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Are all Veterans Eligible for VA Benefits?

Many People have this question in their mind about are all veterans eligible for VA Benefits.

I help Veterans, their spouses, and surviving spouses of Veterans learn about community resources and ways to pay for long-term care.

The Drop Zone is an event that Congressman Andy Biggs holds annually.

This year the veteran’s event was held on Saturday, April 24, 2022, in Chandler, Arizona.

Congressman Andy Biggs is a staunch supporter of both the military and veterans. The Drop Zone event is just one of the many ways he demonstrates his support.

The owner of Care Funding Solutions and founder of The Arizona Care Alliance, Steve Dabbs, a VA Accredited Claims Agent, Certified Medicaid Planner, and Accredited Investment Fiduciary, were present, among more than 50 organizations with information tables at the event.

Steve Dabbs with Congressman Andy Biggs

These included state and federal government agencies, like the Veterans Administration, the Office of the Arizona Attorney General, and the Arizona Department of Economic Security, as well as Veteran support organizations, community non-profit support agencies, and for-profit companies.

One business leader who was present was Medicare expert John Null, owner of Senior Advisors of the East Valley. John is an active community leader who specializes in educating seniors on Medicare and Medicare supplement plans.

Also present was Kerri Ann Ronquist, owner of “All About You Senior Services,” which helps seniors find appropriate long-term care services both within and outside the home. She is also a great resource for all things surrounding long-term care and navigating all care options.

Kerri Ann Ronquist is a Certified Dementia Practitioner, Certified Placement and Referral Specialist, Certified Senior Advisor®, and Board-Certified Patient Advocate. Based on all her qualifications, it is certainly no surprise that Congressman Biggs invited her company to participate.

Steve Dabbs had this to say about the event: This is my fourth year participating in the Drop Zone Event held by Congressman Andy Biggs. I always feel honored to be invited to participate in this event as an exhibitor.

are all veterans eligible for va benefits

As a Navy Vietnam veteran, I have a lot in common with the attendees and my fellow veterans and enjoy interacting with them.

I love to tease and joke with the Air Force vets when the opportunity presents itself. At the event, a veteran wearing an Air Force ball cap came up to me. I told him he could qualify for the Veterans Pension Benefit with Aid and Attendance. He said, “I don’t qualify.”

I immediately responded, “Why – because you were in the Air Force, not the Navy?” He laughed and said that he was never in Vietnam during the war. He was stationed stateside during the war.

A common misconception is that you must have been in the war zone to qualify for Veterans Pension with Aid and Attendance.

A woman in attendance came up to my table and inquired about the Veterans Pension benefit. She explained that her husband was a veteran but was in the Navy reserves. Someone had told her that since he was only in the Navy reserves, he didn’t qualify.

I asked her whether he had any active duty. She said yes – for two years, from 1973 to 1975. They lived in San Diego during that time.

I explained that misinformation is often given about the VA Pension benefit. The person who misinformed her had confused “Reserve Duty and only Active Duty for Training,” which does not qualify, with “Reserve Duty with some Active Duty.” To qualify, you only need 90 days of activity duty with one day during the war, but it must be deemed active duty, not active duty for training. 

This can be confusing. The key is what is on the veteran’s DD-214 / Discharge papers. If it says “active duty,” you qualify. If it says “active duty for training or ACDUTRA,” you don’t.

She was so happy to learn that her husband could qualify after all. Many veterans ask this question about are all veterans eligible for VA benefits.

Another lady came by my table with a friend and told me she was married to a Korean Veteran who had passed away last year. Then she told me she didn’t qualify because she wasn’t married to her now-deceased husband when he was in the military. They had gotten married a few years after he got out.

I explained that the rule is simple: you have to be married at the time of the veteran’s death and did not remarry after they passed.  I told her she could qualify if all other VA Pension qualification requirements were met.

I love to share information on the Veterans Pension program, a long-term care program for wartime veterans. 

The 2022 VA Pension benefits can currently provide up to $2,431 per month for a married Veteran, $2,050 for a single veteran, and $1,318 for a Surviving Spouse of a veteran. There is even a benefit of $1,600 per month for a living spouse of a veteran.

The qualification requirements are simple. I call them “The 3Ms to Veterans Pension Qualification.” These are:

  • M1: Military Service: You must have had 90 days of active duty, including at least one day during a war period. You do not have to have been in a war zone to be eligible.
  • M2: Medical Need: You must need the assistance of another individual with at least two activities of daily living.
  • M3: Money: Both the Veteran’s assets and income must be below the “Bright-Line limit.”

See here for complete details on the qualification requirements.

There is no doubt that the Veterans Pension with Aid and Attendance is a tremendous veteran benefit.

Nonetheless, as wonderful as it may be, it may not be enough to cover the cost of a veteran’s or surviving spouse’s long-term care. In Arizona today, the average cost of assisted living is over $4,500, and the average nursing home cost is over $9,000 per month.

Just last week, the daughter of a client that I am helping told me that every nursing home is telling her that due to her father’s level of care, the cost is over $11,000 per month—an exorbitant amount of money.

Because the most a veteran can receive is $2,431 per month, I also provide information about the Arizona Medicaid ALTCS benefits at the event.  

