Tags Posts tagged with "Department of Veterans Affairs"

Department of Veterans Affairs

By Nancy Burner, ESQ.

Nancy Burner, Esq.

Most veterans are not aware of the wide range of benefits they may be entitled to under the United States Department of Veterans Affairs even if they did not directly retire from the military or suffer injuries in the line of duty.

For example, there is a benefit referred to as the improved pension through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA), more commonly referred to as Aid and Attendance Pension (A&A). Assuming you meet the eligibility requirements, the VA permits payments to caregivers (including family members, but not spouses) for care provided to the veteran and/or the spouse.

This benefit is also commonly used for veterans and/or their surviving spouses who reside in an assisted living facility. This monthly benefit can be used along with income in order to prevent the depletion of assets for care services. There are three main requirements to qualifying for Aid and Attendance.

First, the claimant must have served at least 90 days active duty with one day served during wartime. There are specific wartime periods: World War II (Dec. 7, 1941 – Dec. 31, 1946); Korean conflict (June 27, 1950 – Jan. 31, 1955); Vietnam era (Feb. 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975, for veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period; otherwise Aug. 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975); or Persian Gulf War (Aug. 2, 1990 – through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation as well as current Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans). The claimant must have received a military discharge “other than dishonorable.”

Second, the claimant must be declared permanently and totally disabled. The definition for “permanently and total disability” is residing in a nursing home, total blindness, or so nearly blind or significantly disabled as to need or require the regular aid and attendance of another person to complete his or her daily activities. In most circumstances, if the claimant can show he or she requires assistance with at least two activities of daily living (e.g., bathing, dressing, ambulating), the disability requirement is satisfied.

Third and final, the claimant must meet the financial means test. Unfortunately, there is no set financial standard, which can make it very difficult to ascertain if the claimant qualifies for the benefit. As a general rule, the claimant should not have more than $50,000 to $80,000 in net worth excluding the home of the claimant.

Additionally, the claimant must make a showing that his or her monthly unreimbursed medical expenses exceed his or her monthly income. When making this determination, the claimant should add up all of his or her monthly medical costs, including but not limited to the cost of services provided by professional caregivers as well as family members and rent paid to an assisted living facility.

Once all three prongs are satisfied, the veterans and/or spouse can receive this pension. The maximum benefit available for a single veteran in 2017 is $1,794 per month. A widow of a veteran is eligible for a maximum benefit of $1,153 per month in 2017. A married veteran is eligible for $2,127 per month in 2017. A veteran couple is eligible for $2,841 per month in 2017.

It is imperative to understand that currently there is no look-back period for VA planning, which makes asset eligibility and planning possible in most cases. There is planning that can be done in order to qualify the veteran or the surviving spouse for this benefit.

The application process can be lengthy, but the claimant can always seek help from a local accredited VA attorney or through the United States Veteran’s Services Agency, Human Services Division. If the benefits are denied, applicants should be aware that the decision for these claims can be appealed by the veteran and/or the surviving spouse.

Nancy Burner, Esq. practices elder law and estate planning from her East Setauket office.

Congressman Lee Zeldin. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

President-elect Donald Trump’s (R) cabinet appointments to this point have raised some eyebrows, but we had a perfect solution for one of the departments which was still in need of leadership as several selections begin the confirmation process this week.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) seemed like a no-brainer to serve as the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Although Trump nominated David Shulkin, the current undersecretary for health of the VA, when he addressed the media Jan. 11, we think Zeldin’s name should be kept in mind for the position should any snags arise in Shulkin’s confirmation.

Trump has met with or considered about a dozen people to run the second-largest federal department, according to The Washington Post, prior to landing on Shulkin.

Although it has been proven to be one of the toughest segments of government to run and run well — with accountability, budget management issues and more plaguing the current administration — you don’t have to look far to see why Zeldin would have fit the bill.

Zedlin, a veteran himself, has been fighting to expand disabled veterans’ access to adult day health care in and away from home, even helping construct a new veterans health care clinic in Manorville. He also created the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer peer-to-peer support program to fight PTSD and veteran suicide rates, helping those who return from combat ill prepared to handle the physical and mental scarring. Zeldin was in strong support of the No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act, which mandates that crisis center responders be available to answer a dedicated phone number 24 hours a day, seven days a week. President Barack Obama (D) signed it into law in November, after the bill garnered unanimous support in the House.

In 2016 Suffolk County joined the ranks of only a few select regions in the U.S. to bring an “effective end” to veteran homelessness, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, and Zeldin worked with many groups who helped achieve this status.

He’s a member of the Veterans’ Affairs and Foreign Affairs committees and continues to serve as a major in the Army Reserves.

Zeldin has also been a strong supporter of curbing the drug crisis plaguing the country. The congressman strongly endorsed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, to combat Long Island’s heroin hitch, signed into law by President Obama this past summer. Zeldin is also a member of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic.

All of these achievements were reached in Zeldin’s freshman term as a congressman, and we believe his input in this area should be valued going forward no matter who holds the cabinet position.

Zeldin supported Trump in the presidential campaign, and said he sides with the Republican on many issues in our in-house candidate debate; so it seems like a Trump decision to pick Zeldin would have been fitting. As for our editorial board, we saw it as not just fitting but a strong and wise choice.