Many years ago, when I was in private practice, I had the honor of helping wartime Veterans and their surviving spouses. One of my first cases involved a daughter who was helping her father, a World War II Veteran, who was no longer able to live at home by himself.
The daughter contacted me after hearing from a financial advisor that I might be able to help her father access benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA). While talking with her and her father, I learned that her father was currently living at home, but was experiencing significant memory loss. The daughter felt it was no longer safe for him to live at home by himself. She lived nearby and was checking on him several times a day, sometimes spending hours there, while also working full time.
We discussed what her father wanted for future living arrangements. His first choice was to stay in his home and was open to the idea of bringing in help to do so. He did not feel like he could afford it, however, as his monthly Social Security income was around $2,000, and he was spending most of that on living expenses each month. He owned his home outright, and he had $100,000 in savings. We knew his savings would be depleted quickly if he hired round the clock care.
We also discussed the idea of assisted living care, which was close to $4,000 a month in his area. He had originally dismissed the idea, believing he would not be able to afford it. I asked him whether he would consider it if it was an option, and he said he would.
I then explained that there was a benefit available from the VA called pension with aid and attendance that would pay him a monthly benefit of up to $1,600 per month because he was a wartime Veteran who now needed help with activities of daily living. (Today a wartime Veteran can receive over $2,000 a month for the same benefit.) Both he and his daughter were very excited by the idea. We got to work figuring out how we would get the medical evidence together, and get his finances reduced, so that he could qualify. Until just a few years ago, the VA did not have an asset limit, and you were left hoping that the amount remaining in a claimant’s name would be enough to get the VA to approve a claim. Thankfully, that is not an issue today and we have a clear asset limit from the VA.
The daughter and her father began visiting assisted living facilities, and the father saw his primary care physician with a form I provided for the physician to fill out. The form documented the type of care he needed and any diagnoses the physician felt were appropriate. The doctor diagnosed the father with dementia, and noted that he needed help dressing, bathing, getting into and out of bed, and that he should not be left unattended for any period of time out of concern that he could get lost or hurt himself.
The father and daughter found an assisted living facility that provided memory care support, and he moved in the next month. With the medical information, assisted living expenses determined, his home, and all but $20,000 of his savings protected in an irrevocable trust, we completed an application for pension with an aid and attendance allowance. Several months later, he was approved and began receiving $1,600 each month that he paid to the assisted living facility along with his income, with the balance paid out of the money we kept in his name.
When the daughter received the approval letter, she called me in tears because she was so happy their financial and care concerns were over. Her father was comfortable and safe in a place that he had a hand in choosing. They were able to pay the expense without worrying that he would run out of money.
This was one of many happy endings to client stories where I had the honor of helping a wartime Veteran, or a surviving spouse, qualify for a monthly cash benefit while choosing their own care and where they would receive it.
Veterans pension planning was one of the most rewarding areas I have ever practiced in (and I practiced in several different areas before settling on elder law).
ElderCounsel would love to help you learn how you can help wartime Veterans or their surviving spouses. We have two courses on this very topic. An Intro to Veterans Benefits Planning is an introductory course that will give you a broad overview of many types of Veterans benefits. Comprehensive Planning Strategies for Wartime Veterans is an intensive course designed to get you up to speed quickly on Veterans pension benefits.