The short answer is "maybe."
VA Pension benefits were created to assist with the veteran, and his or her surviving spouse's, extraordinary health care needs. Most people refer to this program as "aid and attendance", which is a specific benefit level for those needing the most help. We have more about veteran's benefits for the elderly here.
VA Pension benefits are "needs based", meaning the applicant must have only a certain amount of countable assets. The VA rules basically want the applicant to need the money for their healthcare but that the funds are not intended to provide an inheritance to the children. This means that the applicant is allowed countable asset limits based upon the applicant's age and money they are spending on their healthcare. For instance, a 65 year old veteran may be allowed $80,000 in countable assets but a 90 year old veteran applying for pension may only be allowed to have $30,000 in assets.
So the general rule is that an elder law attorney is not needed to apply for VA benefits if the assets are already within the applicable range. Here, we typically send people to their local Veterans Services office provided by most counties. If the applicant has assets over the limit, then an elder law attorney can help protect assets and only then apply for VA benefits. A good elder law attorney can protect assets with:
- legal gifting;
- asset restructuring;
- irrevocable trust planning;
- and more . . .
One key to all this planning is that whatever is done to protect assets must not interfere with potential Medicaid benefits in the future. We typically use VA Pension benefits to help with in-home and assisted living care while we generally look to Medicaid to pay for the nursing home.
What does this all mean? If your elder is a veteran or is the surviving spouse of a war-time veteran, you should see an accredited Veteran's Benefits attorney to help clarify your situation and if an attorney is needed.
We offer free seminars on Medicaid and VA planning if your elder may need help. Sign up here to attend!