Changes on the Horizon for Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Pension

Family members who take care of someone with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia struggle to find a government benefit that pays for care either at home or in assisted living.  Medicaid pays for long-term care in a nursing home if there is a medical necessity.  The Medicaid rules do not define Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia as a medical necessity.  There is a group of seniors who receive a benefit if they suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia: Veterans and their spouses who have served during a period of war.

The Veteran’s Aid and Attendance Pension is a non-service connected pension.  It is for Veterans who have  low income, low assets, and high unreimbursed medical expenses.  Now, there is a bill proposed in the United States Senate that would make it more difficult for Veterans to qualify for this pension.

S. 3270, a bill titled: “To amend title 38, United States Code, to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to consider the resources of individuals applying for pension that were recently disposed of by the individuals for less than fair market value when determining the eligibility of such individuals for such pension, and for other purposes,” has recently been introduced by Senators Wyden (D-Ore) and Burr(R-NC).  This resolution seeks to amend 38 U.S.C. §1522  in order to discontinue or deny pension benefits to veterans who are otherwise eligible under 38 USC §§1521 &1513.  Yet this period of ineligibility is not permanent or otherwise indefinite, rather calculated by taking the total net value of the assets disposed of and dividing that number by the monthly pension benefits the veteran would have otherwise been eligible to receive. Those veterans who would become ineligible are those who have disposed of assets from the corpus of their estate for less than fair market value within the 36 month “look back” period.  A disposition of assets is said to be below fair market value if it diminishes the corpus of the veteran’s estate, beyond what the Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs would deem reasonable under the circumstances.  Dispositions falling under the proposed law include transfers to trusts, annuities and other investments and instruments.  It is important to note that the above limitations also apply to children and surviving spouses.

Despite the well delineated parameters that define the applicability of the proposed law, there is a savings provision which states that there shall be no denial or discontinuance of benefits upon a showing that either the assets have been returned to the corpus of the estate, or such denial or discontinuance would serve an undue hardship.

This bill was introduced to Congress on June 6, 2012 and is yet to be referred to committee (Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs).

Written by Michael V. Malone and Todd A. Marquardt

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