The Aid and Attendance (A&A) monthly pension program is an additional VA-created pension eligible to wartime veterans or surviving spouses who are 65 and up. In order to qualify, an individual must require regular help from a caretaker, either from home or from within an assisted living facility. This program can provide a veteran with up to $1,788 a month in assistance, and surviving spouses with up to $1,196 a month. Annually, veterans and their spouses receive around 5 billion dollars in A&A benefits. However, things are changing. On January 23rd, 2015, the VA proposed a number of significant changes to the outline of the program. These changes could not only affect you, but other Michigan veterans as well. These new regulations impose:
New assets limits. Excluding your primary residence and a vehicle, in order to be eligible for the Aid and Attendance Pension program your total net worth cannot exceed the top amount set by the Medicaid Community Spouse Resource Allowance. Currently, this amount is equal to $119,220. To determine your net worth, the VA will consider your anticipated income for the year you apply to the program, and they will calculate the value of the assets you already possess. Reductions will be made for costs associated with food, shelter, or health care, but they will not consider your age or the amount of care you need in comparison to others. If your net worth exceeds $119,220, you will not be eligible for A&A benefits.
Furthermore, although your primary residence does not count as an asset when calculating your net worth, any money you receive from selling it does, eventually. Under the VA’s new rules, you must use the money made to purchase another residence within the calendar year, or else the amount is added to your total assets and therefore your net worth. Not only that, but if your residence sits on a lot of land that exceeds the size of two acres, you are automatically ineligible for the Aid and Attendance program.
A 36 month look back period regarding transfers and gifts. If you have given or transferred away any of your assets within the 36 months before the submitting of your application, you will immediately be made ineligible for A&A for a certain period of time. This also extends to the transferring of money to trusts or annuities. The length of the penalty period is dependent on the amount of assets transferred, but can be extended to up to 10 years. So if, for instance, you were putting money in a trust for your child or children recently, you will be ineligible for A&A benefits for a certain amount of time.
You and other Michigan veterans will be affected by these changes to the program in a variety of ways. If you view them as unfair or too restricting, there is always the opportunity for change. You can contact your local congressperson and let them know your position on the issue. Your stance as a concerned constituent will not be ignored.
If you are a veteran, or you have a loved one who is, and you’re looking for coverage and financial support, USA War Vet is here for you. Call us at 1-800-850-5504 or visit us at www.usawarvet.org to learn more.