New Rules Proposed for Veterans Aid & Attendance Pension
Sweeping changes to the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension may be implemented soon. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has published proposed new rules that would clarify the amount of property and income a veteran or widow can have to be eligible for the pension. In addition, the proposed rules would implement a look back period and a penalty for giving away property during the 36 months before applying for the pension. Transfers to trusts would also be penalized, with few exceptions. Furthermore, the purchase of an annuity to reduce net worth could be penalized if the annuity would not have been in the claimant’s financial interest but for the claimant’s application for the pension.
The proposed rules would also limit the definition of Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) for purposes of medical eligibility and unreimbursed medical expenses that can be deducted from income. ADL’s would include assistance with dressing, bathing, toileting, transferring, and eating, but not medication administration and other instrumental activities of daily living. The home care hourly rate would be capped at a national average rate. Payments to independent living facilities would not be deductible medical expenses.
In response to the proposed rules, the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) submitted comments to the VA, suggesting three changes to the proposed rules. First, ALFA commented that the proposed rule regarding ADL’s is “excessively limiting by eliminating two frequent reasons seniors move into assisted or memory care communities: the inability to ambulate on their own, and inability to administer their own medications “. ALFA recommended that VA expand the definition of ADL’s and allow room and board at an independent living facility to be a deductible medical expense if certain conditions are met. Finally, ALFA suggested that VA consider other sources in setting the limit for the home care hourly rate, including an industry cost survey and differences in rates across the country.
For several years, legislation has been filed in the U.S. Congress to implement a look back period for the pension, however the legislation has never been passed. Instead, VA is using the rule-making process to implement a look back period and other far-reaching changes. The final rules are scheduled to be published in fiscal year 2016, which began October 1st. For more information, please contact The Stone Law Firm at 713.434.6310.