Eligible wartime veterans and the widowed spouses of wartime veterans can qualify for a special pension that can go a long way towards helping to pay the skyrocketing cost of long term care. In many cases we can qualify needy applicants almost immediately even though they have assets greater than the limits imposed by the VA. But that is about to change.
There has been much discussion in Congress about the sharp increase in applications for VA benefits and the shady practices of some financial investment companies that sell annuities to unsuspecting seniors at high fees in order to qualify them for the benefit, only to determine that they cannot qualify in many instances.
As with anything that gains popularity rapidly, there are unsavory practices that need to curtailed. But what will changes mean for many who really need this benefit? Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has introduced legislation in the United State Senate to impose a look back and a penalty period, similar to what the Medicaid program has in place.
While Senator Wyden’s proposal must go through various steps before it can be voted on by both houses of Congress and then presented to the President for his approval, Wyden has called for a 3 year look back and a penalty that would equate to a number of months of ineligibility for benefits based on the amount of money transferred. It is not clear yet how that penalty would be calculated but it sounds like it would begin to run when the transfer is made, similar to the way the Medicaid rules worked before Congress changed them in February, 2006 under legislation known as the DRA (Deficit Reduction Act).
What does this mean for aging seniors right now? As with any change in the law, it will eradicate some abuse but it will also probably hurt other seniors in need, making it more difficult for them to qualify for benefits. We anticipate that any changes won’t be effective till sometime in 2013. For families, the time is now to examine their long term care plans. There are steps that we can take now so that you won’t be hurt by any legislative changes in the future.
For more information about how the VA benefit can help you, go to our VA page at http://elderlawtodaypodcast.com/areas-of-practice-2/veterans-benefits/ or call 973-994-2287 for your free audio CD.