Separate Fact From Myth
Video Transcript: Separate Fact From Myth
“Well, I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t think we would qualify.”
“I think you would,” I said. “He needs the help, and you can’t just keep doing it yourself. He’s a big guy whose dementia is worsening. You need to hire someone to help out. Otherwise, it will just keep wearing you down. Eventually, you won’t be able to keep up.”
“But I’m happy to do it,” she said. “He’s my husband, and it really isn’t that tough.”
“That’s not what I’ve been hearing from your niece,” I said, being honest. “She tells me you’re taking on too much, and you need some time for yourself and to rest.”
“Well, anyway, I don’t think it matters,” she said. “I know we have too much income and we have too much in savings to qualify for the benefit you were telling me about.”
“Again, I do think you’ll qualify,” I said. “Just call him, fill out the paperwork, and do what he says. The Senior Veterans Council has been doing this for years, and they know their stuff. He was there to serve his country when they needed him in Korea, and he is now entitled to this help from his country when he needs it. He EARNED this pension.”
I specifically didn’t use any names in this story because it is based on the story of some of my own family members. But she did call, she did look into things, she did provide the needed paperwork, and then suddenly there was money each month to help pay for a home health aide to come in three times a week. This made sure that she was able to go out with her friends, visit with relatives, or just get some extra sleep when she needed it.
Unfortunately, he did pass on several years after qualifying for the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit, dying at home surrounded by his family, and with the proper medical help and care he needed. But just as important was having that help probably means that she will be with us for many more years. I’ve seen far too many caregivers go before their loved ones because they wear themselves out. And just as unfortunately this happens to too many people because they believe the myths and misconceptions that are out there.
There are a lot of myths surrounding the Care Assistance process, particularly when it comes to the Veterans and the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit since the program is practically “hidden” from the general public. There is very little publicity around this assistance program, and because of that many times the information is not always accurate. Unfortunately, the consequences of incorrect information are often very costly to senior veterans who need it the most. That is why I have compiled the Top Ten Myths of Care Assistance Planning for Veterans. If you believe even one of these is true, failing to get the right information and may mean missing out on thousands of dollars of each month.
10 Myths That Can Put Your Home and Savings at Risk
Myth 10. You have too much income to qualify for the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit. I hear from far too many veterans that they heard about the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit (or, more likely, they simply heard “Aid and Attendance” benefit), and they decided to call the Veterans Administration about it. The conversations usually go something like this:
V.A. Staff Person: “How much income do you (or you and your spouse) have each year.”
Veteran: “We make $X per year.”
V.A. Staff Person: “Oh, I’m sorry. Your income is too high to qualify.”
Veteran: “OK. Thanks for checking for me.”
Unfortunately, the veteran and their family members believe that is the end of it. But often it is not. And not looking a little further can cost you tens of thousands of dollars a year.
Myth 9. You have too many assets to qualify for the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit. Often, this one is true to begin with, but there are ways to reposition and yet protect assets to easily qualify for the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit. With the right documents and the right professional help, the asset test is often easily passed.
Myth 8. The V.A. automatically takes care of veterans who need assisted living. While it is true there are many programs available to help disabled veterans or veterans needing nursing level care (but with varying degrees of success and efficiency), there is no automatic coverage for assisted living levels of care.
Myth 7. If you need help, just call the V.A.. While the Veterans Administration is supposed to be there to help you, and the workers at the V.A. are often great people who want to help you, they are hamstringed by rules and procedures. There are often things they want to say to you but can’t. When it comes to the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit, the V.A. is limited to running quick numbers and processing applications. They are not allowed to tell you that you may transfer assets, engage family home health aides, or anything else that may help you qualify. This is because the advice they may want to give would technically be practicing law or if misunderstood by the veteran or their family could lead to disastrous consequences that could be blamed on the V.A. employee.
Myth 6. You can qualify for the Veterans Pension by just giving your assets away. Unfortunately, this one is just true enough to be truly dangerous. It’s the one step planning that could be a step off a cliff. What if you give all of your assets to your son, and he ends up in a divorce or sued? Or what if he ends up in a in bankruptcy? Will all of your assets your son was “holding” for you be put at risk? Possibly. Or what if your son dies before you do? Will his spouse or kids honor the fact that it is your money that is supposed to be there for you if you need it? Or will that spouse use the money for the children’s college? There are much better, safer planning alternatives.
Myth 5. Assets in my revocable living trust don’t count towards a Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit spend down. While revocable living trusts are excellent estate planning tools, and, in certain circumstances, can assist with a Medicaid spend down for married couples, it does not simply exempt assets from the V.A.’s scrutiny.
Myth 4. I’m sure I can just fill in the forms with the V.A. myself, so there’s no need to have professionals help. Again, this one has just enough truth in it to be dangerous. Because it is not all about just filling out an application. In fact, Veterans Claims Agents will assist with simply filling out forms by providing the correct forms and guidance in the process for free. But there are a whole host of other factors that extend far beyond the actual Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit application, including the arrangement of supporting documentation, assistance with the transfer of assets, developing the right trusts and care contracts, and looking down the road for the potential need of Medicaid and how those transfers would affect it. Like drafting your own trust documents, this is something veterans and their families just want to make sure they get right. Unfortunately we regularly receive calls from “do-it-yourself families” who were not only denied the benefit because the application was not submitted correctly, but they also were precluded from applying again for one year.
Myth 3. If the V.A. won’t pay for assisted living care, then I’m sure Medicare pays for all medical conditions, even ones lasting longer than 100 days. The fact is that Medicare is a type of primary health insurance for seniors that takes care of a limited amount of services for a limited period of time. It does not pay for all long term care needs. Not custodial nursing level care, and not even for hospital care beyond the stipulated number of days.
