What Changed at the VA?

Justin, I read some of the things you recently published about changes to the rules for VA benefits. Can you provide a quick rundown of what happened? – Stan

Stan, On September 18 of this year, the VA published a major revision to the rules for the VA Aid and Attendance benefit. The effective date of the change was 30 days later—October 18. Those of us who regularly work with the VA knew that changes were possible, but the release date, the effective date, and the exact language of the new rules were unknown until mid-September.

The VA Aid and Attendance benefit pays certain veterans and their surviving spouses somewhere between $1,200 and $2,200 per month when they need expensive long-term care. To qualify, claimants must meet a couple of financial tests. The first test compares the claimant’s income to his or her recurring medical expenses. The new rules did little to change this test.

The second test looks at the claimant’s total assets. This is where the VA made major changes. On the positive side, under the old rules, the permitted asset level was unclear but relatively low. It was around $40,000 for a single claimant and $80,000 for a married claimant. The new rule set an asset limit that applies to everyone, and it’s higher—$123,600.

On the negative side, the old rules contained no lookback period or penalty for the transfer of assets prior to application. The VA now has a three-year lookback period and applies strict penalties against those who transfer assets prior to application.

Even under the new rules, there is still room for emergency planning if you or a family member has an immediate need for expensive long-term care. Give us a call to talk about the options you may have. On the other hand, the new rules make planning ahead for VA benefits far more crucial than before. We’d love to talk with you about that, too. Remember, there’s no charge for an initial strategy session, so don’t wait.