There may come a time when you or your senior loved ones need long-term care assistance. This assistance could be with simple tasks such as picking up the house during the week or getting groceries. It also may be more complicated when you or your loved one is no longer able to live alone, drive, or needs significant help managing activities of daily living.

One of the first questions we ask our clients, friends, and community advisors is – can you still live at home? When the answer is “no”, we know that we may need to turn to not only finding good care in our local community, but also finding a way to pay for it.

Unfortunately, most of us do not have a surplus of additional money to spend on monthly long-term care costs. The idea of paying for long-term care can be daunting, even under the best of circumstances. In a crisis, however, we may need to move quickly and not have the resources needed to pay for long-term care. In these instances, we help seniors and their loved ones access public benefits programs such as Medicaid to help pay for the care that is needed without depleting all of the senior’s assets.

Fortunately, for wartime veterans and their dependents, additional benefits may exist. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides a monthly VA pension to veterans who are able to meet the qualification requirements that may be used to defray these monthly long-term care costs. This money is tax-free and is in no way related to a service-connected injury.

Part of the qualification requirements are dependent on the veteran being considered a “wartime” veteran. To be a wartime veteran, he or she must have at least ninety days of active duty with at least one day of service during wartime. To find out if your service dates qualify, you can take a look at the Department of Veterans Affairs Eligible Wartime Periods using this link.

Similar to the Medicaid program that helps pay for long-term care costs in a skilled facility, the requirements also have an income and asset test associated with them. The rules governing the VA pension program dramatically changed on October 18, 2018. These new rules put in place a maximum asset limit of $126,240 for the veteran’s household in 2019, although there are certain exempt assets the veteran may own.

The new rules also put in place, for the first time, a look back period. Under the “look back” period, the Department may examine the financial records of the veteran who has filed a claim to receive VA pension. If the Department determines that the veteran gave away assets that could have been used to pay for long-term care and was not compensated for this gift in the thirty-six months prior to the claim filing date, he or she could be facing a disqualification period relative to this gift.

These are just a few of the rules and changes governing the VA pension program. While this is an available benefit that can greatly help with the costs of long-term care for a wartime veteran and his or her dependent, it is critical to ensure that you are eligible for this benefit prior to filing a claim. We encourage you to talk to our firm to learn more about the eligibility rules and the ins and outs of the VA Pension Program.