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Elder Law of Louisville's Blog

Thursday, April 14, 2011

VA PENSION BENEFITS

I (being Whitney Wilson) just finished obtaining my required continuing education credits to maintain my VA accreditation.  While sitting through the seminar, it dawned on me I have not posted much about VA benefits on the blog, and this is a perfect opportunity to do so.

OVERVIEW OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (“VA”):

Veterans Affairs has 3 branches:

1. Veterans' Health Administration

2. National Cemetery

3. Veterans' Benefits Administration

 

Walsh & Wilson focuses on Veterans' Benefits.

 

TYPES OF VETERANS’ BENEFITS:

There are 2 types of veterans’ benefits:

1. Disability Compensation: get compensated for a "service connected" disability, an disability related to your service.

2. Pension Benefits: get a pension, plus maybe additional allowances, for non-service connected disability.

 

Walsh & Wilson focuses on Veterans' Pension Benefits.

 

VA PENSION BENEFITS:

The VA offers a Basic Pension as well as two (2) allowances in addition to the Basic Pension. 

BASIC PENSION:

A veteran, or the surviving spouse of a veteran, can qualify for the Basic Pension by meeting the following requirements:

1. Service: 90-days active duty, at least 1-day during wartime, with a discharge other than dishonorable

2. Disability: over 65 automatically meet this requirement; under 65 has to prove permanently, totally disabled.

3. Income and Net Worth: please read below for more information on this requirement

The Basic Pension amount depends on whether you are the veteran or surviving spouse, your income, and whether or not you have one or more dependents (a spouse qualifies as a dependent).  The current maximum Basic Pension amounts are:

Vet, without a dependent: $985/month

Vet, with a dependent : $1,291/month

Surviving spouse without a dependent:  $661/month

Surviving spouse with a dependent: $829/month

Each additional dependent after the first one: $168/month

ALLOWANCES:

In addition to the Basic Pension, a veteran (or surviving spouse) may qualify for an additional "allowance".  There are 2 additional allowances, Housebound and Aid & Attendance.  A veteran (or surviving spouse) can qualify for either, but not both.

1. HOUSEBOUND ALLOWANCE: in additional meeting the requirements for the Basic Pension, the veteran (or surviving spouse) must also be unable to leave the house.  This has been interpreted to mean unable to leave the house for employment purposes.  It does not mean the individual never leaves the house, it just means the individual rarely leaves the house, has difficulty leaving the house, requires assistance to leave the house, and because of these difficulties is unable to maintain employment.

The Basic Pension with Housebound Allowance amount depends on whether you are the veteran or surviving spouse, your income, and whether or not you have one or more dependents (a spouse qualified as a dependent).  The current maximum Basic Pension with Housebound Allowance amounts are:

 Vet, without a dependent: $1,204/month

Vet, with a dependent : $1,510/month

Surviving spouse without a dependent:  $808/month

Surviving spouse with a dependent: $976/month

Each additional dependent after the first one: $168/month

 2. AID & ATTENDANCE ALLOWANCE: in addition to meeting the requirements of the Basic Pension, the veteran (or surviving spouse) must require assistance with at least two (2) activities of daily living (“ADL”).  This may include dressing, bathing, toileting, or feeding.  In the alternative, the Aid & Attendance allowance is granted when the veteran (or surviving spouse) requires a protective environment, such as if the individual has a history of falling, is forgetful, or has diminished mental capacity.  The VA does not require the individual to be living in an assisted living facility in order to qualify for this allowance, in-home care is allowed.

 The Basic Pension with Aid & Attendance Allowance amount depends on whether you are the veteran or surviving spouse, your income, and whether or not you have one or more dependents.  The current maximum Basic Pension with Aid & Attendance Allowance amounts are:

 Vet, without a dependent: $1,644/month

Vet, with a dependent : $1,949/month

Surviving spouse without a dependent:  $1,056/month

Surviving spouse with a dependent: $1,224/month

Each additional dependent after the first one: $168/month

 NOTE: There are some other rules that apply to specific situations that can impact the amount of pension benefits.  For example, a veteran married to another veteran can provide a larger benefit.  Also, the pension benefit will be reduced if the individual receives Medicaid and has no dependent(s).

 

 INCOME AND NET WORTH REQUIREMENTS:

No one qualifies for any pension benefits without meeting the net worth and income requirements. 

1. INCOME:

The income requirement is easy…household income (including income of the veteran, spouse, and any dependents) must be less than the household’s regularly recurring unreimbursed medical expenses.  If the income is more than the unreimbursed medical expenses, the benefit will be reduced dollar for dollar, up to the maximum benefit amount.  Here is an example:

Veteran with no dependents has $3000/month income and $2000/month unreimbursed medical expenses.  The income is $1000/month more than unreimbursed medical expenses.  If the veteran applied for the Basic Pension, he/she would not qualify because the basic pension for a veteran with no dependent is $985/month.  If the veteran applied for the Basic Pension with Housebound Allowance, he/she would qualify for $204/month ($1,204 – 1000 = $204).  If the veteran applied for the Basic Pension with Aid & Attendance Allowance, he/she would qualify for $949/month ($1,949 – 1000 = $949).

2. NET WORTH:

The net worth requirement is more complicated because the VA has not set a specific limit on this.  The net worth limits fluctuate based on age and health of the veteran and the veteran’s spouse.  Generally speaking, the veteran should have a net worth less than $30,000.  If an applicant applies for VA pension benefits with a higher net worth and gets denied, the net worth has to be reduced and then the applicant has to re-apply.  That results in several months worth of pension benefits being lost.  Net worth is the area where you need an experience attorney who can navigate this field and structure your assets appropriately to help you meet the VA’s vague rules.  This can be accomplished through the use of trusts, promissory notes, annuities, gifts, and other tools.

 

Please, give Walsh & Wilson a call if you have any questions about VA Pension Benefits.  We can help.


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