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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Whitney Wilson a 2016 KBA Distinguished Lawyer Nominee

A big congratulations go out to Whitney Wilson!  She has been nominated for the Kentucky Bar Association's 2016 Distinguished Lawyer Award.  The award honors one lawyer a year who has distinguished himself or herself through a contribution of outstanding service to the legal profession. The selection process places special emphasis upon community, civic and/or charitable service, which brings honor to the profession. 


Monday, January 11, 2016

Eileen Walsh published by American Bar Association

Eileen Walsh authored the article "HOW TO FUND LONG TERM CARE WITHOUT MEDICAID" in the December, 2015 publication of the American Bar Association Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.  This is the first time that this national publication has devoted the entire contents of its publication to the area of elder law.  Eileen Walsh is the only Kentucky attorney and author represented in  this elder law publication.     


Friday, January 8, 2016

Veteran's Aid and Attendance Benefit

The VA Aid and Attendance eligibility rules are expected to change in 2016 and possibly even in the next 30 days.  We urge you to act now and get informed on this important earned benefit.  Don't wait.   If you or a loved one are a veteran or a surviving spouse of a veteran you need to know about this benefit, which can be used to pay for much needed care needs.  

Elder Law of Louisville is part of a national group tracking the day to day developments of proposed VA changes.  Our attorneys can provide information in an individual consultation or we can speak to your group or organization.     


Monday, January 4, 2016

Elder Law in Ireland

Eileen Walsh was part of a 12 person delegation of U.S. elder law attorneys who traveled to Ireland in November, 2015.  The U.S. delegation met with Irish attorneys and judges as well as Irish aging experts.  The issues of quality of life and care for  older persons are concerns worldwide.  These issues are not unique to the United States and invaluable knowledge and insight was gained by Eileen through interacting with her Irish counterparts.   She would love to share her experience.  Please contact our office to schedule a date for Eileen to come speak to your group about elder law and Ireland.  And be sure and wear some green! 


Friday, March 20, 2015

Response #5 to VA's Proposed Changes to Aid & Attendance Benefit

We are going to turn our focus to the actual proposed rules.  The first rule we will address concerns the veterans' primary residence.  The VA is no longer exempting a veteran's home in its entirety, but rather only the house and a maximum of 2 acres.  Any land over 2 acres is part of the veteran's net worth.  My first thought was of all my clients that live in rural areas on farms.  The veteran or spouse is going to have to sell the farm land.  But, this applies equally to those in the city.  For example, there are areas in the city of Louisville that are still not on public sewer.  These houses use septic systems instead and code requires a minimum of 5 acres for such houses.  How is a veteran supposed to sell the extra 3 acres when code will not allow the land to be subdivided?  It cannot be sold.  Does this mean the additional land should be valued at $0.00?  Or, does this mean the veteran or spouse has to sell the home?  The VA's rules do not provide any guidance on this huge issue.


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

 


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