Veteran’s Benefits & Assets
On the asset side of things we really don’t have a hard and fast rule on those. Va says you have to have “sufficient means”, if you don’t have sufficient means to support yourself then you will qualify for some of this benefit. Well, what the heck does that mean? They throw around the $80,000 figure, if you apply for va Aid and Attendance benefits and you have more than $80,000, you will get denied. If you apply for $80,000, I mean, if you apply for va benefits and you have less than $80,000, you still might get denied. But what they’re looking at is; what is your monthly income, what is your monthly shortfall, how big is your negative each month, and what’s your life expectancy and the va has a life expectancy table. If someone is 95 and has a shortfall, they’re going to be allowed to retain fewer assets, they’re not going to be able to keep this $80,000 because you look at the life expectancy table and it says, “Well, your life expectancy is only 4 years, so you only need x amount of dollars to carry you through that shortfall over the next number of years. So, for that reason a 90 year old isn’t going to be allowed to have as many resources as compared to a 70 year old who is applying for the benefit, because looking at the table their life expectancy is much longer. It’s strictly what the table says, reality plays no part here as to what the life expectancy really is, it’s really just what that table says. So it’s more of a moving target and hard to determine, but when you’re applying you have to keep that in mind. $80,000 is not the end all be all magic number necessarily, unless you’re talking over $80,000 then yes you’re going to get denied. What does it count? These are all of the countable assets for va benefits; bank accounts, CDs, money market, retirement accounts. I want to point that out because there is a very different treatment for retirement accounts whether you’re planning for va or whether you’re planning for Medicaid, exact opposite rules there, so we’ll talk about that. But for va purposes, these are countable resources, so whatever is in that IRA will potentially disqualify. The other big thing for va benefits is there’s no transfer penalty, right now, there has been legislation introduced a couple of times in the past couple of sessions of Congress to impose a penalty period saying, ‘you can’t just give all your assets away and then immediately get eligible for va”, but for the time being you can. You can give assets away, when you apply they don’t ask, “what have you had for the past 5 years or however many years”, the legislation that’s been introduced is proposing a 3 year look back for va benefits but it hasn’t gone anywhere over the past two sessions. And the va has got a little bit going on right now, so it might not go anywhere for a little while longer. When you apply you can give money to the kids, put it into a trust. That’s usually the best way to go, because it gives the client, my client the elderly person, more security so I usually recommend placing assets into a trust. However you get the assets out of the name, you just transfer them out and there’s no penalty for having done that as far as the va is concerned. Now, if you do that for va and two years later you need Medicaid, there’s going to be an issue. Sometimes you have to pick and choose, which is the more valuable? Is it more valuable to forgo va now in benefit of getting the Medicaid later, or vice versa. In some instances you can have your cake and eat it too, just a lot of it depends on how they treat the assets and really the retirement assets which are very different. The other thing that va does that I didn’t have on the slide, they discount for fractional ownership. If we have an account with $100,000 in it and my name is on it and my dad’s name is on it, and we’re looking at va for him, va says, “ok, well, $50,000 of that is Heather’s and $50,000 of that is Sam’s”, even though there has never been, I’ve never put a dime in there. Even though it is all of dad’s money, they discount for fractional ownership. So one va planning technique can be if there three trusted kids, put them on all the account and then drive down the value, obviously it takes the right family for that to work. Again, that’s another rule that is direct opposite of Medicaid. Medicaid doesn’t care if you’ve got 80 names on that account, if there’s someone applying for Medicaid, they’re pretending it’s all that person’s money, maybe not pretending, they’re treating it that way.