Oakland County Bar | Veterans Committee

Filed under: Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 12:23 am

We had a great discussion today at the Wounded Warrior Roundtable.  This is an outgrowth of the Oakland County Bar Association Veterans Committee.  In this roundtable, we, as veterans benefits lawyers, shared best practices on how best to serve our veteran clients when working with the VA.

Theoretically, the VA process is a non-adversarial process, however many veterans experience problems in processing their claims or unaware of the benefits that are due to them.

Our Michigan elder law firm assists veterans with their non-service connected Aid & Attendance claims for veterans in Oakland County, Wayne County and Macomb County.

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VA Benefits is the Latest Senior Scam

June 6, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:17 pm

It’s obvious to us elder law attorneys who legitimately service our clients and owe duty to act on the best interests of our clients that if there is an opportunity to fleece seniors, there will be people who do so.  In the past, these annuity hucksters would hold seminars touting “living trust” packages for $395….then sell the unsuspecting senior an inappropriate, high-commission annuity.  Well, the new scam these days is with VA Benefits and Aid & Attendance.

Here the elderly veteran or widow of a veterans is lured by the promise of VA Benefits that help pay the cost of home care, assisted living or nursing home costs.  They’ll even do the VA application for “free”, but then they will, again, sell an inappropriate annuity.

If you are at one of these seminars, as whether the person giving the presentation is accredited by the VA.  Typically they are not.  You can check accreditation at www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp.  For example, I am a VA accredited attorney, which you can see on the website.

You can read another elder law attorney’s take at VA benefits: Latest senior scam or head over to the Michigan Elder Law Center website and search “VA Benefits Scam” for some past articles regarding these annuity hucksters doing a disservice to veterans.

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Veterans Urged to Beware of Benefits Scams

May 31, 2011

Filed under: Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:48 pm

As an elder law attorney accredited by the VA, I’ve run accross numerous accounts of financial advisor/annuity salesman preying on veterans to sell a quick annuity while bungling their VA benefits application.  In the most recent case in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a financial advisor had agreed to help a veteran with the veteran’s VA application, but never submitted the application, most likely because the veteran didn’t have enough assets to make money on selling the veteran an annuity.  You can read the article here: Veterans Urged to Beware of Benefits Scams.

This isn’t the first instance of annuity salesman fleecing veterans; hop over to our other blog, Michigan Elder Law Center, and you can see numerous blog posts addressing this very issue, including a link to an AARP article that discusses the VA benefit scams.

It’s important for veterans and families of veterans to understand that there is free help at the local Veteran Service Organization or at the local county Veteran’s services office.  We have one in Oakland County.  Here is the contact informaiton for the Oakland County Veteran’s Services office:

Pontiac Office
North Office Building 26 East
1200 North Telegraph
Pontiac, Michigan, USA, 48341-0468
248-858-0785  -  map

Southeast Oakland
1151 Crooks Road
Troy, Michigan, USA, 48084-7136
248-655-1250  -  map

1010 East West Maple
Walled Lake, Michigan, USA, 48390-3588
Please Call Pontiac Office  -  map


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Social Security Cuts Put Veterans Back in the Line of Fire

May 27, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:05 pm

As a Michigan elder law attorney helping seniors and veterans all over metro-Detroit and Michigan, I recognize that Social Security is crucial to veterans and military families when the veteran retires, becomes disabled or passes away.  The aflcio.org blog has an article discussing the potential cut they feel that veterans would face with some proposed in some lawmaker’s policies.  You can read the article here: Social Security Cuts Put Vets Back in Line of Fire.

For more on Michigan veterans benefits issues and other legal issues affecting seniors around metro-Detroit, please visit our other blog, Michigan Elder Law Center.

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More Seeking Estate Planning Guidance Online

May 24, 2011

Filed under: Do It Yourself Estate Planning Gone Wrong,Estate Planning,Michigan Veterans Benefits,Probate Litigation,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 8:05 pm

If you were to google “Michigan Estate Planning Lawyer“, “Oakland County Estate Planning Attorney,” or “Michigan Veterans Benefits Lawyer“, one of our websites would show up very favorably.  The reason for that is our goal and desire to educate the public on estate planning, elder law, and probate issues.

