Understanding Veterans Benefits for Seniors

September 15, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 7:04 pm

VA Non-Service Connected Pension

The VA Non-service connected Pension program is often called, Aid & Attendance, however, Aid & Attendance is an add on for the basic VA pension.  The VA pension benefit helps supplement the income of disabled or older veterans.  Unlike the service-connected compensation, there is no need to link any disability or injury to a veterans time in service.  However, also unlike the service-connected compensation program, the VA pension program is a needs based program.

The VA Pension can grant a single veteran $1,644 per month.  A veteran with a dependent or spouse could receive $1,949 per month and the surviving spouse of a veteran can receive $1,056 per month.

VA Pension Requirements

To qualify a veteran must have spent 90 days of active duty, one day during a period of war, and be discharged under other than dishonorable conditions.  If the veteran meets that criteria then he or she must also pass an income and asset test.

The requirement of one day of active duty during a time of war is linked to the official wartimes as determined by Congress, which are:

Once a one day during a time of war has been established the next step is to review the first part of the needs based test, that is the income test.  For a veteran to qualify for any portion of  their Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR), they must show that their income is less than the MAPR and will be reduced dollar for dollar for each dollar of income over zero.  For example, if a veteran’s monthly benefit was $1,644 and $19,736 annually and the veteran had $19,000 worth of income for the year, then the veteran’s benefit would be $746 annually, broken into a monthly benefit.  It is important to understand that this income calculation is what is known as a quasi-household calculation in that the income of the spouse or dependent children is also considered in the calculation.

Something to note about both income as well as unreimbursed medical expenses is that they are calculated forward from the date of claim as opposed to from the past.  In other words, the veteran needs anticipated unreimbursed medical expenses that can be be clearly and reasonable calculated.  The VA typically accepts anticipated costs for nursing homes and assisted living facilities without issue, however proving home care expenses can be problematic.  It is key to document through the use of care contracts for family care givers, or letters on company letterhead for commercial home care.  Additionally, in the case for home care, unless the veteran is deemed housebound or in need of aid and attendance, the care giver must be a licensed health professional or the expense will not be deductible.

The asset test is not a hard line number.  The VA looks to the entirety of a veteran’s net worth in order to determine if the veteran’s assets are excessive.   While there is no hard line rule, the rule of thumb that is a married veteran cannot have more than $80,000 in total assets and a single veteran cannot have more than $40,000 in total assets.  These numbers would be adjusted down the older a veteran is.  Comparable to Medicaid, a veteran is allowed to exempt a primary residence as well as one automobile.


While there are asset and income tests for this program, a visit to a highly qualified elder law attorney who is accredited with the VA may provide strategies to aid a veteran (or surviving spouse) the hard earned benefits they deserve through their service to our country.  Some of these strategies may include Legacy Deeds, Care Contracts, or VAPT’s.

Through proper planning a veteran and their family can make use of a well deserved resource that can help keep the veteran at home or in assisted living longer by better being able to pay the cost of care.

Check out our sister blog for more information (www.michiganelderlawcenter.com)

Bookmark and Share

Comments (0)

Witzke Berry & Carter PLLC
Blog Home Firm Website Practice Areas Contact Us

Long-Term Care & Life Insurance Hybrids

September 30, 2011

Filed under: Asset Protection,Elder Law,Life Insurance,Long Term Care — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:17 am

With more and more people living longer, it comes as no surprise that there is heightened interest in long-term care planning.  That is why we created a website geared towards Michigan elder law and long-term care at the www.MichiganElderLawCenter.com.  People are beginning to recognize that the cost of extended long-term care can wipe out any nest egg pretty darn quickly.  Our Michigan elder law practice is focused on providing solutions to reducing the high cost of long-term care.  Many people look to long-term care insurance as one of the ways to hedge against long-term care costs.

