Aid & Attendance is a wonderful benefit that can help wartime veterans or their surviving spouse pay for senior living costs. However, it can be a daunting process to navigate on your own. Learn how using a VA accredited agent can benefit you.
For more information on preparing financially for retirement, check out our Family Guide to Funding Senior Care & Housing!
Understanding Aid and Attendance
Veterans Aid and Attendance can help pay for senior living in independent living or assisted living as well as home health care, adult day care or skilled nursing. If you receive a VA pension you may be eligible for this additional award if you meet at least one of these medical requirements.
What Makes Applying So Complex?
To start, in 2018 the VA made two big changes to the approval process for pensions with the Aid and Attendance benefit:
- The maximum amount of assets a claimant, whether single or married, is allowed to have is now equal to the Community Spouse Resource Allowance defined by Medicaid – which is $129,094 for 2020.
- A three-year look back period for the transfer of assets which means that if you transfer or gift assets during this period, and the asset would have put you over the maximum amount, a penalty period not to exceed 5 years will be calculated based on the portion of the transferred assets that would have made net worth excessive.
While these changes are fantastic for applicants, the information required for the three-year look back information in particular adds an extra layer of complexity which causes this form alone to go from 4-5 pages to 19 pages! When you add in the other forms and supporting documentation; applications are commonly over 40 pages.
The Benefits of Getting Help
But it’s not just the length of the application that makes the process complex, it’s also all understanding all the nuances. Plus, being able to make sense of fact versus fiction as all sorts of myths abound when it comes to Aid and Attendance.
An expert who knows all the rules and regulations, as well as how the VA works can help make the process much easier, and make sure you get the benefits you deserve to pay towards senior living costs. And while the VA may tell you to expect it to take 12 to 18 months for your application to be approved, a VA accredited agent can typically help reduce that time significantly.
Beware of Aid and Attendance Scams
But don’t just accept the help of anyone; there have been numerous instances of people trying to take advantage of veterans who might qualify for Aid and Attendance. Known as pension poaching, they may offer financial strategies to help you get around the rules by transferring enough of your assets for you to meet the VA requirements. But they often leave out the fact that this can easily be caught during the “look back” periods for Aid and Attendance and Medicaid, potentially disqualifying you from these benefits altogether.
In the meantime, they’ve charged you hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees for their ‘services.’
Here’s what to watch out for:
- An organization or individual that contacts you out of the blue and offers to assist you with an Aid and Attendance claim.
- Pressure to act fast.
- Vague or evasive answers to your questions.
And keep in mind, just because “veterans” or “military families” is in an organization’s name doesn’t necessarily mean it’s legitimate.
What to do instead:
- Contact agents accredited by the VA that have the required training to complete and submit claims, as well as help in the appeal process if necessary.
- Carefully read all paperwork related to an investment or application.
- Discuss any proposed pension or investment with a trusted friend or family member before taking action.
Note that VA accredited agents typically offer services either free of charge or for just a minimal fee.
If you’ve been approached or victimized by a pension poacher, you can file a complaint with the FTC.
For more information, check out our Family Guide to Funding Senior Care & Housing!