Attempting to explain the nuances of Pension Aid & Attendance and the Florida Medicaid ICP program in this article is simply not practical. So the next few paragraphs will lay out the basic concepts. Once those concepts are understood, IT IS CRUCIAL THAT THE READER GAIN PROFESSIONAL HELP BEFORE IMPLEMENTING ASSET PROTECTION STRATEGIES.
Let’s start with the Veteran’s Administration Aid & Attendance benefit because when an elderly person can qualify for this benefit, it is common that it is the only benefit ever needed or is the benefit obtained and used immediately prior to needing the Medicaid ICP benefit.
Homebound and Aid & Attendance Veteran’s Benefits
It is crucial to understand that Aid & Attendance is a reimbursement program. This means that the V.A. will pay up to its maximum benefit to reimburse a veteran for all medical expenses. Therefore, before applying, money must be expended. So, if a family member or other individual is providing care, the veteran should be paying for the services in a way that the expense can be proven (cancelled check, cash not recommended). Obviously if the care is being provided by a commercial homemaker or home health care company, proof of payment will be available. Here is the real point of this paragraph; V.A. Aid & Attendance is a reimbursement program and NO benefits will be paid based on future expectations unless the same type of expenditures are already underway.
Next, it is extremely important to understand two things
- V.A. currently has no set rules for how much in assets a person can have and qualify for benefits. The rule of thumb is that a couple cannot have more than $80,000 and a single person cannot have more than $25,000. While O.K. as a rule of thumb, be careful about relying on these numbers as the older a person gets the lower these numbers go. The basic theory is that the V.A. will attempt to calculate how much money the applicant will need to make it to the end of life. Therefore, someone 90 will need less than someone 75.
- Currently there is no look-back period for gifts. Therefore, someone who gives away excess assets to children or to a properly drafted and selected irrevocable trust (knowledgeable attorney a must) today, can apply for benefits tomorrow without fear of disqualification due to the gift. However, it is absolutely imperative to understand that massive changes to this and other V.A. homebound and Aid & Attendance policies are underway and inevitable. Therefore, if a loved one who is a veteran and needs care, served a total of 90 days in the service, one day of which was during wartime (combat service not required), and did not have a dishonorable discharge, and they are receiving care, now is the time to pursue benefits. Now, not later.
The potential maximum benefit for a single veteran is $1,788, for a married veteran is $2,120, for a surviving spouse of a veteran $1,149, and for two married veteran’s $2,837.
Nursing Home and Assisted Living Medicaid
There are two primary concepts that must be understood when qualifying for Florida Medicaid Long Term Care benefits.
- There are three types of assets a) exempt b) countable c) non-countable
- The income of the applicant cannot exceed $2,199 in Florida
The whole process of “Medicaid Planning” focuses on reducing income below $2,199 and countable assets below $2,000 for an individual or below $119,220 for a couple. Income reduction is accomplished using a Qualified Income Cap Trust. Countable assets are generally reduced by a) gifting money and waiting five years to apply for Medicaid b) gifting money, applying for Medicaid, and then using gifted money to pay the nursing home bill until the ineligibility period created by the gift has expired c) exchanging countable assets for exempt or non-countable assets d) or some combination of the three strategies.
Once the above concepts are understood, planning can begin.
If you need assistance with V.A. benefits the person must be authorized to assist with an application by the Veteran’s Administration. This includes attorneys and non-attorneys alike. If you need assistance with a Medicaid application, a person of your choosing can assist but only an attorney can make initial strategy determinations, create a plan, and draft legal documents. An application specialty company is likely to be the most successful at plan implementation and expedited approvals.