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Can Michigan Independent Living Facilities Qualify?

Do they, or, don't they? This is a hot topic facing seniors that are veterans who are currently residing in independent living facilities in metro Detroit and West Michigan. The question involves whether or not the costs of living at a senior living community otherwise qualify as un-reimbursed medical expenses under the Veteran's Administration (VA) non-service connected pension benefit regulations.

The regulations that define aid and attendance allow seniors living in assisted living facilities or private duty nursing homes to count their monthly expenses, including rent AND care, as qualified reimbursable expenses. These expenses, more or less, "trigger" eligiblity for aid and attendance benefits.

Traditionally, only "care" expenses were counted as re-imbursable expenses under federal. Rent at independent facilities would not be counted towards qualification for the benefit even if the applicant received services at the facility and could no longer reside at home. These rules are puzzling given that many seniors choose to receive assistance and in senior apartments that is identical to the services and care offered by true assisted living facilities.

A recent internal letter issued by the office of the general consulate finally resolves this issue. Pursuant to this "Fast Letter" it is now evident that the VA will accept costs incurred at senior apartments if an applicant requires assistance with two (2) or more activities of daily living (ADLs) and the applicant is residing in the facility pursuant to a doctor's orders. The end result is that more seniors can qualify for aid and attendance benefits if their cases are properly documented and the expenses for their care are accurately depicted within their application for VA benefits.

If you are a senior residing at an independent care facility AND are a veteran, or you are assisting a loved one with his or her affairs that resides at such a community you may now qualify for benefits.

As always, should you have any further questions regarding elder law issues, long term care planning, VA benefits or nursing home care, please consult with a qualified elder law attorney. If you reside in the Detroit area or West Michigan, please call our office at either (586) 264-3756, or, (616) 931-3670.

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