Myth 2. My Medicare Supplement or Long Term Care Policy should just take care of assisted living or home health care. Medicare supplements are designed to pick up the costs of co-pays and deductibles which are required for hospital care, not assisted living. And long term care insurance is often only covering nursing level care. I say “often” because there are some very good (and expensive) long term care insurance policies out there that will pay for some home health care services that are not considered “nursing” level, but even many of long term care policies that do cover home health care are focused on the nursing level of care. Meaning they are great for providing money to get you the same care as a nursing home in your own home or that of a child or other relative. But they might not help with assisted living levels of care like the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit is renowned for helping with.
Myth 1. There’s no need for a comprehensive Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit Plan… my friend/neighbor/barista just did “X” and everything turned out OK. The rules around qualification for the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit are vast with many stipulations and exceptions. There are also more than 200,000 regulations surrounding the Medicaid portion of Care Assistance Planning (let alone other Care Assistance programs) that may be affected down the road by transfers or care arrangements that are improperly made just to get the VA Pension Benefit. Finally, there are just as many combinations of strategies and techniques that can be used to benefit you, all depending on you and your family’s unique situation. It is a huge mistake to think that everything will be clear because you think you understand 3 pieces of a 200,000 piece puzzle. It’s always best to discuss things with Care Assistance professionals before taking action. What turned out well for your friend or neighbor may end up being a disaster for you.
With any luck, you have recognized some of these items as myths to begin with, but don’t feel bad if you didn’t. The Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit and qualifying for it is an extremely complicated subject with an astounding number of traps and loopholes, and unless you make a career out of it you are not likely to know these myths from general reading and information from non-professionals. The main point I want to leave you with in this lesson is that Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit planning is far from simple. There can be a lot of savings and income to help with care costs for the family if planning is done correctly… and huge potential financial losses if done incorrectly. And this is not even counting months of lost pension payments by not handling the claims process correctly.
If you do have further questions, you can email them to my office or call me directly. Call my office at 919-518-8237 and ask for Jeff, but please mention you are calling in response to my V.A. Pension Benefit Planning e-mails. Thanks again and enjoy the information. The next section will be on different care options.
Jeffrey G. Marsocci
The Care Assistance Center, LLC
8406 Six Forks Road, Suite 102
Raleigh, NC 27615
Jeffrey G. Marsocci was born in Fort Worth, Texas but was raised in Lincoln, Rhode Island and graduated from Mount Saint Charles Academy High School. He graduated from Hofstra University with an undergraduate degree in Business, and two years later earned his law degree from the same school. He also earned a Certificate Degree in Non-Profit Management from Duke University in 2004, he was the Alumni of the Month for Hofstra University in June of 2013, and his firm was honored by the City of Raleigh with the 2011 Human Relations Business Award. Mr. Marsocci also became a Certified Medicaid Planner™ in 2014, a certification granted by the CMP™ Governing Board*, and he is an attorney accredited by the Veterans Administration to practice before the V.A. and its applicable administrative and legal tribunals.
In addition to working in his estate planning, estate administration, and Care Assistance Planning practice in Raleigh, NC since 1996, Mr. Marsocci is the author of numerous books including Estate Planning Basics, The Veteran’s Long Term Care Solution and other planning books found on Amazon.com. Mr. Marsocci frequently holds seminars for clients, financial advisors and other attorneys on topics related to the life and estate planning field as well as developing and presenting continuing legal education courses for attorneys and life insurance agents. Mr. Marsocci is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association, the Wake County Bar Association, and the National Italian American Bar Association. He and his wife Kathleen live in Raleigh, North Carolina and work with various charitable and non-profit groups including Kiwanis. Both are recipients of the President’s Call to Service Award through the Points of Light Foundation for completing more than 4,000 hours of service during their lifetimes.
*Certification is granted based upon a qualified candidate demonstrating a mastery of the skills and knowledge of the subject matter. To achieve certification, a CMP™ must meet certain education and/or experience requirements, show proficiency in Medicaid Planning through a thorough examination, and commit to adhere to the highest in professional standards. A CMP™ also subjects himself or herself to discipline by the CMP™ Governing Board. A Certified Medicaid Planner™ is not necessarily an attorney, so this designation is not governed or regulated by any state bar association.
Professional advice on how to access Medicaid and VA Benefits without giving up the house or assets using a trusted step-by-step process that literally walks you through a complex and bureaucratic system.
Get your free information packet “How a Little Known VA Benefit Can Provide Monthly Financial Support”
David Cole of the Senior Veterans Council and I have put together a useful packet of information along with my book “The Veteran’s Long Term Care Solution: The Truth Behind Long Term Care Planning for Veterans with the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit” which includes:
- 20-minute DVD outlines how the benefit can provide financial assistance towards the cost of in-home care, Assisted Living, or possibly independent living facility costs.
- VA Aid and Attendance Benefit Rate Table
- How to access immediate funds while applying for government assistance
- Using a NOVA Professional Advocate to Pre-Plan Your VA Claims
- Special Industry Report: Medicaid Secrets Reveals: Learn proven strategies to save your home and protect your life savings from devastating nursing home costs
- The Promise to America by Lyndon B. Johnson
- National Care Planning Council
- Book by Jeffrey G. Marsocci – The Veteran’s Long Term Care Solution: The Truth Behind Long Term Care Planning for Veterans with the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit
Disclaimer: The information contained in this email is provided “as is” with no warranties or guarantees. This information should not be considered as actual legal, tax or investment advice and you should always contact a certified accountant, tax professional, or attorney before making any financial decisions. While every attempt has been made to provide current and accurate information, neither the author nor the publisher can be held accountable for any errors or omissions. You agree that you are solely liable for any and all reliance, use, or action on this information.