Frequently Asked Questions
Wondering about how to claim the Improved Pension? Curious about your care contract? Worried about paying for your passing? Below are the top five questions we are asked about end of life planning.
What is the Improved Pension VA benefit?
The Improved Pension is a tax-free monetary benefit payable to qualified combat veterans and their spouses or surviving widows. Generally speaking, to qualify for the benefit, the claimant must meet three basic criteria. (1) The veteran must have served on active duty during a period of combat. (2) The claimant must have care needs that require aid and assistance with the activities of daily life. (3) The claimant must demonstrate financial need. The first two qualifications are quite straightforward. The third is more flexible than it would appear. Income caps are based on "countable" income. This means that some income and some expenses are not included in the calculation of benefit. This allows medically and service qualified veterans and dependent spouses to qualify even if their income appears to exceed the monthly income cap. To find out if you may qualify, visit our contact page and send us an email. Our VA accredited agents will be happy to help you determine whether you meet the eligibility requirements.
Why might I need an irrevocable trust?
An irrevocable trust is a a contract created to transfer or manage assets of an individual who is no longer competent to manage property or assets.This type of trust cannot be changed or reversed. In the case of aging parents, an irrevocable trust might be used to protect assets for the next generation, provide a shelter for insurance proceeds, set aside funds for funeral expenses, or restructure income and assets as a means of "spending down" to qualify for a benefit.
What is a "spend down" and how does it affect medicaid eligibility?
Spending down refers to using qualified excluded expenses such as unreimbursed medical expense to lower your countable income in order to qualify for benefits. If you have high medical or care expenses but your income exceeds the income cap for medicaid, you may still be eligible for benefits. Please note that the VA has instituted a 3 year look back period effective 10/18/2018. Medicaid has had a 5 year look back period in place for many years.
What is a care contract and why do I need one?
A care contract is just what it sounds like. It's a contract for care. Whether this contract is with a licensed care provider, a home health aide, a companion or a family friend, it should specify the exact scope of the care provider's responsibilities and the compensation they will receive for their services. Care contracts are recognized as medical expenses and they are excluded from countable income when applying for benefits. In the case of an individual who moves into an assisted living facility or nursing home, the contract for care is incorporated into the residency agreement. Where an individual lives at home or in an independent living community but requires routine assistance with the activities of daily living, a care contract identifies unreimbursable medical expenses so that they can be excluded from countable income.
How long will it take to receive the VA benefits I applied for?
This is one question we can't answer for certain. Once a claim is submitted, it is subject to an extensive review before a benefit is awarded. One thing we can say for sure, is that submitting a fully developed claim with supporting documentation through an accredited VA agent indicates to the VA that the claim has been reviewed and prepared properly. There are no guarantees, of course, but a fully developed claim typically moves more quickly through the VA process. This fast track system was developed to work around the Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000 which requires extensive notification and assistance to claimants that in many cases does nothing more than slow down and delay the final decision.