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Ten Military Benefits you May Not Know About

The US Department of Veterans, through Tricare and the GI Bill, offers numerous education and basic health care benefits to veterans. Even with these programs that help veterans and their families, other little-known services can improve their lives and ease the financial burden of medical care and other expenses. Check your veteran status to see if you qualify for the following ten benefits:

Long-term Care

It is well documented that long-term care is expensive, but it is often necessary to provide aging relatives. Through the Aid and Attendance program, many veterans can receive money that covers the cost of assisted living programs, nursing homes, and other long-term care facility options. Currently, couples can receive up to $25,020 annually, which can defray a significant portion of the costs associated with long-term care. A veteran’s surviving spouse is also eligible to receive up to $13,560 annually to cover their long-term care costs.

Caregiver Support

Suppose you decide to provide care for your ailing veteran at home, then check into the Veterans Affairs Caregiver Support program. While the program does not offer monetary support, it does give the caregivers a no-cost support line and a caregiver support coordinator who can provide invaluable information when navigating military benefits and learning stress-reducing techniques while caregiving.

Death Benefits

Burial benefits for veterans provide a family with a way to open and close the gravesite of their loved one in any of the 148 national cemeteries with available space and provide perpetual gravesite care at no cost. Additionally, the program provides a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.

Non-College Degree Certificates and Programs

Many veterans are looking for jobs to increase their income or boost their retirement savings.  The GI bill can provide training certification courses and vocational training programs for emergency medical training, barber/beautician school, truck driving, HVAC repair, etc. The VET TEC program offers other non-college degree programs with accelerated learning in coding boot camps and other associated information science programs and software training. There are also free certification programs in information technology for qualifying veterans.

Free Tax Preparation Services

Veterans and their families can use the free tax preparation services available on military bases through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offices. The tax preparers in these offices have expertise working with the complex nature of military-related tax issues.

GI Bill Credits Transfers

As a veteran, if you have unused credits through the GI Bill, you may transfer them to your spouse or dependents. If you qualify for the service limits, then you can transfer the benefits.

Life Insurance

Traditional life insurance can be difficult for a veteran to get; this is particularly true in sustaining an injury during their time of service. The Servicemembers’ and Veterans’ Group, Life Insurance Program, can provide up to $400,000 in life insurance and offer competitive premium rates. To learn more, visit the VA’s Group Life Insurance website for servicemembers and veterans.

Delinquent Mortgage Help

Repayment assistance is available for veterans having trouble making their mortgage payments. Some of the options available include special repayment plans, loan modification, and loan forbearance programs. There are also benefits for veterans with VA loans as well as for homeless veterans.

VA Foreclosures

Veterans can search the list of VA acquired properties and purchase these homes at a discount. The VA maintains this list of homes that are serviced through VA Home Loans and are in foreclosure. Although you do not have to be a veteran to search the property list, all qualify for VA financing.

American Corporate Partners

Veterans can connect their skill sets to job opportunities in top companies through American Corporate Partners. This service also provides one-on-one mentoring, interview coaching, resume assistance, and more. If you are looking to start a second career, this service can help you identify the best move for you.

Benefit opportunities for a veteran can make a big difference in lifestyle for themselves and their family members. Understanding the process of veteran qualification/eligibility and properly submitting paperwork for approval can be difficult to navigate. Identify the programs that can help your veteran and then contact an elder law attorney specializing in veterans’ benefits, like us. We’d be honored to help. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.

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Aging Veterans and VA Benefits

More than 18.2 million veterans live in the United States, and 38 percent of them are 65 and older according to the US Census Bureau. Additionally, the Census Bureau reports that more than 9 million veterans receive services from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) annually. If you are a veteran or have a loved one who is, it is important to understand all the VA resources and aid that is available. Beyond education programs, home loans, and job search and training resources, the VA also provides a host of other resources to assist you as you transition to your retirement years.

Wartime Veterans Supplemental Income (Veterans Pension)

Supplemental income is available for wartime veterans through the VA pension benefit. If you served at least 90 days of active duty before September 7, 1980, or 24 months after that date, or served the full period for which you were summoned or ordered to active duty with at least one day of wartime, you may qualify.  You must have also been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. There are strict income and asset requirements attached to this benefit as well as the survivors pension and the housebound or aid and attendance allowance discussed below.

