Elder Care Tips in Light of the Changes to the VA Pension Rules

The rules governing the VA Pension program changed last year on October 18, 2018. Previously, although the program had regulations, qualification was not clearly defined for the veteran and his or her dependents who needed to claim benefits. This may have been one of the causes of countless claims for pension being delayed for excessive periods of time or even denied.

VA Pension is a unique benefit for veterans. It is not tied, in any way, to service connected disability. It is a monthly, tax-free amount of money that is tied to the veteran’s service record. To begin to consider eligibility, the veteran must have served for ninety consecutive days of active service with at least one of those days occurring during a period of war. To determine if you, or your veteran loved one, has a qualifying service record you may find this information on the DD Form 214. This is a Certificate of Release or Discharge that contains information including military service dates, assignments, the reason(s) for leaving service, as well as, the characterization of discharge.

Many veterans and their loved ones can use this benefit to help them pay for long-term care needs in or outside the home. The cost of long-term care continues to rise and, unfortunately, most California seniors are not able to afford to pay for the services they need within their monthly income. Instead, they must turn to either savings or public benefits, such as Medi-Cal and VA Pension, that may be available to help them pay for it.

Under the new rules there is a countable asset threshold. The household of the veteran trying to claim benefits cannot have more than $126,240, less excluded assets that he or she is allowed to own. This amount is expected to change each year with a cost of living increase similar to the Social Security program.

The new rules also added a “look-back” period. Similar to the Medi-Cal program, a look-back period is one under which the public benefits program may look at the financial records of the applicant to determine if a transfer of money that could have been used to pay for care was made. If it was determined that this occurred, the VA will be able to disqualify the veteran for a period of time based on the amount of the uncompensated transfer.

We encourage you to learn more about the VA pension program. As a wartime veteran, this is one of the benefits that are available to you and may be able to help you plan to be able to afford the long-term care you need. Do not wait to learn more from our team or ask us your questions in an appointment.

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