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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Ask Heather - My elderly parents may qualify for the A&A pension benefit.

June 21, 2011

My elderly parents may qualify for the A&A pension benefit. Who do you recommend we contact to help us with the application process and to navigate the Veterans Administration?

The VA’s Aid & Attendance benefit is available to war-time veterans who need assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, or protection from the hazards of the daily environment. The assistance can be provided in the veteran’s own home, in a board and care home (also referred to as a group home or RCFE (Retirement Care Facility for the Elderly)) or in an assisted living facility. This pension provides a married veteran $1,949/month, single veteran $1,644/month, or veteran’s surviving spouse $1,056/month tax-free income to help with care.

In addition to being a wartime veteran needing assistance there are also income and asset limitations to qualifying for the program.

The claims process can be very frustrating if you have not been trained and do not understand the law. You may be denied outright or your claim may take many more months to complete because of information requests and exchanges between you and the VA. I strongly recommend that you use the services of a VA accredited individual or organization, which includes state and county veterans service agencies.

The VA recognizes three groups to assist veterans in the preparation, presentation and filing of claims. VA accredited attorneys, accredited Veterans Service Officers (VSO) and claims agents. You can find a list of these groups by city and state at the VA’s Office of General Counsel’s Accreditation web site. It is against the law to charge for services to help prepare and file the claim.

Whomever you seek out for advice should understand not only the VA laws and rules, but also those for Medicaid (Medi-Cal in CA) and tax laws. These programs are very different and what may be acceptable under one program may have adverse consequences under the other programs. The right professional will help you develop the most appropriate planning to meet your specific needs.

If your parents are in California, I am available to help them navigate all their long-term care issues, including VA and Medi-Cal benefits.

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Heather was wonderful. She explained, in understandable terms, why it is important to establish an estate plan. I never realized what would happen, without a plan in place, and we could not bear the thought of our child in arms of absolute strangers while the court system sorted out his future.

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