Survivors pension

If your late parent or spouse served during wartime, you might qualify for the survivor’s pension. This tax-free program provides relief for unmarried children or a widow or widower who has low income. The deceased military veteran must have served a minimum of 90 days active service with a minimum of one day served during a period of wartime before September 7, 1980, and been dishonorably discharged. After that September date, the deceased veteran must have served a minimum of 24 months or the full period summoned or ordered to serve active duty. Pensions are based on annual family income and under a designated amount set by Congress. More details regarding military pension eligibility are found on the VA website.

Housebound Allowance and Aid & Attendance Benefit

If you are eligible for or are already receiving a veterans’ pension, you may qualify for additional monetary benefits. If you are permanently disabled and must remain in your current home, the Housebound Allowance will increase your monthly pension. Aid & Attendance (A&A) will compensate a veteran who is either residing in a nursing home, bedridden, requires assistance for activities in their day to day life, or whose eyesight problems meet specific thresholds of degradation. More details for Housebound Allowance and A&A eligibility can be found on the VA website.

Veterans Life Insurance Options

There is a wide variety of life insurance offerings through the Veterans Administration. Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI, VA form SGLV8286) is a group term life insurance that is low cost and is automatic for most active-duty service members. It is also available for those veterans who serve at least 12 periods of inactive training per year with the Ready Reserve or the National Guard. Other automatic qualifiers include belonging to the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the Public Health Service, and for midshipmen and cadets of the US military academies and ROTC members. You can extend the coverage up to two years if you are fully disabled at separation. Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI, VA form SGLV 8286A) allows you to convert your SGLI to a civilian program of lifetime renewable term coverage after leaving military service.

Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance

If you qualify for SGLI, your spouse and children are qualified for Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI, VA form SGLV 8286A). This insurance covers your dependent children free of charge, although the coverage for your spouse cannot surpass your amount of coverage.

Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection

If you sustain a traumatic injury during your service that leads to amputation, blindness, or paraplegia, you qualify for benefit payments made through Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI, VA form SGLV8600).

Service-Disabled Veterans’ Life Insurance

The Service-Disabled Veterans’ Life Insurance(S-DVI, VA Form 29-4364) coverage is provided to veterans who have been given a VA rating for what is called a new service-connected disability within the past two years. Coverage is free for eligible veterans who are fully disabled, and you can purchase additional life insurance.

Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance

As a veteran, if you are disabled and approved for a VA Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant, you may receive mortgage life insurance coverage through the Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI, VA Form 29-8636).

This link takes you to an overview of these VA insurance benefits. You can click on the insurance program by name and be automatically redirected to the appropriate VA web page for that benefit.

Disability Compensation

Tax-free Dependency and Indemnity Compensation(DIC, VA Form 21-534EZ) is available to veterans who sustain or aggravate an injury or disease during their active service. The disability may include physical and mental health issues and secondary or related items diagnosed after your discharge. Your child may be eligible for DIC if they are not included in the spouse’s DIC, and there is an income-based DIC for parents. A disability can also qualify you for a higher, tax-free Special Monthly Compensation if you are housebound and need special assistance or have trouble performing daily living activities. Additionally, housing and insurance benefits through the VA, like Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance, Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance, and Adapted Housing Grants may be available.

Geriatrics and Extended Care Services

The Geriatrics and Extended Care Services (GEC) provides help to veterans with life-limiting illnesses, multiple chronic conditions, or disabilities associated with aging, injury, or chronic disease. The GEC will assist a veteran living at home or in a nursing home, assisted living, or other residential community care facilities. GEC services include home health aide care, daily care, telehealth care, palliative care, respite care, hospice care, and even veteran-directed care.

Military Burial

Veteran burial benefits include a gravesite in a national veteran’s cemetery, a government marker or headstone, the opening and closing of that grave and its perpetual care, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate. The marker, headstone, burial flag and certificate are provided at no cost the veteran. Additionally, dependents and spouses buried in a national veteran’s cemetery may also qualify for some benefits such as burial with the veteran, inscription on their headstone, and perpetual care. For a complete description of your veteran benefits, check this VA website link.