There is quite a bit of talk lately about the new life insurance and long-term care insurance hybrid products.  The best way to understand how these new plans work and why they are catching on is that the new plans are a blend of asset protection and long-term care insurance.  You avoid losing premiums you have paid if, in the end, you beat the odds and don’t need long-term care

So, if someone owns a life/long-term care hybrid, either they will use their policy to pay for extend care expenses, or their heirs will receive an inheritance that is greater than what was paid into the product.  Now the downside of such planning is these products typically require a substantial one-time upfront payment, for example $50k.  Second, if an individual needs only long-term care protection, a stand alone long-term care insurance contract gets you more benefits for each premium dollar.

Protecting against long-term care costs is an important consideration for anyone doing estate or financial planning, these hybrid long-term care and life insurance products are one tool in the toolbox to consider.

Avoiding Estate Planning? You’re Not Alone according to Study

September 27, 2011

Filed under: Estate Administration,Estate Planning,Planning for Parents with Minor Children,Power of Attorney,Probate — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:13 am

I hear it from our estate planning clients every day, that they are happy to have the peace of mind that their estate planning affairs are in finally wrapped up.  Many of our Michigan estate planning (wills, trusts, powers of attorney) clients feel that prior, to meeting with us, that estate planning is a looming task.  But once we’ve completed the process and executed their wills and revocable living trusts, they have feelings of comfort and security.

According to a 2008 study by Thomson Reuters, only 40% of Americans currently have a last will and testament.  A last will and testament is a document that provides instructions to the Michigan probate court on how to administer your estate.   Understand that a will does not avoid probate, it only gives instructions to the probate court on administration.  If you fail to have a will or living trust, then the state of Michigan will administer your estate by the laws of intestacy.

So why do so many people leave their affiars up to chance or the whims of the probate court?

Well according to an article at funeral.com, there are four main reasons.

First, estate planning in Michigan is a very detailed process.  It is legally binding, attorneys are involved, there is an investment of financial resources and a number of complex decisions need to be made.  All of these activities, along with people’s hesitation to contact a Michigan estate planning lawyer can lead to overwhelm and procrastination.

Next, the actual process of completing an estate plan can take a couple weeks.  It is very easy to get distracted with the daily minutia of life, work, and tv and put off meeting with an estate planning attorney, spending time with the attorney so he or she can document your wishes and then executing your estate planning documents.

Sometimes estate planning has a hard time making it up your “to-do” list, and I understand.  Generally, us estate planning attorneys, see clients more interested in estate planning when a child is born, when a loved one passes away, or if someone is suffering a serious illness.  The difficult part, is that during these life changes and high times of stress, it is more difficult to complete the estate planning process due to the stresses caused by the life changes.  It is much easier to go through the estate planning process during a time when its easier to focus on the estate planning itself.

The fourth reason that you may be procrastinating on your estate planning is that going through the estate planning process can raise questions that are difficult to answer or you don’t have a perfect answer.  For example, one of the biggest hurdles for parents with young children is who to name as guardians of their minor children.  The fear of making the wrong decision can keep people from making any decision at all.  Keep in mind, that even though you may not have a perfect answer to who shall serve a particular role, the answer you have is better than the answer a judge or probate court who has no familiarity with your family has.

Are you procrastinating on your estate planning?  The first step is to pick up the phone and call an estate planning lawyer to get the ball rolling.  The first step is the hardest.

Michigan Nursing Home Medicaid Planning Free Report

September 26, 2011

Filed under: Medicaid Planning — Christopher J. Berry @ 2:04 am

Our Michigan Nursing Home Medicaid planning lawyers have put together a new free report that is a great resource for families facing having a loved one entering a nursing home.  This free Medicaid Planning resource will help families who are placing a loved one in the nursing home or face the diagnosis of one of the many debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, navigate the long-term care legal maze.

Download your Michigan Medicaid Planning Free Report now!


Contact us

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Our Newsletter

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Subscribe by email:
For Email Newsletters you can trust

Recent Posts



  • Michigan Elder Law Attorneys & Lawyers | Michigan Elder Law Center
  • Michigan Estate Planning Lawyers & Attorneys
  • Tulsa Estate Planning Blog