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Answers To Commonly Asked Questions About Qualifying For VA Long-Term Care Benefits

At Jurist Law Group, PLLC, we have helped hundreds of veterans in the Little Rock area apply for and receive benefits to fund long-term care, including Aid and Attendance and Housebound Benefits. Our practice is headed by attorney D. Kimbro Stephens, who has extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of these programs, helping over 300 families secure this benefit. On this page, we’ve answered some of the most common questions we hear from clients. Please feel free to contact us with any additional questions you may have after reading.

How do I know if the wartime period I served in will be eligible for benefits?

As of 2022, The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes the following as wartime periods eligible for VA pension benefits:

  • Mexican Border period (May 9, 1916 – April 5, 1917. For Veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders, or in adjacent waters)
  • World War I (April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918)
  • World War II (December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946)
  • Korean War (June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam War era (November 1, 1955 – May 7, 1975: for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. August 5, 1964 – 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)

If you still aren’t sure, we would be happy to discuss details with you during your initial consultation.

If I was discharged, will I still be eligible for Aid and Attendance or Housebound Benefits?

The best way to determine your eligibility for any VA assistance program is to speak with a veterans benefits attorney. The requirements for Pension with Aid and Attendance can be complicated. It’s easy to get lost in the numbers and “if-then”s that are so common to these applications.

Should I hire an attorney to help me apply for VA Aid and Attendance Benefits?

More often than not, the answer is yes. However, claimants can go to the VA or VSO and get assistance for free. What we tell people is you get what you pay for. The VA representatives, although well-meaning, don’t understand the intricacies of receiving benefits. For Arkansas, Aid and Attendance benefits are processed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and they don’t adjudicate these claims locally with the VA. The information goes out of state to reviewers, the rules are very complicated, and the process is extremely tedious.

It’s challenging for someone to navigate the application for benefits as a do-it-yourself project. Even if you go to a VSO or a VA representative, they are only trained to intake information. They are not allowed to give legal advice or assist people in their planning. Therefore, we highly recommend that they seek advice and counsel if they want to receive benefits. We provide qualification planning and legal advice on the front end on whether they qualify or not and then have access to someone who can walk the application through the VA and represent them. Otherwise, 70% of people who apply for this benefit get denied.

What are VA disability ratings, and why do they matter?

A disability rating is assigned by the VA in order to determine eligibility for Aid and Attendance disability benefits. A disability rating increases in increments of 10% up to 100%. This rating is determined based on the severity of your service-connected injury or condition. For example, 100 service-connected veterans have a rating that reflects a complete disability. Once the disability rating is determined, veterans can use the annual Aid and Attendance pay chart to determine their benefit amount.  

A 100 service-connected disability could be temporary if the condition is treatable and there is a likelihood for recovery. But a 100 service-connected disability could also be permanent. Any designated 100 service-connected veterans qualify for full VA benefits. A veterans benefits attorney can help you better understand VA disability ratings and their impact on your potential benefits.

What are some common reasons that VA Aid and Attendance benefits applications are denied?

In many cases, eligibility is not the reason for denial. Instead, the reason for the rejection is that the paperwork was not in order. The VA requires specific information, and without that information, the application will be denied even though you may be eligible. When people are deemed ineligible, however, it is usually because they are not spending enough money on expenses or have too much money in assets. This does not permanently exclude you, and you can make adjustments to aid yourself in moving forward.

Should I appeal a denial of Aid and Attendance benefits or should I just reapply?

Generally speaking, appeals are the very last resort, and there are other options before appeal. You can supplement your claim with information that was lacking in the application to keep the claim open, or you can request a higher-level review before an appeal that allows a supervisor to review the mistakes made by the caseworkers. Only when you’ve exhausted those remedies do you appeal, and depending on the reason for the denial, it would depend on whether the appeal would be beneficial or not. At our firm, we’ve never gone through an appeal because attorney D. Kimbro Stephens has a 99% success rate. The appeals that he would have done would not have changed the few cases that were denied.

Is it true that an appeal can take years to resolve?

Yes, and most appeals are unsuccessful. If you get in a situation to appeal, you will most likely not receive benefits.

Who makes decisions on qualifying disabilities for VA Aid and Attendance benefits?

A qualifying disability requires that the claimant need assistance in two Activities of Daily Living or because of Cognitive Impairment, usually dementia. They also cannot live alone, and they require round-the-clock supervision. The physician makes these determinations by completing a VA examination report, and the VA accepts the physician’s decision for that disability.

If I am already receiving disability benefits, can I also apply for and receive Aid and Attendance benefits?

The VA does not allow someone to receive service-connected compensation, disability, and VA pension with aid and attendance at the same time. The VA only allows you to qualify for one benefit, whichever is higher.

Once my VA Aid and Attendance benefits are approved, are they applied retroactively?

Aid and Attendance benefits are paid retroactively to the date of application or the filing of the notice of intent to file a claim. Upon filing one or the other, the benefit starts the first day of the following month of filing. Even though it may take the VA several months to approve the claim, they will pay it back on the first day of the month following the notice of claim to the VA. You can find out more details here.

If the VA Aid and Attendance benefits being offered are more than the disability benefits I am receiving, can I choose the VA pension instead of disability?

When your service-connected disability is below 100%, the aid and attendance benefit could be higher than the compensation benefit, depending on your income and expenses. In those situations, we encourage claimants to apply for a pension with aid and attendance to qualify for the higher amount. Upon approval, the VA will increase their monthly benefit to the aid and attendance level. You cannot get service-connected compensation and Aid and Attendance at the same time; the VA will pay whichever one is greatest. So if the Aid and Attendance benefit is higher, the VA will substitute the Aid and Attendance for compensation, but that’s ok because you are getting more money.

Can I receive both VA benefits and Medicaid?

In certain circumstances, when not in a nursing home, you can receive both VA Aid and Attendance and Medicaid. If, however, you are in a nursing home and are eligible for Medicaid, the VA will lower the Aid and Attendance amount to $90 per month. If you are at home and receiving home-based Medicaid, you can still qualify for Medicaid and receive the full VA A&A benefit simultaneously.

How do I determine what is countable income when it comes to VA benefits?

We tell clients that monthly cash flow coming into your bank account is what the VA counts as income. It may not technically be income for tax purposes, but if it is a regular monthly payment, the VA will include it in their income calculation for VA Pension purposes. For example, if you are getting long-term care insurance or any other form of monetary aid for care expenses, the VA will count that towards your total income. Practically speaking, any regular cash flow you receive each month will be counted as income.

Is there a look-back period for VA benefits?

There is a three-year look-back period for making gifts of assets to other people, including family. Suppose you made a gift within three years of applying for aid and attendance. In that case, the VA will assess a penalty for the amount of the gift. For approximately every $2,642 gifted, the VA will assess a one (1) month penalty from the date of the gift. There is no maximum penalty period. Penalty period begins at the time of the gift and not at the time of the application. For instance, if you gave away $30,000, you would have to wait approximately 11 months from the date of the gift to qualify for the benefit.

Contact Us Today For Answers To Your Questions

To discuss your eligibility for VA Aid and Attendance benefits and learn how we can help you, contact Jurist Law Group, PLLC, to schedule your initial consultation. Call our office in Little Rock, Arkansas, at 501-400-7355 or reach out online.