Articles Posted in Aid & Attendance

Metro Detroit and West Michigan seniors that receive VA benefits for long term care through VA Aid and Attendance Benefit, have always looked forward to the annual federal budget announcement of the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). This year the announcement is not favorable. The latest from the Social Security Administration is that there will not be a COLA adjustment for 2016.

As a result veterans receiving this benefit can be all but certain to receive the same monthly amounts that they have in 2015. For now this is the only change to the VA non-service connected benefits that will be in effect for 2016. The proposed “looks-back” and transfer regulations are not a definite yet…

For more information about the COLA and your benefits follow the link below. If you do not receive VA benefits to assist you or your loved ones with long term care, please call our office at 1-866-529-ELDR. We can assist wartime veterans with long term care planning throughout the State of Michigan.
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Have an IRA? Facing a long-term care planning situation? Or maybe you have a loved one with elder law needs?

The biggest misconception for clients facing elder law issues is that Michigan elder law attorneys can only help veterans or adults facing nursing home placement and Medicaid planning.. This is not true. Using the same techniques for families that are facing nursing home placement or VA benefit planning, skilled elder law attorneys in Michigan can achieve fantastic results.

Understanding the law is key. Michigan Medicaid, which provides benefits to seniors confined to nursing homes, has a five (5) year “look-back” period. The law is interpreted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as a strict policy that applies to ALL transfers occurring within a five (5) year period of application for Medicaid benefits. Further, the law assumes that any person over the age of sixty-five (65) can presume that they will reside in a nursing home in the future. As a result, many seniors and their families are reluctant to make transfers, even at the expense of their own care. However, if proper planning is used, a potential benefit applicant can INTENTIONALLY trigger a “divestment penalty” and actually PRESERVE assets if and when he or she needs nursing home care.

The time has come and gone for “public comment” regarding new proposed rule changes to the VA’s non-service connected benefits program. The benefits can provide much needed relief to seniors struggling to provide for their own long term care expenses. Currently, eligible veterans or their surviving spouses can collect up to almost $2,100.00 per month if married; $1,750.00 per month if single; and, $1,150.00 per month as a surviving spouse.

Proposed regulations introduced in late January, will, more than likely, be effective in the near future. The regulations will introduce a three (3) year “look-back” period and “penalties” for asset transfers performed to create eligibility for these benefits. The regulations, like most new legislation creates uncertainty. Many of the provisions within the regulations appear to affect veterans eligible under current law and treat applicants differently depending upon the class of eligibility they are seeking.

Pursuant to federal law, regulations like these, should not become law any earlier than one (1) year from the expiration of the “public comment period.” The public comment period expired in late March of this year. According to this analysis, more than likely, the effective date of the new regulations will be April 1, 2016. However, as with much legislation, executive orders, and regulations, the answer remains clear as mud. For now, the best path remains to move forward with planning and seek assistance from skilled elder law professionals that understand current law.

In about a month, the public commentary period for the new proposed VA regulations will end. There is still time to help our veterans and seniors that rely on non-service connected, improved pension and aid and attendance benefits. In Michigan there are about 600,000 living veterans that can become eligible for these benefits.

The proposed regulations are too restrictive, do not provide “cures” for ineffective planning, and will create a reliance on other, more costly, federal and state benefits. The likely outcome of the proposed regulations will be that seniors and veterans will be dissuaded to apply for benefits that are desperately needed to assist with memory care, assisted living and home care.

Please see our earlier posts regarding these changes.

Michigan veterans and seniors need to express their concerns over proposed new VA regulations affecting their ability to plan for benefits. Our office supports changes to regulations in order to protect seniors and veterans in Michigan, but, changes need to be consistent with Congressional intent, the Constitution itself, and, at the very least, consistent with Medicaid regulations that are true and tested over time.

Current VA regulations DO NOT include a “look back” period. This has provided unscrupulous planners to take advantage of the law to sell financial products unfit for seniors facing long term care planning decisions.

