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Department of Veterans Affairs may cut assisted living aid for veterans

Photo of Carol Sikov Gross

There is a lot of talk about supporting our troops. When it comes to VA benefits, however, many soldiers are left wondering how much they are really appreciated.

Between cutting benefits, expanding red tape, and office mismanagement in some areas of the state, many veterans have difficulty obtaining the benefits to which they may be entitled. A new proposal by the Department of Veterans Affairs may end up hurting some of the most vulnerable aging veterans in an attempt to close a “loophole” in obtaining benefits for assisted living.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has proposed creating a “lookback period,” similar to Medicaid’s program, to prevent veterans from transferring assets to family members or trusts to meet income levels for pension benefits for assisted living. The proposal comes after a 2012 report found that some higher-income veterans were qualifying for benefits despite asset transfers that disqualified them from Medicaid.

Current benefits provide up to $2,120 per month for married wartime veterans who are 65 or older and have a disability. The benefit pays for minimal assisted living, including help taking medications and daily grooming tasks. The proposal would assume that transfers made within three years of applying for the benefit were made with the intention of qualifying for disability benefits.

Veterans advocates have questioned the proposal, arguing that it could hurt low-income disabled veterans. Under the VA’s own analysis, the lookback program would save $134 million. Interestingly, however, the proposal might save the VA even more because it could deny veterans aid with assisted living costs. Because of these numbers, many advocates argue that the real intention is to target assisted living benefits for veterans.

Understanding benefits is the first step

Many veterans are unaware of the benefits to which they may be entitled. Even if they are aware of the benefits, obtaining those benefits is another matter entirely. For example, the Philadelphia VA office recently came under fire after a scathing report indicated that VA claims were badly mismanaged, with some claims that should have taken five days to process actually taking an average of 10 months.

In order to avoid getting marked down on performance reviews, employees at the VA office were accused of cherry picking easy cases to approve or deny, avoiding the claims that would require thoughtful analysis. A recent Congressional investigation of the Philadelphia office led credence to these claims.

Navigating VA benefits can be a difficult task, especially for veterans struggling with a disability. At Sikov & Love, our attorneys can help veterans to learn about the benefits to which they may be entitled and help veterans plan how to obtain these benefits.

Keywords: Veterans benefits, Department of Veterans Affairs, disability benefits, assisted living.