Are you a veteran or the surviving spouse of one? If so, you undoubtedly know you are entitled to a number of important benefits as a result of your service or the service of your spouse. One program you may not be familiar with, however, if the Veterans Aid & Attendance (VA&A) program. If you qualify, the VA&A program may provide you with a significant financial benefit each month. The Lincolnshire veterans benefit planning attorneys at Hedeker Law, Ltd. explain just how much you might be entitled to in Veterans Aid & Attendance benefits.
What Is the Veterans Aid and Attendance Program?
The Veteran’s Aid & Attendance (VA&A) program is intended to provide additional monetary assistance, above and beyond that provided by other VA programs such as the VA pension program. The additional assistance is intended to help cover the cost of someone to help you with daily tasks of living, such as dressing, bathing, or cooking.
How Much Might I Receive in VA&A Benefits?
The maximum benefit amount for Veterans Aid & Attendance will depend on the category under which you qualify and will be subject to change each year. For 2019, the following maximum benefit amounts apply:
Veterans with no dependents:
- Basic pension income limit: $13,537
- Housebound income limit: $16,540
- Aid & Attendance Income Limit $22,577
Veterans with a spouse or child:
- Basic pension income limit: $17,724
- Housebound income limit: $20,731
- Aid & Attendance Income Limit $26,765
Surviving spouse or death pension:
- Basic pension income limit: $ 9,078
- Housebound income limit: $11,095
- Aid & Attendance Income Limit $14,529
The New Asset Limit and Look-Back Rules
In 2018, two important changes were made to the VA&A eligibility guidelines. First, the VA implemented an asset limit of $127,061 for 2019. This figure, which will include the assets of one’s spouse (if married), will increase annually as Social Security benefits are increased. Some assets are not counted, including a primary home on up to 2 acres of land (acreage in excess of 2 acres will be counted), household goods, a personal vehicle, and personal items, such as clothing. One thing that is counted toward your net worth limit is income. Your monthly income is multiplied by 12 and added to your other countable assets. You can, however, deduct unreimbursed medical expenses from your income.
The other important change is that the VA now uses a “look back rule” similar to what Medicaid uses when evaluating an applicant’s assets. The look-back period is 36-months, meaning that the VA “looks back” through an applicant’s finances for asset transfers made for less than fair market value. If any transfers are found, they could lead to the imposition of a penalty period during which time the applicant is not eligible for benefits. The penalty period for violating the look-back period is calculated using the Maximum Annual Pension Rate, abbreviated as MAPR, for the Aid & Attendance Pension category for a veteran plus a dependent. As of Dec. 1, 2018 through Nov. 30, 2019 the pension rate is $26,765 / year ($2,230 / month). The length of the penalty period is determined by dividing the amount of excess assets by the MAPR of $2,230. By way of illustration, imagine that you have non-exempt assets valued at $50,000 but you also gifted your adult child a vacation home valued at $120,000 last year. Using the VA rules, you have non-exempt assets of $170,000 which is $42,939 over the limit ($200,000 – $127,061= $42,939). Your penalty period of ineligibility would be 19 months ($42,939/$2,230=19.26 rounded down to 19).
Contact Lincolnshire Veterans Benefits Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for a FREE estate planning seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the Veterans Aid & Attendance program, contact the experienced Lincolnshire veterans benefits planning attorneys at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.