As a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran, you are likely entitled to a number of service-related benefits. Most of those benefits you probably already know about: however, there is one benefits program you may not have heard of yet – the Veterans Aid & Attendance program (VA&A). As a senior, the benefits provided by the VA&A program may be invaluable. A Vero Beach veteran benefits attorney at Kulas & Crawford explains how much you might receive in VA&A benefits if you qualify.
What Is the Veterans Aid and Attendance Program?
The Veteran’s Aid & Attendance (VA&A) program is intended to provide additional monetary assistance, above and beyond that provided by other VA programs such as the VA pension program. The additional assistance is intended to help cover the cost of someone to help you with daily tasks of living, such as dressing, bathing, or cooking.
How Much Might I Receive in VA&A Benefits?
The maximum benefit amount for Veterans Aid & Attendance will depend on the category under which you qualify and will be subject to change each year. For 2020, the following maximum benefit amounts apply:
Veterans with no dependents:
- Basic pension income limit: $13,752
- Housebound income limit: $16,805
- Aid & Attendance Income Limit $22,938
Veterans with a spouse or child:
- Basic pension income limit: $18,008
- Housebound income limit: $21,063
- Aid & Attendance Income Limit $27,194
Surviving spouse or death pension:
- Basic pension income limit: $ 9,223
- Housebound income limit: $11,273
- Aid & Attendance Income Limit $14,761
Understanding the New Resources Limit and Look-Back Rule
In 2018, two important changes were made to the VA&A eligibility guidelines. First, the VA implemented an asset limit of $129,094 for 2020. This figure, which will include the assets of one’s spouse (if married), will increase annually as Social Security benefits are increased. Some assets are not counted, including a primary home on up to 2 acres of land (acreage in excess of 2 acres will be counted), household goods, a personal vehicle, and personal items, such as clothing. One thing that is counted toward your net worth limit is income. Your monthly income is multiplied by 12 and added to your other countable assets. You can, however, deduct unreimbursed medical expenses from your income.
The other important change is that the VA now uses a “look back rule” similar to what Medicaid uses when evaluating an applicant’s assets. The look-back period is 36-months, meaning that the VA “looks back” through an applicant’s finances for asset transfers made for less than fair market value. If any transfers are found, they could lead to the imposition of a penalty period during which time the applicant is not eligible for benefits. The penalty period for violating the look-back period is calculated using the Maximum Annual Pension Rate, abbreviated as MAPR, for the Aid & Attendance Pension category for a veteran plus a dependent. As of Dec. 1, 2018 through Nov. 30, 2019 the pension rate is $26,765 / year ($2,230 / month). The length of the penalty period is determined by dividing the amount of excess assets by the MAPR of $2,230. By way of illustration, imagine that you have non-exempt assets valued at $100,000 but you also gifted your adult child a vacation home valued at $100,000 last year. Using the VA rules, you have non-exempt assets of $200,000 which is $72,939 over the limit ($200,000 – $127,061= $72,939). Your penalty period of ineligibility would be 33 months ($72,939/$2,230=32.71 rounded up to 33).
Contact a Vero Beach Veteran Benefits Attorney
To learn more, please download our FREE solid estate plan checklist. If you have additional questions or concerns about the benefits you may be entitled to under the VA&A program, please contact an experienced Vero Beach veteran benefits attorney at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to discuss your legal options.