Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Changes in Veterans' Benefits Looming October 18th


On September 18, 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs officially published the amendments to certain regulations having to do with VA benefit claims. The VA hasn’t left beneficiaries a whole lot of time to adjust – those changes become effective on the 18th of this month!

Veteran’s Benefits are perhaps the most misunderstood and underutilized resources available to millions of veterans and their families. At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, our focus is with the Veteran’s Benefits Administration. We assist wartime veterans, or surviving spouses of wartime veterans, in obtaining VA Pension Benefits. With the looming October 18th deadline, at which time important changes go into effect, our work with veterans becomes an even more urgent initiative. The new rule changges relate to standards that must be met to qualify for non-service connected pension payments.  Here’s a general summary of what’s happening:

The VA looks at three elements:

NET WORTH
Net worth includes the claimant’s or beneficiary’s assets and annual income. A Veteran’s assets include his/her own assets plus the assets of the spouse. In 2018, the top limit on net worth is $123,600.  Under the current system, that number increases by the same percentage as the cost-of-living increase for Social Security benefits. Net worth may be decreased in three ways: a) the assets themselves decrease b) annual income decreases c) assets and income decrease.

Under the existing rules, assets include the value of real property, not counting the primary residence or the mortgage on it.  Under the new rule, a residential lot may not exceed two acres; anything above two acres will be counted as an asset.

ASSET TRANSFERS
If the VA finds that a claimant transferred (either by selling it for less than market value or actually giving) assets to someone else in order to reduce the assets and qualify for benefits, the amount will be subject to a penalty. This includes converting assets into an annuity.

The “lookback period” will be the 36 months immediately preceding the date of the pension claim.  This does not include transfers prior to October 18, 2018, which is why the deadline is so important!
MEDICAL EXPENSES
Under the current rules, there are no definitions of deductible medical expenses for the purpose of VA pensions. The final rules expand the definition of “Activities of Daily Living” to include:

1. ambulating within the home or living area
2. instrumental activities of daily Living (shopping, food preparation, housekeeping, laundering, managing finances, handling medication, using the telephone, and transportation for non-medical purposes).

In-home care must be from a licensed health care provider (unless a physician has stated in writing that care can be provided by an in-home attendant.

Time is of the essence in notifying clients of these changes, cautions ElderCounsel, because all VA planning that includes transfers must be made before October 18 2018.  At Geyer Law, we’re making time to meet with every veteran and beneficiary to beat that deadline!
- by Rebecca W. Geyer





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