VA announces sweeping changes to Aid and Attendance Eligibility

On September 18th, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced final regulations that will impact eligibility of senior veterans and their dependents for Aid and Attendance (or VA pension) and other needs-based programs. “The amended regulations establish new requirements for evaluating net worth and asset transfers for pensions and identify which medical expenses may be deducted from countable income for VA’s needs-based benefit programs.” Federal Register Vol. 83, No. 181, Pg 47246. A complete copy is available here.

The most critical change is the introduction of a three-year lookback period on gifts or transfers to qualify for benefits. Previously veterans could transfer assets and apply the next day. The new final rules also change the maximum assets a veteran and spouse can have. Under the new bright line rule your assets plus annual income must be below $123,600. Certain medical expenses may be deducted from income. (Previously the maximum assets allowed was dependent on multiple factors, but ranged from $40,000 for a single person to $80,000 for a married couple and did not include income.)

The changes will go into effect October 18, 2018, giving veterans and their families very little time to plan and to determine if they may be better off applying under the old rule.

Veterans who are over the VA asset limit for Aid and Attendance and may need this program to help pay for care needs should contact an experienced VA accredited attorney immediately. Under the new rules, if assets need to be transferred, it must be done before October 18th or veterans face a penalty of up to 5 years from the date of the transfer.

First proposed in 2015 and put on hold ever since, likely in response to large volume of negative comments received, the approval of the final rule came as a surprise to most in the Elder Law community. The new final rules also include several changes that were not part of the 2015 proposed rules and on which no one has had the opportunity to comment.

Please call our office today at 425.670.1560 if you are considering applying for Aid and Attendance for yourself or a family member.

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Law Office of Tracie Wall and Associates PLLC is now Wall Group Law

After eighteen years of serving clients in the Puget Sound area, Tracie Wall has sold her law practice and will be moving to Arizona with her family. Having engaged in an extensive search to find the right fit, Tracie is leaving her clients in good hands with two attorneys, Carl Swanes and Chandra Lewnau, who partnered to take over the firm and plan to continue to provide the same exceptional level of service Tracie is known for. Carl and Chandra bring years of experience in elder law and estate planning as well as real estate, business, litigation and other areas that will expand the firm’s capabilities. They are transitioning from a well-known elder law firm in the south King County area where they practiced together for several years with a focus on comprehensive “life planning” and protecting assets from long-term costs through a safe harbor trust (special needs trust).

As part of the transition, the firm will now be known as Wall Group Law.

Paralegal Jessica Ertel and Community Outreach Liaison Pam Nagel will be staying on with the firm.

Tracie Wall will be available to work with a select group of clients on a limited basis largely via email and phone conference.