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Veterans Administration Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit

May’s column was about the Colorado Long Term Care Partnership and its effect on the health and well being of Colorado residents, as well as the state of Colorado. This month will focus along the same lines but with veterans in the spotlight regarding an under-used benefit. Much of the reason why it is not used is the confusion surrounding this important benefit and the course and calendar that you need to follow to qualify.What is the Veterans Administration Aid and Attendance benefit (VA A&A)? This pension is part of the VA Improved Pension program as a second tier benefit. It provides benefits for veterans and surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist the activities of daily living such as transference, eating (including meal preparation), bathing, dressing, toileting and continence. It also includes individuals who are blind or a patient in a nursing home because of mental or physical incapacity. Assisted care in an assisting living facility through skilled nursing is included.The normal length of time from application to approval is about four to six months. Items that can disqualify a veteran include income, assets and missing or incomplete information. For blind or mentality challenged veterans, there is an expedited process.When the vet becomes qualified, the payments are retroactive to the date of application. So what kinds of benefits are available? The VA A&A benefit can provide up to $1,644 per month to a veteran, $1,056 per month to a surviving spouse or $1,949 per month to a couple. It’s a tremendous benefit that is not being used, as few know about it. You can apply for yourself, your spouse or family member, and the application is free. There is a list of documents you will need to file; make sure you keep the originals, send the copies by certified mail, return receipt requested.In May’s article, I introduced you to the Colorado LTC Partnership and how that works with Medicaid. This is an additional benefit that needs to be incorporated into your planning, as the qualifications are different from Medicaid. You need to be aware that you can have both with the proper foresight of an attorney versed in both. You don’t want this knocking you out of Medicaid coverage.Catherine Hammond Shell, founding attorney of the Hammond Law Group in Colorado Springs, said, “The key to eligibility for the aid and attendance benefit is properly aligning a veteran’s income and assets. While a married veteran and spouse can have no more than $80,000 in countable assets, which includes retirement assets but excludes a home and a vehicle, there is currently no transfer penalty for making a gift to children or establishing an irrevocable trust prior to applying for the benefit. If a veteran’s income currently exceeds the maximum allowed, it may be possible to purchase an annuity that will render the veteran eligible for the benefit. Because any realignment of assets may impact Medicaid eligibility, it is critical to work closely with a team of professionals, including a financial advisor and a knowledgeable attorney, in order to ensure the process is done properly and the veteran doesn’t lose other benefits to which the veteran may be entitled.”Now that you have seen the tip of the iceberg, do you know a veteran who needs this help?I gratefully acknowledge Catherine Hammond Shell of the Hammond Law Group and Debbie Burak of for their information and experience. The Veterans Administration in Colorado Springs was asked to add to this article on two separate occasions and declined to return my phone calls.Please feel free to call one of us for additional information and assistance.About Alex Donnell and Colorado Comprehensive Wealth ManagementAs a nationally published author, Alex Donnell has written articles on estate planning, financial planning and investments. Alex Donnell, founder and president of Colorado Comprehensive Wealth Management in Colorado Springs and independent investment advisor representative for Heartland Financial Consultants, has been a part of the financial services industry for over 16 years.Securities offered through Securities America Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC, L. Alexander Donnell, registered representative. Advisory services offered through Heartland Financial, L. Alexander Donnell, investment advisor representative. Colorado Comprehensive Wealth Management, LLC, Heartland Financial Companies and Securities America are not affiliated.Securities America and its representatives do not provide tax or legal advice. Any tax or legal information provided here is merely a summary of our understanding and interpretation of current tax and/or legal regulation and is not exhaustive. Please consult an appropriate advisor regarding your personal situation prior to acting on the information in this letter. SAI 59940 4/2009

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