Veterans Affairs Disability Pension: Are You in the Loop?

The hardest part of getting the benefits that you deserve is understanding the process. When it comes to acquiring veterans pension benefits from the VA, there’s a lot of factors in play, especially in light of recent rule changes that are set to take effect on October 18th, 2018. At AVCC, we recognize just how difficult it is to be a veteran and not know how the pension system functions. It’s our job to make sure that you’re as informed as possible going forward, and that you have all the resources that you need to live a healthy life.

Asset Cap

VA pension benefits are “means-tested,” meaning that the applicant’s income and assets are considered in determining eligibility. Before, there was previously no specific asset limitation, and applicants were assessed on a case-by-case basis. The new restrictions necessitate a countable asset “cap,” which matches the Community Spouse Resource Allowance for Medicaid ($123,600 for 2018). The annual income of the applicant is taken into account when calculating their countable assets; so, too, are the assets and income of the applicant’s spouse.

Transfers of Assets and “Lookback” Period

Current regulations allow a VA pension applicant to transfer assets (e.g. to a family member, a trust, or an annuity) without penalty, no matter what the amount is. After October 18, 2018, this is no longer the case: a “lookback” period of 3 years beginning on October 18th is now included. If an improper transfer of assets occurred during the 3 years immediately prior to the application for benefits, a penalty period of ineligibility of up to 5 years could be assessed (the punishment is contingent on the amount of the transfer).  The new rules include that transfers to family members, trusts, and annuities are now considered penalizable transfers due to the “lookback” period.

Unreimbursed Medical Expenses (UME) and Caregiver Agreements

Fortunately for veterans and surviving spouses, some of the recent changes are positioned as helpful extensions of current rules that are beneficial. For example? Fees related to residence in an independent living facility now count as UME under certain circumstances, while other items that used to not count, (including prescriptions, special dietary items, vitamins and supplements) are income deductible if prescribed by the applicant’s physician. Also, any cost related to service animals and transportation for healthcare purposes now count for UME.

Check in with the experts at AVCC

Don’t go it alone if you don’t have to—at AVCC, our job is to make sue that you have the information, resources, and ongoing support that you need to live a healthy life with minimal complications. Don’t get bogged down by confusing paperwork; we’ll put you in the best position possible to receive the benefits that you’re entitled to as a veteran of the United States military.