Possible changes in VA Benefits
The Veteran’s Administration has a special pension program that can pay for eligible wartime veterans and the spouses of deceased wartime veterans. Many of you may have heard of this benefit, called Aid and Attendance, and it can pay up to $24,239 per year for a married couple. In the past, the program requirements were such that needy applicants could qualify very quickly even though their starting assets might have been greater than the VA requirements. These benefits were used to pay medical expenses and for in home care. It can be a significant part of paying for home care so that a veteran or his widow is not forced into a nursing home.
In June of this year, however, a bill was introduced to the United States Senate that might inhibit needy veterans or their widows from getting that care.
This came about because of increased awareness of the program and the VA having to pay out more money, but also because of the shabby practices of certain organizations selling annuities to seniors at high fees, supposedly to qualify them for the benefit, but in many cases it turned out that the annuity purchase did not qualify them. Or, in other cases, some organizations were charging elderly veterans exorbitant fees.
The proposed bill would create a three year “look back” period, somewhat like Medicaid, allowing the VA to determine if any assets were reallocated, or removed in the three years prior to the application. VA could then deny an application based on some formula. What that formula would be and how it would be implemented is unknown.
There is no doubt that the increased awareness of the Aid and Attendance benefit has led to a great increase in applications, and that some individuals or institutions have engaged in selling products or taken actions that should be curtailed. But there is a concern that the bill could result in penalty periods that would be unfair to veterans. For example, if a veteran helped pay for a grandchild’s college tuition, and a couple of years later became sick and needed care to remain at home, would the penalty block the veteran from receiving the care he needs, thereby forcing him into a nursing home?
Hopefully, if the bill works its way into law, there will be reasonable provisions that do not unfairly penalize veterans or their widows for using their life’s savings in the normal ways that families help each other.