In March, I wrote about the Aid and Attendance Veterans’ Benefits program in the post “Veterans’ Benefits for Dad and other US Veterans”. Saturday I went to a seminar about this VA program at a local senior living center. This for-profit company presents seminars for the public as part of its marketing strategy. The programs are free and usually include topics of general interest to the community.
I signed up for this program thinking it would be presented by the woman in our county who coordinates applications for this benefit. Instead it was presented by two speakers from two different organizations. In addition, there were pamphlets and experts available to talk about other programs available that might be of interest to senior citizens.
The first presenter was a financial planner. I was a bit put off by his presentation which seemed to be designed to get him clients. However, the slides he presented were accurate though his slant was that it was too difficult to apply yourself and you should hire his company to do it for you.
This financial planner also pointed out that there is no “look back” period for Aid and Attendance the way there is for Medicaid. So his company could help you move assets to meet the requirements of the program. Later during the 2nd part of the program I asked how soon one could apply knowing the waiting period was up to a year or more. This financial planner jumped right in with his plan to move assets immediately to qualify now and just apply now. I said I wasn’t interested in doing that as it felt unethical to me. This program was set up for people who need help. I don’t believe people in more fortunate circumstances should use these tactics to qualify for something they otherwise wouldn’t qualify for. Yes, it is legal, but to me it didn’t look like the “right thing to do”.
The second presenter was more unbiased though she was an employee of the Senior Living Company that owned the Independent Living Facility where the seminar took place. She had many years of experience helping veterans and their widows to apply for this benefit. Another woman who was present worked for the (local) federal office that helped with these applications (though it is in a city about 60 miles away.)
The basic information about this program was presented in my post linked above. However, I will reiterate some basic points. For a veteran to be eligible, he must have served at least one day during wartime (WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War and the Gulf War). Another important requirement is that the veteran or spouse must require help with at least 3 activities of daily living such as bathing, medication management, etc. A doctor must certify medical eligibility.
The income must be under the limits listed (different for veteran alone, married veteran or veteran’s widow). The income counted however, excludes the cost of the Assisted Living Facility or nursing home which is considered a medical expense. Thus for many like my dad, there is no income to count after deducting his medical expenses from his social security and pension.
Some important points that I picked up today that I did not realize before were (1) you cannot even apply until the assets are below $80,000 and the first speaker implied they must be under $50,000 to be approved though the second speaker didn’t agree with that. (2) There is a waiting period that I was aware of but it could be as short as 2 months or longer than a year. And (3) While the veteran can own a home and its value is not counted against the $80,000 asset limit, once the home is sold the proceeds do count as assets. This could mean that if the veteran is collecting benefits and then the home is sold, he could have to pay back the money already collected!
This might be an important consideration for me and my dad when deciding whether to apply as the process requires time and documentation and the benefits could end up being a loan! I have stated previously that my dad owns a nice home he is unable to live in it because of his physical and mental disabilities. Thus my brother lives alone in this large home and yet pays no rent, and does not pay the taxes or insurance either. This has been a bone of contention between myself and my brother for a long time as I would like to sell the home to pay for dad’s care.
Another factor mentioned that is somewhat ambiguous is the fact that approval of the application is also dependent on the age of the veteran and his financial resources. Thus if a younger veteran applies his need would be considered greater than an older veteran who might not outlive his resources. One website (www.payingforseniorcare.com/longtermcare/resources/veterans) states “The final determination also considers a veteran’s age, care expenses and life expectancy”.
This also might determine whether I apply for dad or not. Since dad is already in his mid-90’s, I expect his assets would have to be lower than $80,000 for him to be approved. With the cost of a nursing home at almost $12,000 per month, if he ended up in one he would probably be out of funds before the forms were even processed. And, once a veteran is on Medicaid, he is not eligible for Aid and Attendance.
So the whole process is a bit more complicated than it first appeared. Since I would still like to sell dad’s house while he is still alive, and would sell it afterwards in any case to settle the estate, it might not be worth the effort to obtain this benefit for him. I will just have to wait and see how his circumstances change over the next 6 to 12 months.
Some links that I noted in my earlier post on veterans benefits will be listed again here. [VA Benefits Administration:; What Are Aid and Attendance and Housebound Benefits: and California Advocates of Nursing Home Reform: Veterans Affairs Aid and Attendance Benefits and Paying for Senior Care; VA Aid and Attendance Program and Other Pension Benefits for Elderly Veterans ]
Also, while at this seminar I obtained some interesting information about a local organization that does in-home care and also has a stand-alone hospice. I plan to follow up and visit this hospice in the near future. My goal for dad is to avoid hospitals and nursing homes if I can since he deteriorated so fast last year when he was hospitalized and then released to the nursing home. Fortunately, his health and mental abilities have improved quite a bit since he is back in his assisted living facility.
Recently I told dad’s physician that I didn’t want him to go to a nursing home at all no matter what and she was skeptical that I could avoid it. She said I needed to accept that he probably would end up in a nursing home. However, I don’t accept that idea yet and I hope I can come up with a viable alternative. With dad’s Alzheimer’s I just want to make life easy for him and avoid situations that cause fear and confusion. If he ends up with a diagnosis of terminal anything, I would like him to skip the hospital and use hospice instead. Maybe I won’t have the option when bad things start to happen, but that is my goal!