 VA Aid & Attendance – changes to eligibility requirements:

VA has published their final rules, which will be effective 18 OCT. These rules are not statutory changes to federal laws; rather, they are administrative regulations promulgated by the VA – however, they affect the eligibility requirements for VA “wartime” pension benefits, including so-called “Aid and Attendance” benefits. Some of the major changes under the new rules are:
Asset Cap – Although VA pension benefits are “means-tested” (i.e. the applicant’s income and assets are considered in determining eligibility), there was previously no specific asset limitation, and applicants were assessed on a case-by-case basis. The new rules provide a countable asset “cap” which matches the Community Spouse Resource Allowance for Medicaid ($123,600 for 2018). An applicant’s annual income is included in calculating their countable assets, as are the assets and income of the applicant’s spouse.
Transfers of Assets and “Lookback” Period Under current regulations, when an applicant has assets in excess of the cap, an applicant can transfer assets (e.g. to a family member, a trust, or an annuity) without penalty, regardless of the amount transferred. After October 18, 2018, this will NOT be the case. The new rules include a “lookback” period of 3 years beginning with the effective date of the rules (i.e. the VA will not penalize asset transfers prior to October 18, 2018). If an improper transfer of assets occurred during the 3 years immediately prior to the application for benefits, a penalty period of ineligibility of up to 5 years may be assessed (depending on the amount of assets transferred). The new rules specifically note that transfers to family members,
Unreimbursed Medical Expenses (UME) and Caregiver Agreements Luckily, some of the changes are helpful expansions of current rules. For example, fees related to residence in an independent living facility now count as UME under certain circumstances, and other items which previously did not count (e.g. prescriptions, special dietary items, vitamins and supplements) are deductible from income if they are prescribed by the applicant’s physician. Further, costs related to service animals and transportation for healthcare purposes are now countable UME. Additionally, family members (instead of healthcare personnel) can be paid caregivers, and the payments will count as UME, provided a qualified medical professional indicates that the applicant requires a protected environment due to a “physical, mental, developmental, or cognitive disorder.” Qualifying payments to caregivers can also include services which previously did not count as UME, such as shopping, preparing meals, laundry and housekeeping, managing the applicant’s medications, and helping with the applicant’s finances.
There are a number of other rule changes which may affect you (or your loved ones). The key to best protecting
yourself and your family is (as it always has been) planning ahead. Planning ahead and properly timing your application is the only way to avoid unnecessary penalties, and ensure well-deserved benefits are received at the earliest possible date.

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