A Veterans Benefits Attorney Accredited by the VA

In recognition of their service to the nation, the United States provides financial help to wartime veterans who need long term care. This benefit – called the “aid and attendance” benefit – also helps the spouses, widows, and widowers of those veterans.

At Sykes Elder Law in Pittsburgh, PA, we assist clients in obtaining veterans benefits. To benefit from our help, a client should:

  • be a wartime veteran, or the spouse, widow, or widower of one;
  • need care at home or in an assisted living facility
  • have more than $80,000 in assets

For such a client, we provide the planning necessary to qualify for benefits while avoiding mistakes that could pose later problems such as application denial, Medicaid ineligibility, loss of assets, or other problems.

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What do veterans benefits pay?

Those who qualify for aid and attendance benefits can receive help to pay for care at home or in an assisted living facility. The exact amount of veterans benefits depends on how much the household’s care costs exceed household income. The following chart shows maximum rates of VA benefits for 2016:

  • Single Veteran: $1,788 per month; $21,466 per year
  • Married Veteran: $2,120 per month; $25,448 per year
  • Widowed Spouse: $1,149 per month; $13,794 per year
  • Vet married to Vet: $2,837 per month; $34,050 per year

Who qualifies for veterans benefits?

To be eligible for benefits, a veteran, spouse, widow, or widower must meet certain eligibility requirements.

First, the veteran must have served at least 90 days active duty, including at least one day during a wartime period. The veteran need not have served in a combat zone (except Vietnam before 8-5-1964), as long as the service occurred during a recognized wartime period:

  • WWII: 12-7-1941 to 12-31-1946
  • Korean War: 6-27-1950 to 1-31-1955
  • Vietnam War: 2-28-1961 to 5-7-1975
  • Vietnam Era: 8-5-1964 to 5-7-1975
  • Persian Gulf: 8-2-1990 to Present

Second, the veteran must have received a discharge other than dishonorable.

If the applicant is a widow or widower, he or she must have been married to a veteran who met the first two requirements, and must have been living with the veteran when the veteran died (unless the separation was due to medical or military reasons).

Third, the applicant must require the aid of another person on a regular basis to protect against environmental hazards. Someone requiring care at home or in assisted living often meets this requirement.

Fourth, the veterans’ allowable medical expenses must exceed household income. Many who live in an assisted living facility, or pay for home care, meet this requirement. For example, a couple with a combined income of $2,500 a month, living in an assisted living facility costing $4,000 a month, passes this test.

Finally, the veteran (along with any spouse or other dependent) must have limited household assets. A general rule of thumb is that assets – other than the primary residential home, a car, and personal belongings – should not exceed $80,000. But in many cases, the VA applies a calculation that considers countable assets, income, and medical expenses over the applicant’s life expectancy. To determine an applicant’s eligibility, it’s best to run the numbers both ways.

When do I need the help of a VA-accredited attorney?

If you meet the qualifications just described, you may receive veterans benefits by applying on your own, or with the help of a service organization, such as the American Legion.

But if your assets are above $80,000, it’s best to talk to an attorney experienced in elder law and veterans benefits. With the right estate and financial planning, you may qualify for aid and attendance benefits under the VA guidelines. But this planning is not simple. If not done properly with the assistance of an experienced lawyer, you could encounter difficulties. For example:

  • Your application for veterans benefits could be denied or delayed because of a mistake.
  • You could lose, or lose control of, assets if you transfer them in order to qualify and effective measures are not taken to protect them.
  • Asset transfers could cause ineligibility for Medicaid in coming years.
  • If you die while a veterans benefits application is pending, the VA will likely stop processing your application. (We take steps to help ensure that an application will be completed, and aid and attendance benefits paid for all eligible months, even if the applicant dies.)

With effective planning, many clients find they qualify for veterans benefits they did not think were available to them.

To discuss your situation, please call 412-531-7123.

Related Veterans Benefits Posts

If you are looking for more information about Veterans Benefits, here are some of our favorite blog posts. You can also click here for all of our Veterans Benefits posts.

  • How veterans benefits and Medicaid work together - (2010)As Veterans Day approaches, it is good to remember ways to honor those who served our country during wartime. One way is with the benefits extended to those veterans, and their widows and widowers, who now need long term care. How do those benefits intersect with Medicaid benefits for long term care? Going from veterans […]
  • Veterans benefits can provide more income for a Medicaid recipient’s spouse - Those familiar with veterans benefits for aid and attendance often think of them as a means to pay for care at home or in an assisted living facility. But did you know aid and attendance benefits can provide extra income for the spouse of someone on Medicaid (at least in Pennsylvania)? Here’s an example. Suppose […]
  • VA benefits for healthy vet with ill spouse – a little known secret - It’s well known that veterans benefits for aid and attendance will help pay for long term care needed by a wartime veteran, or the widow or widower of one. But what about Jane, who needs care in an assisted living facility and is married to Bill, a World War II veteran? Any help available there? […]
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