VA Aid & Attendance Pension for Surviving Spouse after Death of Veteran

I have helped myriad couples qualify for the VA Aid & Attendance Pension (the non-service connected disability pension with aid & attendance).  However, all too often the following situation can cause added grief and anxiety after the death of the Veteran. 

When I have assisted a married couple regarding accessing VA benefits, it is typically the husband who is the veteran and the wife has not served in the military.  The veteran is approved for the Pension and receives $2,019 per month from the VA.  The Wife obviously enjoys the extra income as she is living with the veteran.  But if the Veteran passes first, pre-planning can save the family a lot of unnecessary grief and financial loss. 

Once the veteran passes, the VA Pension ceases. The Pension does not automatically become a widow’s Pension.  The Pension claim must be submitted for the spouse and separately approved from the original veteran claim.

 So how should clients prepare for this situation? 

If the couple has a warning, as I did with my father-in-law, it is imperative that planning for the spouse begins during the last illness of the veteran.  In the ideal world the new widow pension is filed soon after the veteran passes.  The planning includes getting a new VA medical report for the surviving spouse, preparation of the claim, based on the expected income and expense numbers (given that the social security will change, the cost of care will usually drop due to one spouse not accessing care, and potential life insurance benefits will be paid to the surviving spouse).  

If cash is low, planning must be made for the cash flow crunch after the veteran’s death.  The VA will demand that the spouse pay back the Pension that was paid in the month of death and the new widow pension will not be payable until approved, generally 4-6 months later (there will be a retroactive payment to the month after the filing of the claim but cash flow can be real tight in many cases).  Perhaps the assisted living room that the couple lived in is now too expensive.  Perhaps the expected surviving spouse needs to preview other living accommodations during the period of last illness of the veteran. 

The timing of the above planning may appear to be callous but this advance planning can alleviate extreme anxiety after the death of the veteran and can give the spouse comfort that a plan is in place once the death has occurred.


Remembering Fallen Heroes

This month’s newsletter is dedicated to two fallen heroes and to all those who gave their lives in defense of our Country as we come upon Memorial Day. 

Gene, popularly known as Papageno in our family, passed away from cancer peacefully on May 7, 2012.  Gene was a veteran of WWII, having fought on the USS Missouri, being wounded by shrapnel from a Kamikaze attack that hit the side of the ship earning him a purple heart, and having earned a bronze star.  Gene was my mother-in-law’s second husband, marrying my mother-in-law after 3 months of “phone courting”.  They agreed to marry before they even met and ran off to Las Vegas to marry like a couple of teenagers!  I thank him for giving my mother-in-law 14 years of great companionship after the loss of her first husband.

 Her first husband, and my wife’s father, was also a Navy man during WWII and also saw his fair share of battle.  I want to personally thank and remember them both, in memoriam, for their service.  Our WWII veterans are passing away at increasing rates.  This Memorial Day, please remember what they did for our Country.


VA Medical Report for VA Aid & Attendance Eligibility

One area that causes me the most problems with qualifying a Veteran (or his or her surviving spouse) is with the VA required medical report. This is for myriad reasons, the first of which is that oftentimes the doctor’s writing is so horrible, nobody can read it (any surprise here?).  If you are having your doctor complete the VA form, PLEASE tell them to write legibly.  The VA forms are also very intimidating and the font is so small that you need a microscope to read the instructions.  Doctors do not generally take the time to read the fine print and so there are oftentimes errors or incomplete areas on the form.  I have had the forms returned to the doctor 4 or 5 times, even after giving them a specimen report so they can see the areas that need to be completed.  What other issues come up?   

The doctors must indicate that there are deficits in the patient’s activities of daily living (these are called ADLs).  ADLs are what we all do on a daily basis, such as bathing, eating, toileting, getting in and out of bed or a chair, grooming, and the like.  Without deficits in ADLs, then the veteran simply does not have unreimbursed medical expenses that are reimbursable by this VA program. 

I carefully scrutinize the medical report as it relates to the care that is being provided.  It is extremely important that the report match the report provided by the caregiver or questions will be raised.  Catching these inconsistencies up front will save months of processing time, and thus save the veteran thousands of dollars in delayed benefits. 

I am a VA accredited attorney that has helped hundreds of veterans and their surviving spouses access this very important pension.  Please contact me if there are questions or to see if you or your loved one qualifies.


Veterans Expo

Last week I was invited to host a table at a veteran’s expo in the Inland Empire.  The room was filled with veterans from all conflicts from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the other campaigns.  Even though it was crowded and noisy, I found it very interesting to chat about their experiences in the military and especially when overseas. 

As you all know already, I am not a veteran but thank them every day for their selfless efforts in protecting our great country.  At the Expo, their patriotism and sacrifice was on full display. 

Sadly, many of our veterans have not “recovered” from their experiences.  I talked to several homeless veterans and veterans with little means.  There were other tables promoting their care services for veterans, food banks and the like.  If you have a chance, help a veteran…it feels good and very patriotic.

New 2012 VA Aid & Attendance benefit amounts

            The VA has published their new benefit amounts for the Non-service connected disability pension for 2012.  These numbers apply for assisted living, independent living and for home care, however how you qualify for each is different.  Click here for the maximum benefit amounts for 2012.

 2012 Maximum VA Aid & Attendance TAX FREE Benefit Amounts*

Two Veterans (2011) $2,631 per month $30,984 annually
Married Veteran with Veteran Needing Care $2,019 per month $24,228 annually
Single Veteran $1,703 per month $20,436 annually
Surviving Spouse $1,094 per month $13,128 annually

*Lower numbers if housebound only or if Basic Pension 

The VA pension is available if the Veteran (or surviving spouse) satisfies four basic tests, which are the military record, need, income, and asset tests.  Even if the Veteran or surviving spouse exceeds the income or asset limits there may be some estate planning to still posture the estate to fit within the VA limits and requires an analysis to determine to what extent the Veteran can be qualified. 

Please call my office for this free analysis.