The Elrod Firm

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Do you have to be broke to qualify for Veterans Benefits?

Justin, My father is a Vietnam veteran and is incurring significant expenses paying for assisted living.  We spoke to a VA office recently to ask if he qualifies for Aid and Attendance benefits.  They said he has too much monthly income and too many assets to qualify.  He makes about $3,000 per month, owns a home, and has around $90,000 in savings.  Are they correct?  – Rick

Rick, I am happy to be able to tell you that there is hope for your father to receive Veterans Benefits despite the advice you received.  For an applicant to qualify for this benefit they must have what the VA considers low monthly income and a typical net worth.  Do not assume that you fail these tests without getting an explanation from an Elder Law attorney on what these terms actually mean; even people who work for the VA can get this confused.

For example, the VA uses the term “low monthly income,” but this actually means gross household income reduced by any unreimbursed recurring medical expenses (such as health insurance premiums, assisted living bills, or homecare expenses).  You might not consider $3,000 as low monthly income, but once you realize that your father can deduct the cost of his assisted living bills to determine his countable income for VA purposes, it becomes clear that he meets the VA income rule.

As to net worth, there is currently no set limit in the VA guidelines, but in most cases, married applicants with assets less than $80,000 and single applicants with less than $40,000 in net worth will meet the asset test, and the applicant’s homestead and vehicle are excluded.  Additionally, as the law currently stands, there is no transfer penalty imposed for rearranging assets in an effort to reduce net worth as there is with Medicaid.

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