The Increased Importance of Working with a VA Accredited Attorney - The Bradley Law Firm

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In our practice we work with seniors, their loved ones, and their caregivers to find ways to not only obtain good long-term care but to pay for it. When there is a need for long-term care outside the home, seniors and their loved ones may turn to assisted living facilities and skilled nursing homes in the community to receive this care. The services provided in each of these facilities may vary per facility and may also depend on the individual needs of the senior.

The cost of long-term care continues to rise throughout our state, as well as the nation, and for many families affording this new, monthly cost of care is difficult. This can become even more challenging when the senior who needs care outside the home has a spouse who needs his or her monthly income to pay the monthly bills.

Unfortunately, many families have not planned for a future that could include paying for long-term care. Without planning to be able to afford the cost of long-term care, the senior’s assets may be quickly depleted to cover the monthly bill for the long-term care facility. To begin to understand how much long-term care may cost in your state you can look at the Genworth Cost of Long-Term Care Study.

Today there are government benefits programs that can help the senior pay for long-term care costs. The majority of these programs are based on the needs of the senior and his or her spouse. They contain health, income, and asset based thresholds that the senior must meet in order to qualify to receive monetary assistance.

One such program throughout the nation is the VA Pension program. As opposed to service-connected disability, the VA pension program is not related in any way to injury. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides a veteran with qualifying military service and his or her dependent, such as a spouse, a monthly, tax-free benefit that may be used to pay for the cost of long-term care. To be considered a wartime veteran, he or she must have at least ninety days of active duty with at least one day during wartime according to the Department of Veterans Affairs Eligible Wartime Periods.

Recently, on October 18, 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs changed the rules that govern qualifying for this program. There were many substantial changes that impacted the program that we have been helping our clients work through and understand. For example, one of the changes was to establish a countable asset limit for the veteran, also called the claimant, and his or her spouse. Under these new rules, the claimant and his or her spouse cannot have more than a combined $126,240 in the year 2019. This amount is subject to change annually, similar to the cost-of-living increase for Social Security benefits.

Another example of the changes to these VA rules is the thirty-six month “look-back” period. A “look-back” period is one in which the VA may review the assets of the claimant for a period of time prior to when the claim is filed to determine if any monies or assets were given away that could have helped pay for care. If it is determined that a disqualifying transfer was made, then a penalty period of up to five years may be assessed.

These are just two examples of how the VA Pension rules have changed for veterans and their loved ones. There are many considerations that need to be factored into the veteran’s claim for benefits. With these rule changes made by the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is now more important than ever to work with a VA Accredited Attorney. According to the VA, “the VA accreditation program exists to ensure that Veterans and their family members receive appropriate representation on their VA benefits claims. VA accreditation is for the sole and limited purpose of preparing, presenting, and prosecuting claims before VA”. Attorneys, in their individual capacity, are one of the three groups able to be accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

There are many individuals who claim to be able to help veterans and their loved ones with their VA claims. Unfortunately, in most situations, this is not the case. It is critical that veterans work with a VA Accredited attorney to have their questions answered and their claims correctly filed, especially in regard to the changes in the rules. When a claim is not filed correctly, the veteran runs the risk of not gaining access to much needed benefits. We encourage you to not wait to ask us your questions on this, or any other important VA matter. Let us help guide you to the answers you need.

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