The purpose of the Improved Pension benefit is to provide supplemental income to veterans (or their widows/widowers), despite the lack of a service-connected disability (which would otherwise qualify them for the Compensation benefit) who fit into one of three different categories:
Low Income Pension – A benefit available to those (aged 65 or older) who have household income less than the monthly allowable Pension rate (currently not more than $1,072.00 – $1,404.0o for veterans and not more than $719.00-$941.00 for widows/widowers) and also very little in savings or investments. No medical rating is required (e.g. “housebound” or needing “aid and attendance”) because this benefit is solely based upon income and assets. Since no rating is necessary, this benefit award is much smaller than the other Improved Pension benefits potentially available.[table “1” not found /]
Housebound Improved Pension – A benefit available to those who may have more income and/or assets than would otherwise allow them to qualify for the Low Income Pension. Although there are still income and asset requirements, veterans (or their widows/widowers) may qualify for supplemental income if they are considered housebound by their primary care physician and in accordance with Veterans Affairs standards and receive a “housebound” rating. To receive such a rating, veterans (or their widows/widowers) generally have to obtain a 100% disability rating and be confined to their residence (although there is some leeway around these qualifications). With a rating, income can be adjusted for ongoing unreimbursed medical expenses, thereby allowing veterans (or their widows/widowers) with household incomes larger than the Pension amount to qualify for a supplemental income monthly benefit.[table “2” not found /]
Aid & Attendance Improved Pension – A benefit available to those who may have more income and/or assets than would otherwise allow them to qualify for the Low Income Pension. Although there are still income and asset requirements, veterans (or their widows/widowers) may qualify for supplemental income if they have a regular need for the aid and attendance of a caregiver, as certified by their primary care physician and in accordance with Veterans Affairs standards and receive an “aid and attendance” rating. To receive such a rating, veterans (or their widows/widowers) generally must evidence the need for assistance in order to remain in the home or be residing in a long term care facility (although there are some additional possibilities for eligibility). With a rating, income can be adjusted for ongoing unreimbursed medical expenses, thereby allowing veterans (or their widows/widowers) with household incomes larger than the Pension amount to qualify for a supplemental income monthly benefit.[table “3” not found /]
Explanation of the Special Treatment of Long Term Care Medical Expenses
A special provision for calculating Improved Pension income allows household income to be reduced by 12 months worth of future, recurring, unreimbursed medical expenses. These allowable, annualized medical expenses include, but are not limited to, costs associated with the following: insurance premiums, at-home caregivers/caretakers, adult day care, assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities. Normally, income is only reduced by medical expenses incurred in the immediate months prior to application; however, this special provision allows an income reduction for all future, recurring, unreimbursed medical expenses, thereby creating a special benefit that is especially valuable for veterans (or their widows/widowers) who have extensive long term care medical expenses.
This special provision may allow veteran households earning more than the annual maximum annual pension rate to qualify for these Improved Pension benefits. For example, a veteran household earning $6,000.00 per month could still qualify for the Improved Pension benefit if the veteran is paying $4,500.00 to $6,000.00 per month for at-home caregiver or long term care facility costs. The veteran household must submit appropriate evidence to establish a rating in order to qualify for this special provision whereby they are able to reduce their household income by the annualized future, recurring, unreimbursed medical expenses and thereby qualify for the Improved Pension benefit.
Four Pillars Law Firm strongly urges potential applicants for the Improved Pension benefit that involve a rating, evidence of prospective, recurring medical expenses, appointments for Veterans Affairs powers of attorney and fiduciaries, and an understanding of the actual application process, not to apply until after ensuring they should be considered eligible for the benefit, especially considering the application process may take 6 – 12 months before a decision is made. As experienced veterans benefits consultants, Four Pillars Law Firm can review your medical and financial situation and guide you through the process, ensuring you are situated favorably for approval of the Improved Pension benefit upon your first application. Since the Veterans Affairs does not normally inform applicants about this special treatment of medical expenses or how to qualify for the Improved Pension benefit, nor does it have standard forms for this purpose, let us assist you through the process of obtaining this valuable benefit.
All figures provided above are valid as of December 1, 2014, and are subject to change.
Now that you have discovered how we may be able to help you qualify for the Veterans Administration Improved Pension “Aid & Attendance” benefit, please Contact Us with your particular inquiry and see if you qualify for a free initial consultation so that we may discuss your individual concerns and develop an estate plan that meets your needs.
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