Veterans and their families are entitled to benefits that can offset the cost of necessary health care as they age.
Navigating You Through Veterans Benefits
America’s veterans deserve the best health care possible. Unfortunately, most veterans are unaware of the benefits that are available to them as they age, which is precisely when they may need assistance. Incorporating veterans benefits into an estate plan is an essential element that should always be considered.
What is VA pension benefits?
VA Disability Pension is a benefit paid to wartime veterans who have limited or no income, and who are 65 or older, or, if under 65, are permanently and totally disabled due to nonservice connected conditions. VA Disability Pension is unlike traditional pensions which are based on years of employment or service with a company or organization. Veterans who are more seriously disabled may qualify for increased benefits based on Aid and Attendance or being Housebound.
Widows/Widowers and dependent children may also qualify for Death Pension benefits. Death Pension is a needs based benefit paid to an unremarried surviving spouse, or an unmarried child of a deceased wartime veteran.
Generally, you may be eligible if:
- You were discharged from service under conditions other than dishonorable, AND
- You served at least 90 days of active military service one day of which was during a wartime period. If you entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally you must have served at least 24 months or full period for which called or ordered to active duty (There are exceptions to this rule.) AND
- Your countable family income is below a yearly limit set by law (The yearly limit on income is set by Congress.), AND
- You are age 65 or older, OR, you are permanently and totally disabled, not due to your own willful misconduct.
What is countable income for pension eligibility purposes?
This includes income received by the veteran and his or her dependents, if any, from most sources. It includes earnings, disability and retirement payments, interest and dividends, and net income from farming or business.
What assets are considered part of your net worth?
Net Worth means the net value of the assets of the veteran and his or her dependents. It includes such assets as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds and any property other than the veterans’ residence and a reasonable lot area. There is no set limit on how much net worth a veteran and his dependents can have, but net worth cannot be excessive. The decision as to whether a claimant’s net worth is excessive depends on the facts of each individual case. All net worth should be reported and VA will determine if a claimant’s assets are sufficiently large that the claimant could live off these assets for a reasonable period of time. VA’s needs-based programs are not intended to protect substantial assets or build up an estate for the benefit of heirs.
How does the VA calculate your pension?
Your annual pension is calculated by first totaling all your countable income. Then any deductions are subtracted from that total. The remaining countable income is deducted from the appropriate annual pension limit which is determined by the number of your dependents, if any, and whether or not you are entitled to Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits. This amount is then divided by 12 and rounded down to the nearest dollar. This gives you the amount of your monthly payment.
What are aid and attendance and housebound benefits?
Aid and Attendance (A&A) and Housebound benefits are paid in addition to monthly pension. This benefit may not be paid without eligibility for pension. Entitlement to A&A benefits exists when the claimant requires the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting himself-herself from the hazards of his/her daily living environment.
Entitlement also exists when the claimant is bedridden, a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity or blind. Entitlement to Housebound benefits exists when the claimant is permanently and substantially confined to his/her immediate premises due to medical disability.
How do I apply?
Davidow, Davidow, Siegel and Stern can review individual qualifications and provide advice and assistance in obtaining valuable VA benefits. Documents that will be needed include, but are not limited to: discharge papers, copies of marriage certificates, copies of medical records and a detailed list of all recurring medical expenses. A copy of the veteran’s death certificate is needed for a surviving spouse’s application for benefits.
Request a copy of our special report entitled, “Veterans Administration Aid and Attendance Benefit” for more detailed information.