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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Response #4 to Proposed Changes to Aid & Attendance Benefit

A Government Accountability Office report dated December 21, 2012 found that VA claim processing times were too long.  Though the VA responded to the report with due concern and appropriate promises for change, the processing times have not improved.  CNN reported on this issue just last month and John Stewart has addressed the issue multiple times on "The Daily Show".  The VA's proposed rule changes to the Aid & Attendance benefit only add to the processing time due to a new 3 year look-back rule.  This new rule means a VA caseworker will be required to review 36 months of a veteran's financial records (including those of the spouse) to see if any gifts were made during the 3 years prior to the veteran filing the claim.  We are talking ANY gift, such as to a church or charity, or maybe helping a grandchild pay college tuition.

A delayed processing time is incredibly problematic because Aid & Attendance claimants are disabled senior veterans who are spending their money on out of pocket medical expenses.  If a veteran dies while the claim is pending the benefits are not paid except in a few very small exceptions.  Longer processing times mean a greater chance these disabled veterans of advanced age will pass away while the VA processes the claim, allowing the VA to avoid paying benefits.  Also, these veterans are spending money on medical expenses, but the VA benefit is capped.  Even when receiving the benefit the veteran continues to spend assets to pay for care.  But, the VA allows the veteran and spouse to keep a very limited amount of assets.  The longer the claim takes to process, the higher the risk of the veteran running out of money.  Many veterans do not bother getting the medical care they need because they can't afford it and don't believe they VA benefit will come in time to help them afford it.

It is one thing for the VA to continue to do nothing about solving existing problems to their programs, it is quite another for the VA to deliberately add new problems.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

VA Rule Change Webinar Recording Available!

Anyone interested in listening to our 30 minute (it somehow turned into 50 minutes) webinar regarding the VA pension benefit, the proposed changes to it, and how to make comments to the VA about it, please go to www.vapension.org and sign up.  You will be emailed a recording to listen to at your convenience.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Response #3 to VA's Proposed Changes to Aid & Attendance Benefit

In 2013, the Senate sent Bill 944, "Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act of 2013" to the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.  That committee ordered the Congressional Budget Office to prepare a report on the cost effectiveness of Senate Bill 944.  On November 12, 2013, the CBO issued its report.  The new rules would cost $7 million per year to enforce.  The new rules would "save" the VA $5 million per year.  That means the new rules will cost the VA $2 million per year. 

As we know, Congress never passed the rule changes into law, despite attempts in 2013 and 2014.  I like to think that the changes did not pass because our country honors our veterans and the sacrifices they make.  But, perhaps this report played another factor.  You can find the CBO report, released November 12, 2013, here:  http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/s944_0.pdf


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Response #2 to Proposed Changes to Aid & Attendance Benefit

The Government Accountability Office published a report on December 14, 2011 taking the VA to task for failing to spread the word about the Aid and Attendance benefit.  Some statistics show only about 5% of wartime veterans eligible for the benefit actually receive it.  The GAO report showed that of the 65 and older veterans receiving the base level pension benefit, about 62% are eligible for the enhanced Aid & Attendance benefit, but only 22% are receiving that enhancement.  See here:http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-153

It appears the VA's had decided that if it is going to be required to spread the word about the Aid & Attendance benefit, it is going to make it harder for wartime veterans to receive it.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Response #1 to Proposed Changes to Aid & Attendance Benefit

We here at Elder Law of Louisville are not in favor of the VA's proposed changes to the Aid & Attendance Benefit.  We have several reasons why and are working to spread the word as to why these changes just don't make sense.  Here is issue #1:

A government agency cannot unilaterally change the law when Congress reviewed this issue each year for the past 2 years and did not pass these changes into law.  The VA does not have authority to implement regulations that are stricter than the statutes in place.  For example, the net worth rules require the VA to consider age, marital relationship, income, medical expenses and assets when determining whether or not a veteran has excessive net worth.  This means Congress intended a sliding scale of net worth eligibility, with younger disabled veterans being allowed to retain more in assets than older since younger disabled veterans will need more money to pay for care over their life expectancy.  The VA's proposed rule of a flat $119,220 asset limit does not take anything into consideration.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

VA Proposes Rule Changes - 3 Year Look-Back

On January 23, 2015, the VA proposed changes to its rules regarding the VA Pension Benefit and VA Death Pension Benefit, including its Aid & Attendance benefit.  Under the new rules there will now be a strict asset limit, a 3 year look-back on asset transfers, and a penalty for asset transfers that could last as long as 10 years.  There are several other changes as well.

To learn more about this, see today's article on Military.com at:

http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/03/12/rule-changes-will-tighten-restrictions-on-va-aid-assistance.html?comp=7000023317843&rank=1

Elder Law of Louisville is hosting a webinar next week to discuss the proposed changes in more depth.  More information about the webinar will be posted in the next day or two. 

The proposed changes are currently in a "public comment" phase.  That phase expires on March 24, 2015.  The VA has not said when they intend to implement the new rules.  We encourage everyone to comment on the proposed rules.  You may do so online at:

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/01/23/2015-00297/net-worth-asset-transfers-and-income-exclusions-for-needs-based-benefits

 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

SSI Benefit Increasing to $773 in 2015

Social Security released the official maximum Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefit for 2015 at $733 per month.  Generally speaking, SSI is the benefit paid to disabled individuals that do not qualify for a Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") benefit greater than the SSI benefit.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Veterans Day 2014

We had a great time at the Louisville Veterans Day Parade!  My Marine Corp veteran father began his celebration the day before, as the USMC's 239th birthday was November 10th!  We at Elder Law of Louisville are privileged to work with our veterans and their families.  Thank you for entrusting us with your estate and veteran pension planning needs.           


Monday, November 3, 2014

Remember Our Veterans November 11th

At Elder Law of Louisville we are honored to work with many veterans and their families.  Our own fathers served in the United States Marine Corp and the United States Air Force.  Please remember to thank all of our military personnel who served and continue to serve our country.  We plan to attend the Veterans Day Parade in downtown Louisville, Kentucky at 11:00 a.m. on November 11th.  Please join us!   

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Social Security & VA benefits Increasing in 2015; Medicare Premium Not Increasing in 2015

The federal government announced today that Social Security benefits, including Social Security Retirement, Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI"), and Supplement Security Income ("SSI") benefits, will increase by 1.7% in 2015.VA benefits are tied to Social Security benefits.  Therefore, VA benefits should also see an increase of 1.7% in 2015, although the VA has not officially announced an increase.

The federal government also announced that the Medicare premium will remain the same in 2015.  Most, but not all, people pay a premium of $104.90 per month for Medicare.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Eileen Walsh Joins GuardiaCare's Board of Directors

Congratulations to Eileen Walsh on her election to the Board of Directors of GuardiaCare!  GuardiaCare is a non-profit private fiduciary organization, including guardianship, conservatorship and representative payee services.  Eileen's current focus with GuardiaCare is expanding its fiduciary role to include power of attorney services.


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The attorneys of Elder Law of Louisville (formerly Walsh & Wilson, PLLC) assist clients in Louisville, Kentucky and surrounding counties of Jefferson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer, and Bullitt. Our Office also serves Southern Indiana and the towns of New Albany, Jeffersonville, and Clarksville.



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