Seniors and veterans using accredited attorneys, agents, or other planners skilled in elder law often provide sound, legal strategies to ensure that seniors and veterans that need help, DO NOT exhaust their assets because of the cost of their care and are others forced into a nursing home, at the federal government’s own expense, in the form of Medicaid.

Your help is needed to protect Michigan veterans and seniors. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has introduced new regulations that will negatively affect your ability to receive benefits for yourself and your loved ones.

New proposed regulations, introduced January 23, 2015, will create a three (3) year “look-back” period for applicants, similar to Medicaid. It will eliminate your ability to protect your assets through legal planning strategies to immediately qualify for benefits.

Although our office supports protecting veterans and seniors from abusive planning practices, the new policies simply go too far by creating several unintended consequences:

Over the past few days, several attorneys that I collaborate with are scrambling to get the “word” out to our lawmakers about the VA’s proposed changes to regulations affecting eligibility for improved pension and aid and attendance benefits.

In the last entry we encouraged readers to contact their representatives in the United States Congress to make their opinions count and voice opposition. Following a conference with members of a national networking group, Arizona Attorney, Steven Dabbs proposed the following letter. Feel free to “cut and paste” if you would like your voice to be heard to help our seniors and veterans. Your local lawmakers can be found at: Find Your Lawmaker

RE: This is submitted in response to “RIN 2900-AO73, Net Worth, Asset Transfers, and Income Exclusions for Needs-Based Benefits.” Proposed Rules change.

Dear Representative,

On Friday our office received notice that the VA has submitted significant changes to non-service connect benefit eligibility that will directly impact Michigan Veterans and Veterans nationwide. Click here for a link to these changes.

Michigan Elder Lawyers, National Academy of Elder Law members and several Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) oppose the proposed regulations. Specifically, the changes will:

1. Create a three (3) year look-back period for new applicants.
2. Create a “broadline” test for asset eligibility based on Medicaid standards.
3. Treat planning techniques as “wealth transfers”

Michigan families in Metro-Detroit and West Michigan helping a loved one with long term care, elder law, Medicaid, and VA assistance are faced with several difficult questions. The most important question involves the type of placement that is appropriate for their loved one. Often times, nursing home care or “homes for the aged” as they are licensed, are the first answer to the placement question. Nursing homes, are designed to help those that truly need the most care. If your loved one does not truly need “full 24 hour care” better placement solutions can be found at adult foster care facilitates, independent living facilities or private care facilities. Despite the placement options available, most families solely make the decision based on finances and available governmental benefits.

My Michigan clients in Metro-Detroit and West Michigan, are always stunned to learn that there are alternatives to nursing home placement. One solution can be using VA benefits to supplement a loved one’s income to provide enough monthly income to cover the cost of private placement at an independent facility with care or a private assisted living. Given the new VA non-service connected improved pension benefit rates (see the last blog entry) for 2015, we can often double a senior’s monthly income which can be the difference between receiving private care at a facility of the family’s choice and using Medicaid for nursing home benefits. As an alternative, if the senior is not a veteran we can discuss proper planning using his or her available assets to provide the same level of care in an alternative setting.

The goal of any long term care planner or elder law attorney is to explore placement options, and to protect assets by increasing monthly income. Often care similar to a nursing home can be provided at facilities. The downside is that such care comes at a high cost. Therefore without proper planning, families often ignore using different care options and proceed straight to nursing home care.

As the year draws towards an end, the annual cost of living adjustments (COLA) for social security and other govenmerntal benefits are released. Hot off the press and effective January 1, 2015 the following will apply to qualified veterans receiving and or applying for non-service connected pension benefits in the form of aid and attendance:

Surviving Spouse $1,149.00
Single Veteran $1,788.00
Married Veteran $2,120.00
Improved Pension only $1,404.00
2 Married Veterans $2,837.00
Benefits can be used to help offset the cost of in-home, assisted living or other long term care.

If you have questions about becoming eligible to receive these benefits, please call our offices in both West Michigan at (616) 931-3670 or in Metro Detroit at (586) 264-3756.

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