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Congress Likely to Change Veterans Affairs Benefits This Year
By Julian E. Gray

While only a small percentage of the millions of veterans and their families use the Aid and Attendance benefit offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is clearly a vital program for those in need of medically related assistance with their daily activities. While this program is financially "means" tested, there is currently no penalty for applicants who divest themselves of assets and subsequently applied for benefits.

A Senate bill was introduced into Congress in 2012 that imposed a three-year "look back" period for uncompensated transfers prior to the filing of the VA application. The bill did not get traction, but was replaced in 2013 by a new House bill that contains similar provisions (H.R. 2189). It appears from the movement of this bill that legislation may be forthcoming in 2014 that will drastically affect veterans and their family members who use the Aid and Attendance benefit.

Pension (aka Aid and Attendance) - The bill provides "that if a veteran eligible for a pension for service or for a non-service-connected disability, or the spouse of such veteran, disposes of a resource that was part of such veteran's estate for less than its fair market value within three years before applying for such pension, the Secretary shall deny or discontinue the pension payment for months beginning on the date of such disposition and ending when the uncompensated value of such resource is reached."

This language appears to mean that the VA pension program will soon review financial transactions of an applicant much like the federal/state long-term care services program (i.e. nursing home care). Given the budget constraints on government, it was inevitable that this gifting ability would be restricted.

You can anticipate the VA looking to the rules used by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which currently imposes a five-year look-back period for asset transfers prior to application for long-term care benefits.

A side effect of a proposed three-year look-back rule is that it may actually delay the processing of VA claims.

Those wishing to take advantage of the present law may want to investigate their options quickly.

To contact Julian Gray, Certified Elder Law Attorney, call (412) 833-4400 or visit GrayElderLaw.com.

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