The Government’s Best-Kept Secret

Retirement Planning FOXBusiness

If you ask an elderly Veteran if they qualify for an additional pension from the VA to help pay for their long-term care costs, they will probably tell you, “I’m not eligible because I wasn’t injured in the war.” This is a common misconception, which keeps many Veterans from tapping into a benefit they deserve.

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Veterans who are 65+, disabled Veterans and their spouses can qualify for large sums of money to help pay for long-term care costs, but they have to apply for the benefit. The pension designed to help elderly Veterans and widows pay for costly home care, assisted living expenses and/or nursing home costs is called the Special Monthly Pension with Aid and Attendance.

The Special Monthly Pension with Aid and Attendance is the government’s best-kept secret. I cannot tell you how many Veterans have told me they called the Veteran Affairs office and were told this pension does not exist or they did not qualify. The pension really does exist, but learning how to qualify your family member for this benefit takes careful planning.

To qualify for this pension, Veterans must be disabled or age 65, and have served in the military during wartime. For World War II and Korean Veterans, they must have had 90 days of active service with at least one of those days served during a declared time of war. Six months of active duty is required for a Veteran who served during the Vietnam War and/or two years of active duty is required for Veterans serving during the Gulf War. The Veteran who applies for this benefit must have been honorably discharged.

Why should you investigate this?

  1. Of the 23 million Veterans in the U.S. who could qualify for this benefit, approximately 183,000 Veterans are now receiving the pension.
  2. Success is all in the paperwork. The paperwork might feel pretty daunting for the Veteran who wants their application to be complete. Done right, the application could be approved and benefits could begin in one to six months after the application is submitted. If the application paperwork is done incorrectly and the application is declined, the Veteran then can reapply all over again, but the wait for a second review of the paperwork can take a while.  
  3. Most Veterans who have financial resources will be in one of two situations. They are either preplanning for the time their health will change or crisis planning when they need the benefit now due to the current costs they have for home care, medications, assisted living expenses, or nursing home costs.

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No matter which situation your family member is in, financial qualification for the benefit is a necessary part of the application. That’s where you need the assistance of a financial advisor to guide you through the process and help you with your current investment situation.

To financially qualify for this aid and attendance pension, the Veteran may need to restructure or retitle their personal assets. They also need to complete the application to show the monthly, non-reimbursed, recurring health care expenses they have for their own care or their spouse. The assets they own individually and jointly must be placed on the application as well. There are special forms to fill out which will need to be completed and sent in with the application to indicate the monthly and annual expenses. You must also include a doctor’s report and/or a facility report, which itemizes the expenses charged to the Veteran and their spouse.

Many Veterans have assets and financial resources, which far exceed the limits the Veterans Administration allows. His or her assets can be repositioned or restructured to allow the Veteran to financially qualify for the benefit. By having clear guidance from a financial advisor who specializes in this program, the Veteran can qualify for a pension they probably didn’t know existed. Be sure to complete any restructuring or repositioning work with the assets before submitting the application for the Aid and Attendance pension, or there may be disqualification for the pension by not meeting the very strict financial requirements of the VA.

A word of caution: Do not let any agent or service complete the application to the Veterans Administration or charge you for their help. There’s an old law going back to the Civil War that prohibits anyone from charging the Veteran more than $10 to help him/her apply for a benefit they are already entitled to. Unfortunately, many unscrupulous agents and financial advisors have been charging the family of the Veteran (instead of the Veteran) to get around this law.

Why is it important to plan now? Right now, there’s only a one-day look-back for your application. This means the VA permits a Veteran and his/her spouse or widow to reposition or retitle their assets one day before their application is submitted to help them financially qualify. With a financial advisor who specializes in this benefit, you can take advantage of the strategies that the VA permits to help you receive this benefit; no matter what amount of money you have saved for retirement.

There is also a bill in Congress waiting for approval that suggests changing the look-back to three years. If it passes, the Veteran could lose out of a $24,000+ additional annual income to help them pay for long-term care expenses because they didn’t plan in advance.

Best advice? Don’t wait until a health crisis strikes. Plan now so that when your health changes you can take advantage of this little-known benefit that you, as a Veteran, are entitled to.

Where can you get more information about the Aid and Attendance pension for wartime Veterans?

  1. You can always contact the VSO (Veterans Service Officer) in your county about this benefit or look on the VA website: www.VA.gov.
  2. Attend a talk or workshop about the benefit to find out more information and to ask some questions.

Whether you’re in crisis mode or in preplanning mode for this pension benefit, you need the information to help you make a decision. By doing some planning now, the transition can be easier when you actually need financial assistance to help you pay for care later on. If you’re in a crisis mode and your monthly expenses for care are quickly draining your savings and investment accounts, be sure to find a qualified financial advisor to help you with the aid and attendance benefits you rightfully deserve.

There are many Veterans and their spouses who do not have many assets and will need this pension. Some may not have enough money to last a few more months. Finding out about the aid and attendance pension could be a real godsend.

Yes, the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit has been one of the government’s best-kept secrets, until now. Don’t wait any longer to access or plan for this benefit, which you earned through your service in our military. It can help you to breathe a big sigh of relief and help you to prepare for the future when your health will change.

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