Veteran Pension Benefits for Veterans and Widows



Medicaid & Veteran Benefits


Payment for assisted living expenses becomes an issue for veterans and widows. Many vets or their widows face extra expenses when the exigencies to failing health mean that a vet, widow or both have to move into assisted living, a large facility, or a mom and pop operation with only a few residents. The added cost can wipe out a family’s savings in a matter of months or a few years.


The VA benefits available for such events are called Aid and Attendance pensions. There are limits on both assets and income, discussed briefly below. Also there are service and disability requirements. This benefit is separate and distinct from Veteran Disability payments for service related injury or health problems.


The Aid and Attendance pension benefit is a monthly payment to a vet or widow based on income, expenses of assisted living or home care, and other medical expenses such as insurance, copays or meds. As a vet himself, Jim Modrall, is especially proud to help vets or widows qualify for much needed help in paying for the extra cost or assisted living or home care.


What if the vet and spouse have too many assets?


Jim can advise on protection assets in perfectly legal ways to qualify for Aid and Attendance pension payments.


Are annuities a good idea for asset planning?


Annuities can work to qualify, but a vet and spouse have to be careful. There can be problems with annuities in the event that health deteriorates and nursing home care is required. Many annuity sales agents are not familiar with Medicaid rules about annuities and can suggest products that would disqualify a patient from getting Medicaid payment for nursing home care, which now can exceed $8,000 per month.


Do we need to change estate planning trusts and wills to qualify?


Sometimes changes have to be made to meet the VA requirement, which are different from normal estate planning document provisions.




What is Medicaid Planning?


Medicaid Planning is re-positioning of assets or income to meet the requirements for Medicaid Long Term care payments, to cover the cost of Skilled Nursing Facilities, sometimes calls Nursing Homes.


Is it Legal?


Experienced Elder Law attorneys follow federal law and Michigan rules and regulations and make full disclosure in filing Medicaid applications for clients. Jim is a Certified Elder Law Attorney, by the National Elder Law Foundation, one of the few Michigan attorneys with this certification.


Does it make a difference if the patient is married or single?


Yes, different rules apply. In Michigan, we can preserve all the assets of a married patient for the benefit of the family and the healthy spouse (in Medicaid parlance,called the community spouse.) If the patient is single, we can usually preserve a large portion of the patient’s assets.

If a patient is married, can any part of the patient’s income be used for the Community Spouse?


Often we can preserve all or a portion of the patient’s income for the Community Spouse by analyzing and applying the published rules or in some cases by going to court for a protective order. Can the patient have any assets and still qualify for Medicaid help in paying for Nursing Home care? A patient can have a house, a car, and business assets like a farm, a small amount of life insurance, a prepaid funeral, and less than $2,000 in the bank.

Can the patient give away assets to qualify?


Any gift of assets within 5 years (called the “look back”) of the application creates a penalty, calculated as a period of months when the patient is not eligible (called a penalty period).


Can Michigan come back and claim the house after the patient dies?


Michigan has enacted an Estate Recovery Law to permit the state to claim a lien on a patient’s house after death. At the present time that recovery is limited to the Probate Estate. Usually we change the recorded title of the property, in a perfectly legal manner to avoid this possibility under current law and regulations.


Can I handle my Mom’s Medicaid application myself?


Unless Mom has minimal assets, handling the application without professional help can lead to denial, delays and possible penalties. With monthly Nursing home costs of over $8,000 per month, it usually pays to have professional advice and help.


Does a “Medicaid Qualified Annuity” do the job?


Again, many annuity sales people are not professionally qualified to give legal advice on Medicaid qualification. We have found many times that cancelling existing annuities to establish qualification can result in costly penalties, frequently thousands of dollars.

© 2014 James R. Modrall, III


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