria for Qualifying
- Veteran must have served at least 1 day during a war period
- Veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty
- Veteran received a better than dishonorable discharge
- Claimant is over the age of 65 or permanently or totally disabled
- Claimant is a surviving spouse of a qualified veteran and did not remarry
- Claimant needs assistance with daily living requirements
- Claimant’s monthly medical expenses exceed their monthly income
Pension Amounts for Those Who Qualify
The VA pension can significantly improve the quality of life for veterans and their surviving spouses. The pension amount will depend on the medical needs and level of assistance needed, and is based on the Cost of Living Adjustment Index. Current maximum pension amounts (effective December 2012) are listed below:
|Pension with Aid
|Single Veteran||Up to $1,038||Up to $1,269||Up to $1,732|
|Qualified Veteran with Spouse||Up to $1,360||Up to $1,591||Up to $2,054|
|Surviving Spouse (Death Pension)||Up to $696||Up to $851||Up to $1,113|
What an attorney can offer that other advisors cannot?
There are many advantages to hiring an attorney for VA pension planning. They are qualified in many ways where other advisors are not. A VA planning attorney takes a comprehensive approach, ensuring the client is protected, not just their money. Below are just some ways an attorney is the best advisor for VA pension planning.
A VA Planning Attorney…
- Is legally obligated to act in the best interest of the client
- Must be knowledgeable of the current IRA rules and regulations
- Must be knowledgeable of the current types of trust and trust laws, and knows when and how to move money appropriately
- Must be knowledgeable of the income, estate and gift tax implications for transferring assets
- Can draft the appropriate trust when needed to allow an applicant to meet the asset requirements
- Can prepare real estate documents to allow an applicant to meet the asset qualifications
- Can prepare a Medicaid compliant caregiver agreement to allow an applicant to meet the income requirements
- Is not looking to make a commission; but is looking for long-term clients that they can assist throughout their lives
- Cannot give a finder’s fee to a referral, but can give you peace of mind and confidence that your needs will be covered
The goal of our Firm is to assist veterans and their families in obtaining the benefits they have earned through their service to our country. It is our way of thanking our veteran families for their service to our country.
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