Written by: Cynthia P. Letsch, J.D.
Many federal veteran’s benefits go unclaimed because people just do not know about them. One of the most common unknown benefits is the pension Aid and Attendance benefit. This is available to any veteran or veteran’s surviving spouse, if the veteran served during war time, including Viet Nam, and has medical needs ranging from help organizing the pill box to living in a nursing home.
Unlike Medicaid, there is currently no “look-back” period for Aid and Attendance benefits. This allows an applicant who may have too many assets to restructure assets in order to meet the asset limitation requirements, and gain some additional income that can be used to pay for in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care. This may be a critical benefit, if the person is otherwise not eligible for Medicaid. But, in some cases, a person may be eligible for both Aid and Attendance benefits and Medicaid benefits.
The VA has been making some strong noise about implementing a “look-back” period, beginning January 1, 2016. If you think you or an elderly family member may qualify for veteran Aid and Attendance benefits, I recommend that you consult with a VA-accredited lawyer, as soon as possible, due to the planned rule change. Only a VA-accredited attorney is allowed to advise you on your eligibility for VA benefits. There are currently only twelve VA-accredited attorneys in the Des Moines/West Polk County area, including this author. NOTE: it is illegal for an attorney (or anyone) to charge the client for filling out or sending in the VA application. Also, a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) (there is one in each county) can fill out the form for you, for free. However, the VSO will not advise you on how you can restructure assets in order to qualify, and the attorney will likely charge you for that service. Getting advice on how to restructure assets is often the key to qualifying for benefits, which can be up to $21,466 per year, if the veteran is married.
CONGRATULATIONS to us!!! In case you have not heard, Grimes has been designated as a Home Base Iowa location. The City of Grimes website contains a link to the Home Base Iowa web page, where you can learn what benefits, savings, and other perks are offered to veterans by the city and local businesses.