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Braden Fraser | VA Pension benefits: A helpful retirement and end-of-life benefit

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Many people are aware that Medicaid provides financial assistance to qualifying individuals to ease the financial burdens of paying for medications, doctor’s visits, and at-home or nursing-home related expenses.

However, fewer are aware that there are corresponding benefits available to veterans and their families. Pension benefits and Aid and Attendance benefits (“A&A”), are provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (the “VA”).

The VA Pension benefits are needs-based supplemental income assistance intended to raise the standard of living of the veteran and spouse to a certain threshold.

A&A benefits are a subset of Pension benefits. These benefits provide veterans with additional monthly funds to assist with of end-of-life expenses such as at-home or nursing-home care. A&A benefits are available to veterans or their spouses who require help from another person in performing everyday tasks, such as bathing, dressing, and eating, are already in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity, or who meet other capacity related criteria. To be eligible for A&A a veteran must:

♦ Meet the qualification requirements for Pension benefits described below.

♦ Need the aid of another (as established by a physician).

To qualify for Pension benefits, a veteran must be age 65 or older and meet certain service and economic criteria. A veteran meets the service criteria for Pension benefits, if they:

♦ Served during either World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or the Gulf War

♦ Were not dishonorably discharged.

The economic qualification requirements are more complex.

To qualify for Pension benefits, a veteran must meet both income and net worth thresholds. The veteran may not earn more per year than the maximum Pension benefit payable in a given year. The current maximum Pension benefit payable is $17,724 for a veteran and spouse. As a result, the couple may not earn more than $17,724 in “countable income” and qualify for Pension benefits. If the couple also qualifies for A&A, the “countable income” threshold rises to $26,766.

Countable income” is calculated by excluding any amounts used to pay for out of pocket medical expenses. The Pension benefit payable to the couple is determined by subtracting the couple’s countable income from the maximum Pension benefit payable to the couple. That difference would be the Pension benefit for the couple, which would be provided to the couple in monthly installments.

The net worth requirement provides that a veteran and spouse also must have a combined net worth under $127,061. The VA’s net worth calculation is unique in that the countable income is included in the net worth calculation, but the personal residence, vehicles, household goods, and personal effects of the veteran and spouse generally are not.

The VA Pension and A&A benefits are a critical, but often overlooked, assistance available to veterans and their families.

In addition to A&A benefits, there are other Pension benefits available to veterans which were not included in this article. If you are a veteran with questions about these benefits, you should seek advice from a VA accredited attorney who can help you determine if you would qualify. It is advisable to seek advice early on since qualification can take up to a year and there are other constraints that make it vital to plan early for these benefits.

 

Braden Fraser is a VA-accredited attorney with Ogden Murphy Wallace, PLLC. He can be reached at 662-1954 or bfraser@omwlaw.com.