As we look to care for our parents and grandparents as they age in Florida, we need to think about their current and potential long-term care needs. How will they be able to find good care should they need it? Where should they look for help? What is available in our community? How will they be able to afford the care they need should the time come?
Unfortunately, many Florida seniors do not begin to plan for the high cost of long-term care until it is too late. For a myriad of reasons, they did not plan forward to think about what they may need both now and for a future that includes an increased need for long-term care assistance. Most of us today simply cannot afford the additional thousands of dollars per month it would cost to have support from home healthcare or a semi-private room in a skilled nursing facility without rethinking our finances and looking for help from public benefits.
While many Florida seniors turn to Medicaid and other local community programs for assistance, for Florida veterans, there are additional benefits available. They range from health care and funeral assistance to disability support and pension assistance. For many veterans the available benefits remain unused and hard to obtain due to the qualification that is required to gain access to them.
Perhaps the most beneficial program for the Florida senior veteran in need of long-term care assistance is the VA Pension program.
The VA Pension program is in no way tied to a service-connected disability.
In fact, the health care disability standard associated at the basic level is met simply by being over age 65. This a monthly, tax-free benefit that can increase based on the health care needs of the veteran.
The rules changed substantially for this program on October 18, 2018. This program is not an automatic benefit for wartime veterans and their dependents. They must prove, first, that the veteran served for at least 90 days of active service with one day during a period of war. Second, he or she must prove that he or she was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
Now, to access this program, the new rules created a few more qualifications. For example, there is an asset limit for the veteran’s countable resources. Prior to the rule changes, there was no set amount in place. This year the veteran may have $126,240, excluding exempt assets, and this amount will change each year.
Further, through these rules the Department of Veterans Affairs created a “look-back” period. A “look-back” period is a period of time during which the Department may review assets to determine if the veteran has made gifts of his or her resources. A similar set up currently exists for the Florida Medicaid program. The “look-back” period will be for thirty-six months. If the VA determines this occurred the veteran may face a disqualification period.
These are just a few ways the VA Pension program has changed.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers and encourage you to schedule a meeting with us to get the answers you need for yourself and your loved ones.