Percentages of veterans receiving benefits:

  • 25-34 years 24.7 percent
  • 36-44 years 21.5 percent
  • 45-54 years 25.8 percent
  • 55-64 years 19.8 percent
  • 65-74 years 5.0 percent
  • 75+ years 1.3 percent

If you are a veteran or have a loved one who is, it is crucial to understand that veteran resources go far beyond career and end-of-life issues. Many veterans are not taking full advantage of VA offerings. Many VA age-related programs can benefit a veteran’s life beyond simply planning their future care. Become acquainted with the many options available and determine which programs you qualify for and best serve your interests. With so many benefits available through the VA, you can improve your living situation during your retirement.

The overview is just a summary of what may be available to a wartime veteran or a veteran who is disabled as a result of their prior service. If you or a loved one would like to explore whether you are eligible for benefits, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700 with any questions.

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Why Veterans Benefits Planning is Vital for Aging Veterans

The COVID-19 virus is not going away as many had hoped. And studies have shown it is deadlier for those over the age of 65. Individuals living in senior living communities, such as independent living, assisted living, memory care, and nursing homes have the highest risk of becoming infected and possibly dying from the virus or a secondary illness, such as pneumonia, after being weakened from the virus. For many families, providing long term care for a loved one in the home has become an even bigger priority than normal. In-home care can be costly, which makes the Aid and Attendance Benefit provided by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs of critical importance to help pay for such care.

Veteran Aid and Attendance Benefit

The Aid and Attendance Benefit, technically called the Improved Pension Benefit, is a cash benefit paid to wartime veterans that are over the age of 65 and require another person to assist them with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, feeding, and assistance with incontinence, or requires a protective environment due to mental decline. The Aid and Attendance Benefit is also available to similarly disabled spouses of deceased wartime veterans that are over the age of 65. It is this need for assistance with care or a protective environment that has the family looking into long term care facilities for their loved one.

The Aid and Attendance eligibility rules also require the person receiving the benefit to have limited income. Simply put, all income of the applicant and the applicant’s spouse must be offset by the medical expenses of the applicant and the applicant’s spouse. Any income not offset by medical expenses reduces the amount of the benefit. Under the Aid and Attendance rules, when the wartime veteran or surviving spouse requires assistance with activities of daily living or a protective environment, paying an in-home caregiver to provide that care is a medical expense. It does not matter whether the caregiver is a child or hired through an agency.

Current Veteran Benefits

For 2020, the maximum benefit paid to a married wartime veteran is $2,266 per month. The maximum benefit paid to a single wartime veteran is $1,911. The maximum benefit paid to a surviving spouse of a wartime veteran is $1,228. Working carefully through the math, if a married wartime veteran needs long term care and has a household income of $4,000 per month, he or she will need to spend $4,000 per month on medical expenses to receive $2,266 per month. That veteran likely already has medical expenses in the form of two Medicare and two Medicare supplement premiums, as well as possibly two Medicare prescription supplements. The remaining income needs to be spent on additional medical expenses, specifically an in-home caregiver.

The family must now decide the best way to navigate paying the in-home caregiver. If the couple has children, perhaps the remainder of the household income can be paid to a child, or split among the children, as payment for caregiver services. In many cases, using a child or children as a caregiver allows for flexibility in the amount a caregiver is paid. The income calculation can be manipulated to net out at exactly zero, instead of going into the negative. This allows the veteran to use the $2,266 per month benefit to pay for the couple’s non-medical living expenses.

Other Veteran Benefits for Caregiving

The other option is to hire a caregiver from an agency. This option is more expensive than using a child as a caregiver, but it comes with the added benefit of ensuring taxes are withheld and workers’ compensation insurance is provided in case of an accident. If the family wants the income calculation to net out at exactly zero, the veteran typically will not get as many hours of service from the caregiver hired through an agency compared to hiring a child since an agency typically charges a higher per hour rate. This would work well for a veteran that does not need a lot of care, or that has a wife and/or children that can cover the additional hours of care for free. Otherwise, the agency will need to be paid to provide the additional hours of service, which means the $2,266 benefit paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs will also be used to pay for the care and the couple will have to use assets to pay for the couple’s non-medical living expenses.

