The Department of Veteran Affairs has provided a significant resource known as the Improved Pension Program to assist Veterans and widows of veterans who have served their nation during a time of war with the long term care needs that they might experience. This program is, in my opinion, an excellent example of a Government Program that is done right. It is not a hand out – it is a pension that our veterans have earned by their sacrifice to our country. Moreover, it doesn’t require a Veteran to be impoverished and destitute before he or she qualifies. It preserves dignity.
The Power of Preserving Dignity
One client of mine, a proud veteran of World War II who had worked his entire life to save for he and his wife, saw the writing on the wall – he recognized that his savings would not provide for the skilled nursing care that his medical conditions required – and it broke his heart. He turned to his daughter one day during his rehab stint at a nursing home and said with tears in his eyes – “I’m going to die a pauper.” He had worked 45 years, raised two successful daughters, lived a good life – and he saw it all slipping away in the face of staggering monthly health care bills.
This painful place that he found himself is, unfortunately, commonplace. Far too many proud, wonderful people find themselves there. I am thankful every time someone who feels this despair calls my office. Because, fortunately, programs like the veteran’s pension that I have outlined above can radically change a person’s financial future. I was able to help the client described above qualify for the improved pension with aid and attendance benefits – a pension that he did not know existed a year before. As a result, he had enough monthly income that he could privately pay for in home care – he would not live out his life “impoverished” in a nursing home. Rather, he had hope that when he completed his rehabilitation he would be able to return home to his wife where she would have the assistance she needed to allow them to live safely at home together. When I left his nursing home room after our business was done – he was smiling. He had hope that the dignity that had marked his life would last until his last breath. I recently spoke with this Veteran’s daughter who told me that he has completed his rehabilitation program at the nursing home and was back at home – getting the care that he needed and having a drastically improved quality of life.
Ways I Can Help
As an accredited VA attorney, it is my job to help veterans determine their eligibility for the Improved Pension program. If it is determined that a veteran is ineligible for the program, but can become eligible by following federal regulations, then my job is to create and execute a plan to establish eligibility.
In order to assist people in becoming eligible for this program, I create Veterans Compliant Irrevocable Trusts, IRS compliant Grantor’s Trusts, Mortgages, Powers of Attorney, Transfer Deeds and Care Giver Contracts. These tools have helped many Veterans qualify for the pensions that allow them to receive comfort and care in their retired years.
If you or a loved one is a veteran or a widow of a veteran, this program can be a Godsend. It can literally change monthly deficits into surpluses and ensure that your loved one gets the level of care that they need to live well during their golden years. Here are some the basic facts about the program:
Facts About the Improved Pension Program:
- Have served at least one day on active duty during a war period.
- Had 90 days consequence active duty (24 months if service was after 1980) – or 90 days of active service during war periods.
- Have received a discharge that was better than dishonorable.
- Be over 65 years of age or 100% disabled.
The Widow must:
- Have been married to the veteran at the time of the veteran’s death.
- Have been married to the veteran for at least 12 months, unless they
had a child.
- Cannot have divorced the veteran (there are very limited exceptions).
- Cannot have remarried (there are some exceptions).
- There are limits on the allowable income.
- The income after subtracting the un-reimbursed medical expenses of the veteran or the widow must be less than the maximum pension for the classification.
- All of the income of the veteran and any dependent must be counted.
- All income from all sources must be counted.
- All of the social security must be counted, not just the taxable portion.
- The total amount of countable assets is limited to the amount that is reasonably expected to be utilized within the veteran or widow’s lifetime.
- Countable assets do not include the residence, burial policies, small life insurance policies, personal property, and auto.
- There is no rule that limits the exact amount.
- There is no rule against giving away assets to qualify.
- IMPORTANT: Gifting of Assets must be done in accordance with Federal Regulations. (Serious repercussions can occur if done improperly.)
- There are three levels:
- Each classification has certain medical requirements.
- The veteran must be over 65 or 100% disabled to qualify for any benefit.
- Basic Pension:
- Is the lowest payment level.
- There are no medical need requirements.
- Pension with Housebound:
- Next highest pension amount.
- Claimant must be housebound:
- Cannot drive.
- Cannot leave home without assistance.
- Claimant does not have to be disabled.
- Pension with Aid and Attendance:
- Highest pension amount.
- Requires that the claimant need the aid and attendance of another person to complete at least three of their daily living requirements (ADLs). Benefit amount is based on the veteran’s health.
Maximum Amounts of Pension for 2010
- Single Vet – $19,736
- Married Vet – $23,396
- Widow of Vet -$12,681
Any pension received from this program is tax free.