Veterans Benefits Attorney
Our Veterans’ Benefits and Elder Law attorneys can help you understand the various benefits of the Veterans Administration and other government programs. Our team of attorneys at Oregon Estate and Elder Law in Lake Oswego specializes in elder law and provides a variety of services including Medicaid eligibility, wills and estates, and probate.
The Veterans Administration (VA) Pension is available to wartime veterans and their surviving spouses who qualify. The monthly pension benefit is not based on service-connected disability. A married wartime veteran may be eligible for up to $2,170.00 per month, income tax-free, and a surviving spouse of a qualified wartime veteran may be eligible for up to $1,176.00 per month. The applicant can receive care at their home, in assisted living, in memory care, or in a nursing home.
Requirements for VA Pension
- Wartime Service (or being the surviving spouse of a wartime veteran)
- Age or disability (assistance is needed)
- The applicant must be either age 65 or older or 100% disabled
- Means test: Household income and assets
- Gross annual income minus Unreimbursed Medical Expenses (UME) must be less than the maximum annual pension benefit
- The amount of pension depends on the medical needs of the veteran or surviving spouse
Military Wartime Service Requirement
The veteran must have served at least 90 days of Active Duty with at least one day of Active Duty during a Wartime Period. The veteran did not need to serve in combat. Discharge from the military must have been other than dishonorable.
- World War II: December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946
- Korean War: June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955
- If in Vietnam: February 2, 1961 – May 7, 1975
- If not in Vietnam: August 6, 1964 – May 7, 1975
- August 2, 1990 – present
There are three Levels of the VA Pension Benefit:
- Basic pension
- Pension with Aid and Attendance Benefit
- Pension with Housebound Benefit
What is “Aid and Attendance?”
If the veteran or surviving spouse needs assistance with two Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), then they are eligible for an extra monthly benefit.
As defined in VA regulations, ADLs are “basic self-care” and include:
- Bathing or showering
- Getting in or out of bed or a chair
- Using the toilet
The veteran or surviving spouse will also meet the ADL criteria if a doctor certifies in writing the applicant’s need for a “protected environment” to protect from the hazards of daily living.
What Does “Housebound” Mean?
Housebound means that the veteran or the surviving spouse cannot leave their home without assistance or if they cannot drive. Housebound does not mean that the veteran or surviving spouse cannot take care of themselves within the home.
Calculating the Monthly Income Benefit
To determine the monthly benefit of the VA Pension, the Veterans Administration totals the gross household income and then subtracts all Unreimbursed Medical Expenses (UME). The total is referred to as Income for VA Purposes (IVAP). The Maximum Available Pension Rate (MAPR) is available to those veterans whose UME equals or exceeds the gross household income.
No monthly benefit will result if the IVAP is equal to or greater than the Maximum Available Pension Rate (MAPR). However, if the IVAP equals $0 or less, then the applicant is eligible for the full MAPR. If the IVAP is greater than $0 but less than the MAPR, then the applicant is eligible to receive the MAPR minus the IVAP. Lastly, if the IVAP is greater than the MAPR, then the applicant will not be eligible for the veteran’s benefit.
Maximum Available Pension Rate (MAPR) (2018)
|MAPR||Maximum Monthly Pension|
|Aid and Attendance||$21,962||$1,830|
VA Pension Rates for Veteran’s Surviving Spouse (2018)
|MAPR||Maximum Monthly Pension|
|Aid and Attendance||$14,113||$1,176|
If you are a Veteran or the surviving spouse of a Veteran, our Elder Law attorneys are available to meet with you and your family to include a plan within your estate planning documents to prepare for monthly pension benefits from the VA.
2018 Changes to VA Pension Benefit Regulations
On October 18, 2018, the Department of Veterans Affair’s new eligibility standards became effective. One major change was the addition of a 36-month lookback period and a transfer penalty period. When a veteran or surviving spouse applies for the VA pension, the application asks if there have been any gifts over the last 36 months. If so, a penalty period may ensue before the applicant will be eligible to receive benefits.
There are dangers with simply giving away assets without careful planning. Giving away your assets can result in potential negative tax consequences. The person who you give your assets to may pass away, be divorced, or be sued. You could give away more than necessary and fail to consider the best planning options. An elder law attorney can help veterans and their spouses arrange their assets so that they may become eligible for the maximum monthly benefit. The new rules require a proactive plan due to the 36-month lookback period.
The changes also included a net worth limit for applicants. Before the 2018 changes, there was no set limit on the value of assets the veteran or surviving spouse can retain and still be eligible for the VA pension benefit. The new rules also define and clarify deductible UMEs, covered assets, and exempt assets.
When you need an attorney in Lake Oswego, Oregon Estate and Elder Law is here to help! Call today to speak with one of our experienced attorneys about your veteran benefits!