The following is an urgent message that could impact you or a loved one.
On September 18, 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) published its final rule for needs-based benefits, including the VA pension program that assists many of our clients with long-term care related expenses. For example, any gifts that you made in the past 36 months, either to a family member or to an irrevocable trust, would be penalized. Likewise, an investment in an annuity would also be penalized. This means you could be prohibited from qualifying for VA pension benefits for up to 5 years, depending on the amount of the gift.
The new rules, which will become effective on October 18, 2018, establish net worth, asset transfer, and medical expense deduction requirements, and further address various other issues raised in the over 850 comments received by the VA during the public comment period that ended March 24, 2015. As Elder Law Attorneys accredited by the VA to assist clients with their benefit claims, we have been waiting for three and a half years for the final regulations to be published.
I’ve put together this presentation that goes over the highlights of the new rules and I am available to talk in more detail about how important it is to plan now. Here is what is affected:
Throughout this process, the VA has made it clear that Congress intended the pension benefit to be a needs-based benefit, which they define as meaning that the claimant’s income, or both the claimant’s income and assets, is factored into entitlement consideration.
The final rule makes it clear that the rule only affects the pension benefits, and does not impact the following:
- Service-connected disability compensation for a veteran (note – if a Veteran is receiving additional compensation for a dependent parent, then the parent’s income and assets for the additional compensation will be considered)
- Dependent Indemnity Compensation (“DIC”) for surviving spouses or children
- Death compensation for surviving parent, spouses, or children Death compensation for surviving parent, spouses, or children
- Spanish-American War pension
The final rule does impact the following needs-based benefits:
- Pension benefits, which are not service-connected, for veteran and surviving spouse
- DIC for parents
Effective Date and Eligibility Asset Transfers
The VA will not review asset transfers that occurred before the effective date of the final rule and the VA will not apply the new medical expense deduction rules to current claimants unless they change facilities or in-home care providers. Furthermore, if a claimant is receiving a pension on the effective date of the final rule, then the claimant will continue to receive benefits although his or her net worth exceeds the net worth limit established under the final rule, unless the claimant otherwise loses the pension. A claimant with a pending application will not be denied benefits, provided the claimant’s net worth meets the new limit established under the final rule.
The good news is there is still time to apply for VA pension benefits under the current rules! Any assets transferred before October 18 will not be subject to the 36 month look-back period or penalty period rules. Nor will the asset limit be applicable.
It is extremely important to pursue VA pension benefits before October 18, 2018. I urge you to contact my office immediately if you or someone you know could possibly qualify for VA pension benefits.
Amrine Law is here to help you make sense of how this rule will affect you and your need for long term care at home or in independent or assisted living setting. The window of opportunity is closing – if you are a veteran or souse of a veteran and need help with at least two activities of daily living, the VA pension can help. Call us to finalize your plan before the October 18th deadline.
Call our office today to learn how you can qualify before October 18th!