- Failing to understand the distinction between compensation and pension. A veteran who is eligible for compensation could receive a higher monthly payment than a pension claim, depending on the disability rating of the veteran. If the attorney advising the veteran is not aware of the available monthly payment for compensation and only discusses pension, the result is the veteran has now had his or her assets and income reduced needlessly and could receive a smaller monthly payment than if a claim for compensation had been made.
- Failing to provide proper documentation when submitting a pension claim. If a claim is submitted and necessary paperwork or information is missing, it will either delay the claim for many months or result in the client missing out on several month’s payments totaling thousands of dollars.
Perhaps the most damaging pitfall has nothing to do with planning in this area, but rather deals with a lack of knowledge on the part of the attorney. The following is a situation that unfortunately happens more often than it should.
A son and his mother come visit an attorney regarding his father (and her husband) who is a World War II Veteran. The father is currently at home with a caregiver that comes in eight hours every day. The expense is getting to be too much. The son and his mother were told to consult an attorney to see if anything could be done before the couple runs out of money completely.
Medicaid in this particular state does not pay for in-home care or assisted living care so the attorney informs them that the only way to get any type of financial help is to move the husband into a nursing home and qualify him for Medicaid. The son and his mother are distraught as they had hoped to keep the father at home or at least in assisted living.
In this scenario, a huge opportunity was missed. With proper planning, the veteran could have received up to $1,949 each month to help pay for the in-home care. Unfortunately, the attorney was not aware of the pension benefit available through the VA. Even if you do not intend to practice in this area, these pitfalls can seriously impact your law practice. To learn more about pitfalls to be aware of and how to avoid them, be sure to join me August 12th in Chicago. I will be presenting a live breakout session with James Swain entitled, “Pitfalls to Avoid When Planning for Clients Who Are Veterans.”