Legacy Planning Law Group knows that the best way to help our clients is to understand their long-term care planning needs and help them build that plan. If you’re interested in learning more about Veterans Benefits Planning in Jacksonville, please book your free 15-minute phone call with us today!
Many families struggle to provide necessary care for aging or disabled veterans or their surviving spouses. Unfortunately, most of these families are unaware of a significant benefit available through the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is called Aid and Attendance. Our experienced Jacksonville veterans planning lawyers can help you and your family understand veteran’s benefits in Florida.
For qualifying veterans, Aid and Attendance are paid in addition to the basic pension rate for seriously disabled wartime veterans who have limited or no income, age 65 or older, or, if under 65, who are wholly and permanently disabled.
What if you are service and medically eligible, but have too many assets or too much income to qualify? As with any government program, the rules governing eligibility are in a constant state of flux. The VA issued a new set of rules in October 2018. With federal budgets stretched to the limit with deficit spending, expect the rules governing asset limits to become stricter. This limitation includes any attempts to rearrange your assets to qualify, which may include retitling or giving away assets, or better yet, establishing a Veterans Asset Protection Trust. Making these types of changes for veterans benefits planning is perfectly legal, but doing so can be complicated to be effective and not render you ineligible.
Application for Aid and Attendance Veterans Benefits is a complex and lengthy process. The forms are available for you to do this yourself but be advised that if you apply and your application is denied, you must wait a year before reapplying. For these reasons, many people seek assistance from a Jacksonville elder law attorney in completing the application.
*Note: It is illegal for anyone to charge you a fee to help complete the application or file for benefits. Legacy Planning Law Group can aid you with the application as part of your veteran’s benefits planning.
There are three aspects of eligibility for veterans benefits in Florida – Service, Medical, and Financial.
Service. The essential service qualification is that the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active military duty, with at least one of those days during wartime (as defined by the Veteran’s Administration). Additionally, the veteran must have received a discharge that was other than dishonorable.
Medical. The veteran or surviving spouse must show that they require the “aid and attendance” of another person to perform the basic activities of daily living.
Financial. Qualifying under the asset test can be tricky. The basic requirements state that the person requesting the benefit must have a financial need. Each application is evaluated individually.
As with any government program, the rules governing eligibility are in a constant state of flux. With federal budgets stretched to the limit with deficit spending, expect the rules governing financial eligibility to become stricter. You must have limited financial resources, both in terms of “countable income” and net worth. Beware that some actions taken to qualify for VA benefits in Duval County, Florida, could create a penalty period or perhaps even disqualify you entirely from receiving Medicaid benefits should they be needed. These actions include any attempts to rearrange your income and assets to qualify.
Your “countable income” must be less than the Maximum Annual Pension Rate. In other words, a veteran or surviving spouse cannot have an annual income more significant than the maximum annual VA pension benefit amount he or she potentially can receive. Don’t forget that the income of both spouses is counted for married veterans.
What does “countable income” include? It is simply all of the income a veteran or surviving spouse receives, regardless of source. These sources may include earnings from work, retirement and pension payments, social security, and social security disability payments. Nevertheless, “countable income” may be reduced by subtracting Unreimbursed Medical Expenses (UMEs) from annual income. What are some examples of UMEs? They include the cost of home health services, dentures, hearing aids, wheelchairs, premiums for health insurance, and even prescription drugs. Although UMEs may be deducted to lower countable income, increasing the pension benefit amount is not that simple. The calculations can be rather complicated.
Just like with “countable income,” the net worth of a Florida veteran or a surviving spouse must be limited to be eligible. The VA made some dramatic changes regarding how net worth is treated back in 2018 when it imposed a limit of $127,061. Now, at least until December 1, 2020, that limit is $129,094. Net worth includes savings and checking accounts, mutual funds, stocks, and vacation homes. Interestingly, your primary residence is not including in your assets when calculating your net worth for eligibility purposes.
What if you are eligible through your service and medical needs but have too much income or too many assets to qualify? Do not give up. Contact our Jacksonville law firm for assistance with the application process or understand the various options available to you as a veteran.
Legacy Law Planning Group is here to help you and your loved ones understand estate planning, elder law, post-death administration, and business planning in Duval County, Florida. If you’re interested in learning more about our legal services from our experienced Jacksonville, Florida elder law planning attorneys, please don’t hesitate to contact us by booking a call today.
The following resources are provided by Genworth Financial and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
If you are committed to solving your planning needs and want to work with our skilled and experienced team, the first step to get started is booking your 15 minute phone call.
During the call, we will find out what your planning needs are so we can see if we can help you. We will also figure out if we would be a good fit for each other.
At the end of the call, we will set up a time to meet with the team and create a plan that will protect your family and preserve your legacy.