There is a recent blog post and study that suggest that more and more people are looking to the internet and going online to find guidance with regard to their estate planning legal needs according to a blog post from the UK.  According to the study, some 48 percent of individuals polled suggested they went online for information regarding estate planning.

Also according to the study, much of the “self help” or “do-it-yourselfer-ers” can pose huge risks when it comes to the estate planning process.  That’s no news if you follow some of our past posts on how this type of planning can go horribly wrong.


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Michigan Medicaid Estate Recovery Update, May 4th, 2011

May 4, 2011

Filed under: Asset Protection,Elder Law,Long Term Care,Medicaid Planning,Michigan Veterans Benefits,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 5:49 pm

Well, it looks like that estate recovery in Michigan will be coming down the pike.  As Michigan elder law lawyers, we new that the time was coming when we’d implement the estate recovery law that is already on the books.  Well that day may be coming in July, as the proposed policy changes were just released and I am reviewing the changes now.  The biggie is that there is a section in the policy manuel that addresses estate recovery.  There aren’t too many surprises in how it will be implemented, but it’s important to note that without proper planning a Michigan Medicaid applicant could lose their house, car, bank account, and insurance to the state of Michigan with the new proposed estate recovery policy.

It’s more important now, that if a loved one is going into a nursing home, that they effectively plan for Medicaid with the assistance of a Michigan medicaid planning attorney.  For more information on medicaid planning, elder law, and veterans benefits, visit the Michigan Elder Law Center.

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Veterans’ Group Fined and Now Sued

April 8, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:15 pm

Another of the “nonprofit” veterans organizations has been fined and is now being sued.  The Veterans Support Organization was fined $20,000 last year and now is being sued according to an article in the The Tennessean.  You can read the article here: Veterans’ Group Fined by TN Last Year is Now Being Sued.

You can read some past blog posts about these “nonprofit” veterans organizations taking advantage of veterans and scamming them at the www.michiganelderlawcenter.com website.

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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:

  • World War I: April 6th, 1917- November 11, 1918, or until April 1, 1920 if service was in Russia
  • World War II: December 7, 1941- December 31, 1946
  • Korean War: June 27, 1950- January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam War: August 5, 1964- May 7, 1965 or beginning February 28, 1961 if service was in Vietnam
  • Persian Gulf War: August 2, 1990- Present

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)

Veterans Benefits, Michigan Medicaid and Long-term Care

July 31, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Long Term Care,Medicaid Planning,Michigan Veterans Benefits,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 11:14 pm

Our Bloomfield Hills Elder Law attorney office often gets contact by individuals looking for assistance with their Veterans Benefits questions.  Often we’ll get calls asking whether “my father qualifies for the aid & attendance benefit?” and what we can do to help.  What many people are missing is that there is a whole continuum of care with aging.

The VA benefit is a great benefit when the veteran is needing home care or assisted living, but once a veteran is in need of skilled nursing care, quite often we are looking at another governmental program to help defray the devastating costs of long-term care.  That benefit is the Michigan Medicaid program.

Now the thing to keep in mind about the VA benefit and the Michigan Medicaid program is that the two programs have different rules for qualification.  For example, the Michigan Medicaid program has a 60 month look back period.  The differences in the two programs is why when individuals focus entirely on the VA benefit program and ignore the Medicaid program, as elder law attorneys serving Oakland County, Michigan, we educate our clients on both programs and how they work together.

More VA Scams by Insurance Annuity Salesmen

June 30, 2011

Filed under: Elder Law,Veterans Benefits — Christopher J. Berry @ 3:48 pm

This is a great article about a horrible problem that is going with groups of people preying upon seniors and veterans.  Take the time to read the whole article.  Here’s a snippet.  Does this sound familiar?

The end game comes once the veteran receives his first check, which can include retroactive benefits of $15,000 or more. Around that time, the veteran might get a call from an insurance sales rep associated with the National Strategic Alliance, offering high-dollar annuities and other financial products.

Read the article here: Veteran Con Man Back to Swindling Elderly Veterans.


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