[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]When it comes to assistance for individuals over age 65 who need at-home, assisted living or nursing home care, there has been no greater secret kept by the federal government than benefits available to wartime veterans called VA Aid and Attendance. Congress created a significant and meaningful benefit to veterans, but because of a lack of funding, many veterans have been kept from “getting the memo.”

It goes without saying that you can’t expect the government to inform you when you are eligible for certain benefits.  A savvy lawyer could make sure you are aware of all the benefits you are entitled to, but most lawyers have been pretty clueless in this particular area until recently.  Of course, “most lawyers” doesn’t include experienced elder law attorneys.  The problem is that the number of such knowledgeable attorneys, while growing, is miniscule in comparison to the demand and opportunity for this benefit.

So, what did Congress do to effectively “hide the ball” on this type of benefit?  Well, to Congress’ credit, it’s not entirely politicians’ fault.  The resulting impact of their legislation was not foreseen.  They actually had the best intentions in mind; they just didn’t think it through as well as they should have. Congress effectively made it illegal to take a fee for advising or processing VA Aid and Attendance benefit claims.  This of course means that if no one can earn a fee, then no professional is around to advise veterans of their rights and opportunities unless the government, or charitable organizations does so itself.  Unfortunately, the government does not seem to be stepping in to correct this situation and educate veterans.

One result of this legislation is that some annuity salesmen across the country have realized that they can make a fee off of their annuity sales, then roll the cost of consulting and the application fees for VA benefits into the profit they make on their annuities. Because annuities, however, are generally small and do not generate a significant enough profit on their own, financial advisors who sell them also are providing consulting services. A common model, therefore, is an annuity sale and consulting arrangement with the agreement that the actual work handled via the application process is at no charge.

Attorneys providing legal services seem to have an easier path toward combining all of these services into their package of services.  This is particularly true if they are not selling annuity products.

Bottom line, the government seems to have it out for individuals who sell annuity products in this type of planning.  This is somewhat justified, as too often an annuity is not a great fit for long term care planning.  The key is to associate with reputable financial advisors and the companies that they represent.

The VA Aid and Attendance benefit can exceed $25,000 for a married veteran.  This is an annual, recurring payment for as long as the veteran is in need of “Aid and Attendance.”  As long as the veteran’s assets remain at the levels the government allows and they continue to have a need for assistance (either at home, assisted living or a nursing home) then such benefits should continue. These benefits are as follows:

 

[/vc_column_text][image_with_animation image_url=”3093″ alignment=”center” animation=”Flip In” img_link_target=”_self”][divider line_type=”Small Line” custom_height=”40″][vc_column_text]In many respects, VA Aid and Attendance planning is very similar to Medicaid planning.  It is need-based.  The goal of both Medicaid and VA Aid and Attendance is to provide a benefit to individuals who otherwise would not have the financial means to secure home care, assisted living or nursing home care on their own.  The key differences in the two programs, however, are significant.  They are as follows:

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  • Medicaid has a 5-year “look back.”  Currently, VA planning does not have a look-back period.
  • In most states, Medicaid planning has historically not provided for in-home care and assisted living.  While that is changing, VA Aid and Attendance clearly provides for both.  I think the folks drafting the legislation for VA Aid and Attendance figured out sooner than the Medicaid folks that creating a system that encouraged moving people into a nursing home where services are paid by the government was not a particularly good system from the government’s standpoint.  At-home care and assisted living care is a much less expensive alternative, and government would save a lot of money by paying for those less expensive services.

While these are the two most significant differences between VA Aid and Attendance planning and Medicaid planning, there are a few other differences.  Some of them make it a little more challenging if you are trying to qualify for the VA Aid and Attendance benefit as well as start the 5-year time clock on Medicaid planning.  Certainly, both opportunities should be considered before deciding on a plan.

There is a need for coordination between VA and Medicaid planning because some situations that qualify an individual for VA Aid and Attendance benefits may disqualify that person from Medicaid benefits for several years.[/fancy-ul][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][/vc_column][/vc_row]