America’s military veterans always deserve our thanks and respect, and Veterans’ Day on November 11 is a great reminder for us to salute and honor those brave men and women.
The annual event was established in 1938, when Congress designated November 11 as a national legal holiday. Originally called Armistice Day – in recognition of the end of World War I on that date in 1918 — the name officially was changed to Veterans’ Day in 1954. Today, after more than a century, a grateful nation still pauses to celebrate the occasion.
According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, the total population of veterans in the U.S. peaked at close to 20.8 million in 2015, but it gradually has been declining since then at a rate of about 1.8 percent a year. Approximately 9 million living veterans are over the age of 65. As those senior men and women continue to grow older, they naturally will face many challenges in their later years, including decisions about retirement benefits, health care choices, and other elder care issues.
Several types of essential benefits are offered to aging veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs and the national Veterans Administration (VA), including special programs for health care, medications, and housing. For individuals who qualify, VA provides various pension programs with payments based on family income and other criteria set by Congress.
However, the rules for veterans’ benefits always are changing.
Keeping up with the new laws
Navigating and implementing VA benefits programs can be tricky, especially when policies are revised or requirements get updated. Sometimes, veterans’ programs are modified for financial considerations (such as income criteria), but other changes are necessary to reflect contemporary healthcare problems.
For example, on August 11, 2019, the Veterans Administration updated portions of its Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD), which is a process for evaluating the severity of veterans’ disabilities related to infectious diseases, immune disorders, and nutritional deficiencies. According to a news release by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, the changes were made “to more accurately reflect modern medicine and provide veterans with clearer rating decisions. By updating the rating schedule, Veterans receive decisions based on the most current medical knowledge of their condition.”
Among other recent legal changes, The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 was enacted to make it easier for veterans to appeal their benefits decisions. Veterans who wish to challenge their disability rating can now formally appeal by requesting higher level reviews through their regional VA office, file a supplemental claim with additional evidence to support their appeal, or file for an expedited review of their case directly to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
As complicated and daunting as it all may sound, the new law is intended to make the appeals process faster for veterans. Under the old rules, decisions could take up to five years, causing more distress to veterans in need of benefits. Fortunately, veterans already registered on the previous system can transfer to the new process without having to start over.
Get an experienced veterans’ attorney to fight alongside you
In 2018, VA also added rules which make it harder for some veterans to qualify for long-term care benefits. The changes establish an asset limit with new criteria, plus asset-transfer penalties for claimants applying for VA pension benefits requiring proof of financial need.
Because many benefits programs are based on the applicant’s current financial situation, it was common practice for some people to divest portions of their assets before applying. Until the new rules were put into place, someone could transfer assets which were over the VA’s limit prior to applying for benefits, and the transfers would not affect eligibility. That has changed.
Knowing that VA application and appeals processes often are very confusing, the experienced elder law advisors at Cordell Planning Partners have developed special programs to provide useful guidance and affordable smart legal solutions for veterans.
If you need help with VA issues regarding pension or long-term care, talk to Cordell Planning Partners. Our knowledgeable staff provides insightful counsel on such topics as requirements to qualify for Veterans or Survivors pensions and how to calculate payment amounts. We will help you understand the various geriatric and long-term care options available through VA Standard Medical Benefits packages.
The elder law attorneys at Cordell Planning Partners have a great deal of experience helping veterans and other seniors, so we also can advise you about important elder law protections such as estate plans, wills, trusts, how to avoid probate, Power of Attorney documents, and much more.
Cordell Planning Partners also offers free educational workshops, where we explain your asset protection options and benefits strategies, all in terms that are easy to understand.
To learn more, contact us today. You can even arrange to have a free one hour estate planning analysis to discuss your individual priorities.