by Katherine N. Willett, Attorney; Burroughs/Elijah Attorneys
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides tax-free monetary benefits to eligible veterans and widow(er)s of veterans who are spending money on “medical or nursing services,” including, but not limited to, in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care. A number of factors determine whether a claimant may qualify and to how much he or she may be entitled.
First, the Veteran must be considered a “wartime veteran” who served 90 days active duty, with at least 1 day served during World War II, Korea, or Vietnam. Certain veterans who served during the Gulf War era may also qualify and it is likely that additional wartime periods will be defined in the future. However, a dishonorable discharge disqualifies a veteran or surviving spouse from receiving these benefits.
Second, the claimant’s medical rating directly impacts the maximum monthly benefit amount to which a claimant is entitled. A claimant who is 65 or older qualifies for the “basic” level of benefits. A claimant who is substantially confined to his or her premises without assistance is considered “housebound.” Finally, a claimant who needs regular assistance with at least two activities of daily living, needs to be maintained in a protected environment, or is permanently bedridden (along with a few other specific conditions), qualifies for “Aid and Attendance.” The following table illustrates the amount of VA benefits available to claimants based on their category and medical rating.
Third, a claimant must also be spending a substantial portion of his or her income on “unreimbursed medical expenses” in order to qualify for a reimbursement. Finally, the VA looks at a claimant’s “net worth” to determine if they will have enough assets to provide care during their lifetime. The VA requires that a claimant must essentially be destitute before benefits can be awarded. Unfortunately, this net worth limitation often results in claimants running out of money and options during their lifetime. With proper planning, it is possible to shelter assets and qualify for these essential VA benefits to pay for care.
If you are interested in learning more about Veterans Benefits planning or other estate planning topics, please contact an Elder Law attorney.