VA Pension — “What if I have too much income or too many assets?”

VA Pension — “What if I have too much income or too many assets?”

VA Pension -- "What if I have too much income or too many assets?"Do you have too many assets? Do you have too much income?

Let me give you a little preview.

For the income, every dollar of IVAP (Income for VA Purposes), there is a reduction in the VA Pension of a dollar.

The goal is if we can do this legitimately and within the rules, we want to get that IVAP down to zero.

We want to get the assets down to under $40,000 is my rule of thumb for a married couple or $20,000 for a single person.

If I have too many assets, do I give them away? Do I transfer them?

Sometimes people say, “You’ve got too many. Just give them away.”

But does that make sense?

Medicaid has much different rules than the VA on gifting.  We have to consider Alabama Medicaid as our health could decline to where we are forced into a nursing home.

Just because something may be allowed by the VA does not mean it’s allowed by Medicaid. Sometimes we have to make difficult choices.

Just because it’s allowed does not mean that we should do it.

Let’s say that we want to give away assets.

Who do we give them to?

Give them to family, to friends?

Do we give them to a trust?

If we give them to the trust, what kind of trust?

The VA only recognizes a very specific type of trust.

How do we give them away?

What’s the method of doing that?

When do we give them away?

Do we give them away before we apply?

Do we give them away after we apply for the benefit?

When do we do that?

These are some issues that you have to discuss or you have to know if you’re going to deal with the VA on your own.

Or you sit down with an accredited lawyer.

I keep saying “accredited lawyer.”

Let me tell you what that means.

Obviously, any attorney you meet should be licensed with the bar. So if you’re talking to someone in Alabama, they need to be a member of Alabama State Bar.

But beyond that, those of us who want to help veterans, we have to be accredited by the VA. It’s a process we go through, the VA looks at us and says, “Okay, you have the knowledge, you have the qualifications, you meet the requirements. You are now allowed to talk to veterans about benefits.”

There are lawyers that are not accredited that do this. It’s actually illegal to do that. My suggestion is you want to meet with an accredited VA lawyer so that you make sure that you’re getting good advice.

Let’s look at the flipside of this – not the assets, but the income.

If our IVAP is too high, are there unreimbursed medical expenses that we’re overlooking?

Maybe we forgot that we’re paying Ms. Jane to come over for 20 hours a week and sit with my mother.

How much do I pay Ms. Jane?

Say $15 an hour.

That’s $300 a week.

If she comes four weeks a month, that’s $1,200 a month.

Did I remember to reduce my IVAP by $1,200?

Maybe you say, “We don’t pay anybody because my mother or father doesn’t have any money. They get by just on Social Security.”

I have clients that the family is providing, when we added up, close to 60-70 hours a week of care.

We say, “I’m not paying my family because mom and dad don’t have any money.”

But it is possible to pay your family.

It’s called a Personal Services Contract.

Sometimes it’s called a Caregiver Agreement.

This is through something that must fit with the Medicaid rules.

In the right situation, we can pay family members to provide this care, even if the family members are not medical personnel.

We’re not talking about just the nurse or the doctor in the family.

Any family member under the right circumstances can qualify for this, so now we can reduce the income by what we’re paying to the family.

Take that example I gave.

Let’s use 60 hours a week.

To go out and hire that type of care from a home health agency is, let’s say, $15 an hour.

At 60 hours a week, that’s $900 a week times four weeks.

That’s $3,600.

We might initially look at this and say, “My parents get $3,000 a month of total income so they don’t qualify for this benefit.”

Remember for a married veteran, a little over $2,000 a month is the maximum.

But if the family provides that much care, we actually should have a negative income for VA purposes, which then allows the veteran to get that full monthly benefit of $2,054.

We have clients that are in an assisted living facility.

In Alabama, that’s at the low end $2,500 a month.

At the high end, it could be as much as $10,000 a month.

Generally, it’s maybe in the $3,500 to $5,000 range when you start adding everything up.

They haven’t thought about – because the VA doesn’t say any of this and this benefit is something that not many people know about – they’ve been paying month in and month out $2,500 or $5,000 a month.

Well, that counts as an un-reimbursed medical expense.

That will normally get the IVAP down into a very negative area – at least down to zero – which then allows the family to get that $2,054 a month. That will allow somebody to stay longer in an assisted living.

Or we back it up to the family caregivers who are providing care at home.

Every person I talk to says, “I do not want to leave my home. I want to stay home.”

You stay home by bringing the health home to you.

That may be family.

By being able to get this benefit, it may allow that veteran to stay at home longer and not have to go to assisted living, not have to go to a nursing home.

If we need care, if we need the Aid and Attendance, and we cannot afford the care at home and we cannot afford assisted living, it leaves us with the only option which is trying to get to a nursing home.

But this benefit can allow us to stay at home so we don’t have to do that – and I’ve never yet met anyone who wants to go to a nursing home.

Contact Us.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us.

You can reach us by phone at 1-205-879-2447. 

You can also fill out a contact form and we will get in touch with you. 

We look forward to talking with you.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

-John G. Watts

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