The Aid and Attendance Benefit also has an asset limit the applicant must meet, along with a penalty for giving assets away and a 3-year period to look back at the applicant’s assets to see if any gifts were made. These rules should not dissuade a wartime veteran or surviving spouse from seeking this benefit. The need for long term care will only increase. The cost of care will only increase. And now the COVID-19 virus makes it critical that everything possible is done to protect this vulnerable community.

If you have questions or would like to discuss whether you or a loved one may qualify for Veterans Benefits, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700 to learn more about your VA planning options.

Healthcare

How Veterans Can Qualify for a VA Pension Without Being Disabled

Many veterans may miss out on US Military benefits as they are always changing; it is important to understand how to navigate this life-changing aid option. Many wartime veterans receive a disability pension due to injury. But did you know that wartime veterans age 65 or more may qualify for a VA Pension without being disabled? The Veteran’s Administration qualifications for this type of VA Pension include:

  • Your military service discharge is deemed anything other than dishonorable conditions,
  • Your service was 90 or more active duty days with at minimum one day of service during a period of wartime.
  • You are age 65 years or older,
  • Your countable family income is below a threshold set every year by law.

2020 Family Income Limits (Effective December 1, 2019)

If you are a…Your yearly income must be less than…*
Veteran with no dependents$13,752*
Veteran with a spouse or a child$18,008**
Housebound veteran with no dependents$16,805
Housebound veteran with one dependent$21,063
Veteran who needs aid and attendance and has no dependents$22,939
Veteran who needs aid and attendance (A/A) and has one dependent$27,195
Two veterans married to each other$18,008
Add for each additional child to any category above$2,351
*Some income is not counted toward the yearly limit (for example, welfare benefits, some wages earned by dependent children, and Supplemental Security Income. It is also important to note that your medical-related expenses are considered when determining your yearly family income. *To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed $687 ** To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed $900

The financial information chart above, published by military.com, is commensurate with the numbers posted on the Veteran’s Administration website.  Be aware; there is a look-back period that will determine if you have transferred assets in the three years previous to filing your claim. There would be a penalty period rate of $2,266 if you did move assets for less than fair market value during this period.

The VA will pay a qualified veteran the difference between personal countable family income and the yearly income limit category into which they fall. Payments are made in 12 equal installments per month and rounded down to the nearest dollar. As an example, a single veteran with a $5,000 annual income qualifies for an annual limit of $13,752. Subtracting that veteran’s income from the income limit yields an annual pension rate of $8,752, which translates into a VA monthly pension check of $729.33 or $729.00 rounded down to the nearest dollar value.

The VA website recognizes the following wartime periods that determine if your service was during an eligible wartime period:

  • World War II (December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946)
  • Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam War era (February 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served outside the Republic of Vietnam.)
  • Gulf War (August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)

In addition to VA pension, wartime Veterans may also qualify for an additional allowance called Aid and Attendance. To qualify medically for VA Aid and Attendance, one of the following must be true:

  • Another person is required for you to perform daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and feeding, or
  • You spend a large portion, or all of your day in bed due to illness, or
  • Due to a loss of mental or physical abilities related to a disability you are a patient in a nursing home, or
  • Your eyesight is severely limited (wearing glasses or contacts your eyesight is 5/200 or less in both eyes or your concentric contraction visual field is 5 degrees or less)

There are similar benefits available to surviving spouses of wartime Veterans. If you are a wartime veteran or the surviving spouse of a wartime Veteran, we can help you determine whether you could qualify for pension benefits.

While eligible veterans or surviving spouses can apply for benefits on their own through the www.va.gov  website, it is advisable to seek the advice of counsel before applying. There may be planning options available to avoid a penalty period and speed up the qualification process. If you would like to explore whether you might qualify for VA pension benefits, please contact our Reno office by calling us at (775) 853-5700.