Arizona Medicaid ALTCS is vital to both wartime vets, because of the high cost of assisted living today, and to the non-wartime vets, because they are not eligible for the Veterans Pension benefit  with Aid and Attendance. There was a nearly nine-and-a-half-year gap between the end of the Korean War and the start of the Vietnam War, so peacetime veterans during that period are not eligible for the Veteran Pension with Aid and Attendance benefit.

There are differences in the rules to qualify financially and medically between the Veterans Pension with Aid and Attendance and the Arizona Medi1caid ALTCS benefit program.

To qualify financially for the VA Pension benefit, the largest amount of countable assets a person can have is $138,489, whether single or married. Thus, with the VA Pension, both income and assets combined cannot exceed $138,489. This is called the “Bright-Line Limit.” However, income is subtracted from all unreimbursed medical expenses, including home care, assisted living, or nursing home costs, to arrive at a net income figure.

At the Drop Zone Event, a veteran told me that he was informed by someone at the VA that if he makes more than $2,050 per month, he can’t qualify. That is only partially true, however, as unreimbursed medical expenses offset income.

For example, suppose a veteran has an income of $3,000 and $4,000 in unreimbursed medical expenses. The veteran then has a negative $1,000 per month of income. Thus, this veteran, married or single, and the surviving spouse with the same income and outgo for medical care can have $138,489 in countable assets and still qualify.

As another example, suppose a married couple has a $7,500 per month household income and is paying $6,000 per month for care in an assisted living community. The couple then has a $1,500 per month positive income.

The Bright-Line Limit must be calculated in two ways – first as income and then as an asset – as explained below.

The income is subtracted from the married veteran’s benefit, or $2,431 minus $1,500, which equals $931. The $931 is the amount of the benefits that the VA would pay for care.

In the second equation, we must multiply the $1,500 times 12, resulting in $18,000, then subtract this figure from the Asset limit of $138,489. Thus, $120,489 would be the married couple’s “Bright-Line Limit” or asset maximum.

These calculations can be confusing, so it is best to consult a VA Accredited Claims agent about your situation.

With ALTCS, income and assets are separate in the qualification equation, and the single ALTCS application differs from the married ALTCS application.

With ALTCS, if single, the income cap is $2,523. The ALTCS applicant will need an Income Only Trust or Arizona Miller Trust, and the most they can have in countable assets is $2,000.

An Income Only Trust allows some people to qualify for Arizona Medicaid ALTCS even when their income exceeds the cap. The trust acts as a funnel – all income is poured into the trust, and then the allowable expenses are separated from the “share of cost,” which is then paid to the assisted living facility or nursing home for care.

If the ALTCS application is for a married couple, it is first necessary to determine whether only one spouse is applying, or both are applying for ALTCS.

If both are applying, the combined income cap is $5,046, and the countable asset limit is $3,000.

If only one spouse is applying, then the income is separated, and assets are considered jointly owned. A married could have up to $139,400, slightly above the VA asset cap.

A vet on an electric scooter came by and said that he is getting the VA benefits, but his wife is now in a memory care facility. When they applied for ALTCS, they were denied benefits because both their income and assets were too high and had to be reduced to qualify or spend down their assets.

I explained to him that it is a common misconception that the only way that you could qualify is by spending down countable assets. There are a number of legal strategies that will allow someone to qualify. These strategies basically convert a countable asset to a non-countable asset.

One of my favorite planning strategies is using a gift with a Medicaid Compliant Annuity. This can work for both a single individual and a married couple.

Another important difference is “Estate Recovery.” Arizona Medicaid ALTCS has estate recovery, while the Veterans Administration does not.

Estate Recovery is used to pay back all or part of what Arizona Medicaid ALTCS paid for care.

From the above examples, applying for these two governmental benefits can be complicated. However, there are ways to be approved for both programs, Arizona Medicaid ALTCS and Veterans Pension with Aid and Attendance.

One thing in common between both programs is all the misinformation that surrounds the two programs.

Therefore, it is important to have an Accredited Agent who is also a Certified Medicaid Planner to help you. I’m also an Accredited Investment Fiduciary. As a fiduciary, I must do what is always in the best interest of my clients.

Legally, for someone to help a veteran with a claim, a person must be one of the following:

  • VA Accredited Claims Agent
  • Veteran Service Officer
  • VA Accredited Attorney

38 USC § 5901 states:

“…..no individual may act as an agent or attorney in the preparation, presentation, or prosecution of any claim under laws administered by the Secretary unless such individual has been recognized for such purposes by the Secretary.”

There is one exception to the rule that you must hold one of the three titles listed above in order to be able to help a veteran. The exception is that “anyone can help one veteran one time, with a claim.” This exception exists so that a family member or friend can help file a one-time claim.

To see if the person helping you is authorized by the VA, visit VA.gov

All in all, the Drop Zone event was a huge success. I met a lot of wonderful people and answered a lot of questions on both the Veterans Pension with Aid and Attendance and the Arizona Medicaid ALTCS program.

I had fun interacting with all the veterans (even the Air Force guys too)! I look forward to next year’s event and hope that I’m invited back by the Congressman and his wonderful staff. I hope now you get an idea about are all veterans eligible for va benefits. 

My wife Cecilia Dabbs and I founded Care Funding Solutions® to bring all the ways to pay for long-term care together, creating a one-stop-shop for long-term care funding. 

If you’re a veteran or surviving spouse of a veteran, or if you need help to pay for long-term care, give Steve a Call.