The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has announced in December its 2022 rate increases for certain non-service-connected disability wartime military veterans, not dishonorably discharged or their surviving spouse to help pay for care costs ranging from being housebound to long-term care costs. However, since these benefits are paid one month in arrears, the first increased payment should not be received until January. The maximum net worth (exclusive of certain non-countable resources such as the homestead assuming the homestead is not more than two acres although some exceptions apply) is $138,488 for year 2022 for eligibility for this pension program.
The new monthly pension payments range from $1,317 to a widow of a wartime veteran to $2,431 for a wartime veteran who is married (which includes “Aid and Attendance”). Our website, www.dallaselderlawyer.com has posted the new VA rates in addition to new numbers in connection with Medicaid eligibility to help pay for long-term care costs.
Many non-service-connected disabled wartime (which means service during a period of war as defined by VA) veterans or their surviving spouse take advantage of these benefits to help subsidize their care costs. For example, if the veteran (or their surviving spouse) is in an assisted living facility, memory care unit, or nursing home and the countable resources of the veteran (and spouse if applicable) or widow of the veteran are less than $138,488 (exclusive of the homestead and certain other excluded resources), then VA will help pay for such care costs by making monthly pension payments as set forth above. Since payments are directly received (just like Social Security), it does not matter what facility the claimant is residing in (although independent living facilities generally would not qualify). The payments are not subject to income taxation.
Since eligibility for these benefits are “means-tested” (countable resources must be below $138,488), it is presently common practice to do various planning (i.e., trusts, purchase of non-countable resources, and gift planning subject to a three year look-back period) to be eligible for these benefits or retain these benefits. If the claimant is otherwise eligible for benefits (before any gift or transfer), then a transfer or gift will not result in a transfer penalty. One common problem is that if the veteran’s home is sold after eligibility, then this could result in ineligibility (since they would have cash instead of a home that is non-countable) and VA could demand repayment of benefits received. This situation could be avoided with a properly drafted trust. This is particularly important if the property has increased in value.
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