The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced its 2018 rate increases for certain wartime military veterans not dishonorably discharged or their surviving spouses to help pay for care costs ranging from being housebound to long-term care costs. However, since VA pension benefits are paid one month in arrears, the first increased payment should not be received until January.

The new monthly rates range from $1,176 to a widow of a wartime veteran to $2,170 for a wartime veteran who has one dependent. Our website, www.dallaselderlawyer.com will soon be posting the new VA rates in addition to new numbers in connection with Medicaid eligibility (see articles in this newsletter) to help pay for long-term care costs.

Many wartime (which means service during a period of war as defined by VA) veterans or their surviving spouses take advantage of these benefits to help subsidize their care costs. For example, if the veteran (or their surviving spouse) is either housebound or if they are in an assisted living facility, memory care unit or nursing home and the cost of their monthly care is greater than their income and their resources are insufficient, then VA will help pay for such care costs. Since payments are directly received (just like Social Security), it does not matter what facility the claimant is residing (although independent living generally would not qualify).

Since these benefits are “means-tested”, it is presently common practice to do various planning (i.e., trusts, gift planning, annuities, etc.) to be eligible for these benefits. However, the eligibility rules could be changing soon. Thus, those who are either a wartime veteran or the surviving spouse of a wartime veteran and who need help with care costs and who may have too much resources should immediately consider their planning options as it is anticipated that it will be much more difficult to be eligible for these benefits in the near future.

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