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Vets, don't overlook aid, attendance benefits

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POSTED: January 19, 2011 9:45 a.m.

If you are a veteran or the widow(er) of a veteran, you may be entitled to collect $1,000 to $2,000 tax-free per month that you earned through service to our country.  Many Bryan County residents, like most veterans nationwide, are still unaware of the aid and attendance benefit available through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Designed to help pay for health-care, this benefit can be a lifesaver if you are facing the challenge of paying spiraling costs while maintaining your quality of life.
The VA, by its own admission, has done very little to advertise the existence of this benefit. World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans and their widows are in need of assistance. Many veterans in our community pass away without ever knowing they were entitled to a monthly check from the VA.
Aid and attendance is a disability pension available to veterans and their widows to assist in paying unreimbursed medical expenses (such as in-home care, assisted living or nursing home care).
To qualify, a veteran must:
• have served at least 90 consecutive days active duty, at least one of those during a wartime period
• have received a general or honorable discharge
• be 65 years or older
• need assistance of another person with at least two activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing or walking
A widow(er) must:
• have been married to the veteran when the veteran died
• not have remarried
• have been married to the veteran at least 12 months unless they have children
• need assistance of another person with at least two activities of daily living
For those who are housebound or have unreimbursed medical expenses greater than your income but do not need assistance with two activities of daily living, there are other cash benefits available.
There are also income and asset limits. This is where many veterans give up before realizing even people with significant income and assets often qualify. Also, the VA does not count residences, vehicles or small life insurance policies as assets.
Those who have significant assets or income should not be discouraged. There are planning techniques available to structure income and assets so that veterans and their widow(er)s can qualify. If you are interested in applying, you should consult an attorney, accredited by the VA, who knows about this benefit.
So what is the benefit worth? Significant tax-free money for those who qualify:
• $1,949/month to a married veteran
• $1,644/month to a single veteran
• $1,056/month to a widow(er)
This is cash paid directly to the veteran or widow(er).
The VA makes no promises about when benefits will begin but once approved, payments are retroactive almost to the date of application. So there is an advantage to applying as soon you can.
Be careful when seeking information about this benefit. Well-meaning VA representatives have given out incorrect information about this benefit as much as 40 percent of the time when contacted. That alone is a good reason to seek professional advice.
If you know of a veteran who might qualify, please let him or her know about aid and attendance. You can make a real difference in that person’s life.

Barid and Smith are partners in the elder law, estate planning and special needs planning law firm of Smith Barid, LLC in Savannah.

 

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