Veteran's Benefits Planning – 11/22/10

Would you like to uncover some extra cash to pay for all those home-related medical expenses? I'm not talking about finding a few nickels and dimes.... I'm talking about discovering ten or twenty thousand dollars a year! The program is the VA aid and attendance benefit.

How much cash can we get under this wonderful program? The top amount is $19,728 if you are single, and $23,340 if you are married. So that's real money.

There are a number of requirements. Most important, you or your spouse must have served in the military for 90 days, at least one during wartime, and you must not have a dishonorable discharge. You must need help with activities of daily living, like dressing or bathing. And your savings, apart from your home and car, must not exceed $50,000 if you are single, or $80,000 if you are married.

The value of the house doesn't matter when qualifying for benefits as long as you are living there.

You can even give assets away in order to qualify for this benefit. You can give money to children or others, or you can put assets into an irrevocable trust. And this is different from Medicaid: there is no penalty or look back period for these VA benefits. That means once you transfer excess funds, you can immediately apply!

Although this sounds like a good deal, give it some thought prior to simply giving away assets to qualify for aid and attendance benefits. There are a number of reasons why you might not want to give up your assets. You lose control. If you give assets to kids, you become dependent on them, and if you want your assets back the "happy recipient" may or may not give them to you. If you put assets into a trust to protect them, the trust must be irrevocable, and that means you can't later change your mind and take them out. And maybe most important, giving assets away or putting them into trust may make you ineligible for Medicaid for as much as 5 years. While there's no look back period under VA benefits, there is under Medicaid.

If you one of the many folks who are eligible but haven't taken advantage of valuable va aid and attendance benefits, you need to consider it. The benefits are under used, yet they can be a life saver. If your assets are a little too high, you may be able to take steps to qualify anyhow. But talk to an experienced elder law attorney so you don't make the wrong move.

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