When we assist seniors and their loved ones with long-term care solutions, most of them are so focused on how they will find the right care for a loved one, they have not considered how they will be able to afford it. Unfortunately, the costs of long-term care continue to rise throughout America and our area of Florida is no exception. This additional money that is needed to pay the long-term care bill each month, whether in the home or in a skilled facility, can be hard for many families to find.
For most families, the way they will afford this cost is by spending down their assets in order to pay for this care. This can be detrimental for a number of reasons. First, it can place a tremendous amount of stress on the senior and the family to find a way to afford this care. Second, when the family is spending down the available resources, there is the potential for this spend down to leave the well spouse vulnerable when resources are depleted to the point that he or she cannot provide for his or her monthly expenses. Third, it provides no protection against unexpected future needs should the senior require monetary resources to pay for additional care.
Fortunately, public benefits programs such as Medicaid exist to help seniors and their loved ones afford long-term care. Another such program that is available for veterans and their dependents to pay for this type of care is the VA Pension program. The VA Pension program is a unique monthly benefit that is both tax-free and in no way connected to service-connected disability. It is available to wartime veterans who served for at least ninety days with at least one day during a period of war. As an added benefit, this money is also available to the surviving spouse of a wartime veteran, regardless of whether or not he or she is also a veteran.
In addition to serving during a period of war, veterans must be able to qualify financially for this program. The rules governing the VA Pension program were drastically changed on October 18, 2018. One of the major changes was the creation of a countable asset limit for the claimant, or the veteran, and his or her spouse. Under this new part of the rule, the veteran cannot have more than $126,240 in the year 2019. This would also be a combined total with his or her spouse, if the veteran had a spouse at the time of filing the claim.
Another significant change was to create a “look-back period” for the VA Pension. A “look-back” period is a time period under which the VA may examine the assets of the veteran to determine if he or she gave away monies that could have been used to pay for care. Under the new rules, the VA is utilizing a thirty-six month “look-back” period. If the VA ascertains that a disqualifying transfer was made during this time period, then a penalty period of up to five years could be assessed against the veteran.
These are just two ways the VA Pension rules have recently changed. We encourage you to ask us your questions about how to file a claim for this type of assistance and gain insight on the steps you need to take. Remember, we work with Florida families just like yours to help them find and obtain the long-term care they need both now and in a crisis.