Senior VA Benefits – Concerns
Q: How do I know that I qualify for an improved pension (Aid & Attendance)?
A: The VA will require that your physician fill out a form establishing that the claimant requires daily assistance from others in order to dress, bathe, cook, eat, leave home, etc. The claimant does NOT have to require help in ALL these areas. There simply must be adequate medical evidence that the claimant cannot function alone.
Q: How do I know that I qualify for Housebound?
A: A physician’s statement is also required for Housebound (and the VA will automatically consider it if the claimant does not fully qualify for A&A). The criteria for Housebound requires that the claimant needs regular assistance and must be in a protective environment.
Q: How do I know that I qualify for Basic Pension?
A: A Veteran who served in the military 90 days, one of which was during the eras that was considered a wartime period is eligible for a basic pension if he meets the net worth and income criteria. The same is true for the surviving spouse.
Q: Is there a “look back” period for Improved Pension?
A: The VA will look at any asset transfers 36 months prior to the application.
Q: I am my father’s Power of Attorney; how is that handled?
A: The VA does NOT recognize a POA unless they have approved the individual for that designation. If you are simply a POA for convenience purposes, it is much quicker to have your parent manage and sign the forms themselves. If your parent is not capable of managing his/her own affairs in that manner, then the VA will want to set up an interview with you in order to determine if you are the appropriate fiduciary for the claimant.
Q: What happens if my claim is denied for excessive income?
A: Denial is often only the beginning of the process. You then have one year to collect receipts etc. on your medical expenses.
Q: Can I send the claim to any VA office?
A: No, the claim package must go to the Regional VA Office that serves the area in which the claimant resides. Do not send claim packages to VA medical centers or other facilities. They must go to the regional office that serves your region.
Q: My mother is applying for the surviving spouse’s A&A; does she need to have a marriage license?
A: She needs the marriage certificate, not license. The certificate establishes that the wedding did indeed take place. If you cannot find the certificate, you may need to contact the Clerk of Courts office in the county where your parents were married. You do need to have this document so the VA can establish that your mother has a legitimate claim to the benefits earned by your father’s service.
Q: My father was married before he married my mother; does the VA need any of that information?
A: Yes, you will need to provide the following: where the marriage took place, when, to whom, what date it ended, where, and how. The VA needs to be able to establish that the previous marriage ended through the appropriate legal channels in order to establish the legitimacy of your mother’s claim to the benefits.
Q: What portion of assisted living expenses is considered deductible?
A: If the VA determines that the claimant is deserving of Aid & Attendance or Housebound benefits, then ALL of the costs are deductible. The VA Operating Manual states: “Allow all reasonable fees paid to the facility as long as the facility provides some medical or nursing services for the disabled person. These services do not have to be furnished by a licensed health professional.
Q: If my mother sells her house before moving into Assisted Living, does she have to count that money as income?
A: No, it does not count as income, but as soon as she puts it in the bank, it will become part of her net worth. If your mother has plans to sell her house, then it is always best to take care of these issues before applying for A&A. How she disperses the money from the sales is between her and her financial advisor, but any money she retains in savings accounts, CDs, IRAs etc. will be considered part of her net worth.