By Linda T Cammuso
After several years of discussions and proposed legislation, the Veterans Administration (VA) has finally promulgated new rules significantly changing the criteria for veterans and their spouses to be eligible for Aid and Attendance pension benefits (A&A). The new rules became effective on October 18, 2018.
The Aid and Attendance program offers a monthly pension to veterans, or to their surviving spouses, to help cover the cost of out-of-pocket medical expenses, including assisted living. Many veterans or their surviving spouses rely on this benefit to help cover the cost of in-home care or assisted living. The new rules will make it more difficult to qualify for A&A benefits since, for the first time, they impose a three year look-back period on asset transfers/gifts. The new rules also articulate a defined asset limit, which previously was a vague range.
The VA will not “look back” before the new rule takes effect and the VA will disregard any asset transfers made before the October 18, 2018 date.
While these new rules are intimidating and disheartening, in reality veterans have long had to plan in the shadow of a look back, since anyone transferring assets for A&A eligibility had to also consider the implications for Medicaid (which has a strict 5-year look back) should they later end up in a nursing home in need of Medicaid benefits to pay for their stay.
While the new rules present a challenge for short-term eligibility scenarios, they underscore the importance of planning ahead with the assistance of a qualified elder law attorney.