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Are You Accessing the VA Benefits Available to You for Long-Term Care?

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There are numerous benefits available to Florida senior veterans and their

dependents from the Department of Veterans Affairs. From health care benefits and

funeral assistance to monies tied to pension and service-connected disability

compensation, there are a myriad of benefits available. Unfortunately, many

veterans today are only accessing a fraction of the resources that exist to help them

and their families live in comfort.


For many, there is a misconception that to access these benefits the veteran must

have a service-connected disability. While VA Disability Compensation exists as a

“tax free monetary benefit paid to Veterans with disabilities that are the result of a

disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service,” it is only one

benefit available to veterans. It exists to support veterans who were injured during

service and “may also be paid for post-service disabilities that are considered

related or secondary to disabilities occurring in service and for disabilities presumed

to be related to circumstances of military service, even though they may arise after

service.”


What many do not know, even veterans themselves, is that there are also monthly,

tax-free benefits available to wartime veterans and their dependents who were not

injured during service. Perhaps the least used of the monthly benefits available is

VA Pension. The VA Pension is a payment made each month to the veteran. It has

three levels: basic, homebound, and aid and attendance, and can be received by the

veteran, his or her surviving spouse, or dependents, or a combination of qualifying

individuals.


For Florida seniors who are veterans, this can be a tremendous benefit available to

help them pay for the high costs of long-term care. Unfortunately, there is no

automatic qualification to receive this benefit for the veteran and/ or his or her

dependents. To qualify, the first test the veteran must pass is that of having a

qualifying service record. The veteran must be able to prove that he or she served

for a consecutive 90 days with at least one of those days occurring during a period

of war. The veteran must also show that he or she was discharged under conditions

other than dishonorable.


As a veteran, or the loved one of a veteran, the above mentioned` information can

be found on the DD Form 214. This is a Certificate of Release or Discharge that

outlines details such as the military service dates, assignments, the reason(s) for

leaving service as well as the characterization of your discharge. If you need to

acquire the DD Form 214, you can obtain one from The National Personnel Records

Center using SF Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records.


The rules governing the VA Pension program changed substantially on October 18,

2018. To qualify now, in addition to the wartime service test, the veteran must also

qualify in several more ways. There is now a resource limit established for the

veteran’s assets. Prior to this rule change there was no set amount in place. This

amount will change annually, with the amount for 2019 being $126,240, less

excluded assets that the veteran is allowed to own.


The VA also established with this rule change a thirty-six month “look-back” period.

This is a time period, similar to the Florida Medicaid program, during which the

Department may review assets to determine if they have been transferred away for

less than fair market value. If it is found that a transfer was made during the "look

back" period, then a penalty period may be assessed that is commiserate with the

gift that was made.


These are just a few examples of how the rules for the VA Pension program have

changed. Again, similar to the Florida Medicaid program, we can only expect that

the rules will change again in the future as more Americans need assistance, unless

the budget for these programs is increased significantly. We encourage you to ask

us your questions on this or any other elder care related matter. We are your

community law firm here to support you.

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