Proposed Modification to Veterans Pensions

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs is seeking to modify its regulations for Veterans Pensions without submitting its proposals to Congress.

Currently, a veteran who served during wartime and has either a non-service connected disability or is over the age of 65 can receive a “Veterans Pension” to help pay for long-term care. Currently, the veteran must meet income and asset requirements. The veteran with a dependent may receive a maximum of $2,120 per month to offset the costs of long-term care. A surviving spouse may qualify for the pension as well, but at a reduced amount with a maximum of $1,149. These amounts help offset the costs of assisted living and in home care, which keep the veteran out of the more costly nursing home and off of Medicaid.

Some of the changes which are harmful to veterans are as follows:

  • A veteran’s net worth is limited to $119,220, but the annual income is included in net worth.   This is more restrictive than the current asset limit for Medicaid, which is set at the $119,220 but excludes income. In each case, this limitation is adjusted for inflation annually.
  • A veteran’s home remains non-countable in net worth, provided that the lot area is no more than 2 acres. This will be more of a problem for veterans who do not live in the Northeast where land is less expensive. However, is it fair to ask a veteran in Montana to sell his home for $100,000 to qualify when a veteran in Boston is allowed to keep his $500,000 home?
  • A deduction of the cost of a home-care worker’s wages will be capped at the national average. Is it fair to penalize a veteran in the Northeast where the cost of living is higher?
  • A 36 month look back period will be triggered by the receipt of an original claim or a new claim following a period of non-entitlement and creates a maximum 10-year waiting period for gifts. Unfortunately, only transactions that resulted from fraud, misrepresentation, or unfair business practices can be rebutted as a gift. Once again, this is more restrictive than Medicaid, which states that transfers made for reasons other than to qualify for long term care benefits incur a penalty period. This means that every birthday gift and every donation to a charity or a place of worship will count as a gift and incur a disqualification period.
  • The penalty will only be cured by the beneficiary of the gift returning the entire amount. Also, the cure must occur within 30 days of the date of the application to the VA. Many veterans will be caught completely by surprise of a penalty period as they do not seek help in preparing the application. Due to the backlog at the VA, it takes months to receive a decision and this rule will not allow the veteran to cure the transfer.
  • The penalty period will be calculated in such a way that a surviving spouse’s penalty for transfer is nearly double the amount of time for the penalty of the predeceasing veteran.
  • Care provided by independent living facilities (ILF) can no longer qualify as care unless the ILF provides or contracts with third parties for custodial or medical care . Independent living facilities provide care for those who can no longer drive and need help managing medications and basic activities like food preparation.
  • Assets held in trust are also coming under fire. Veteran, spouse or surviving spouse may not benefit in any way from distributions a trust.   One exception has been set forth. A veteran may fund a trust for the benefit of a disabled child but only if that child became disabled before the age of 18.

Please take a moment to read the proposed regulations, which can be found at:!documentDetail;D=VA-2015-VBA-0003-0001

Your comments to the regulations may be submitted to the VA through March 24th by clicking on the blue ‘comment now’ button on the website link above. Please take a moment to review and comment on the proposed regulations. Elders should have the support to keep them out of the nursing home as long as possible.

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