Over three and a half years ago on January 23, 2015, the Veterans Administration (VA) proposed significant rule changes regarding eligibility requirements for the Aid and Attendance pension. Since that time, we have been waiting (and waiting) for the VA to release its final rules. Well, the wait is finally over. The new VA rules have been released with an effective date of October 18, 2018. Not surprisingly, the new rules will make it more difficult for many veterans and their spouses to qualify for the Aid and Attendance pension. Here are the most notable changes:
- Three Year Look Back Period for Divestments. Previously a veteran or veteran’s spouse could give away resources without penalty in order to qualify for the VA pension. Now there will be a three year look back period for any transfer for less than fair market value after October 18 of assets that exceed the new net worth limit.
- Penalty for Divestments. Any transfer for less than fair market value within the three year look back period will be subject to a penalty period that can last up to five years. The penalty will be determined by dividing the total amount of excess assets divested by the maximum annual pension rate (MAPR) which is currently $2169.00 for a married veteran with one dependent.
- Bright Line Net Worth Limit. Previously the VA considered several factors in determining the net worth limit an applicant was allowed. Beginning October 18, the asset limit will be the same as the maximum spousal resource allowance under the Medicaid rules which currently is $123,600.00. This amount is generally increased each year due to inflation.
- Homestead Exemption. The VA will continue to exclude the value of a primary residence in determining eligibility, provided however that the “residential lot area” on which the primary residence occupies does not exceed two acres.
- Allowable Medical Expenses. The new rules clarify the medical expenses that veterans and their spouses are allowed to deduct from their countable income. This includes for example, the cost of a care facility other than a nursing home provided that assistance is needed for at least two activities of daily living or supervision is necessary because of cognitive impairment, mental or physical limitations.
These rule changes will significantly change strategies commonly used to qualify for VA benefits. Anyone seeking VA benefits will need to be aware of the new rules and how they may affect their eligibility. Be sure to consult with an experienced elder law attorney.