Beginning last month veterans who qualified for V.A. Aid and Attendance Non Service Connected Pension finally saw an increase in their checks. Although most people feel the cost of living has certainly been rising since 2009, V.A. Aid and Attendance benefits were stagnant. Well, no more! The Congressional Budget Office recommended standard of living increases, which have resulted in an increase of up to $71 each month in added benefits.
So how would your family use the extra money? Maybe you will use it on something very practical, like paying your electric bill each month. Maybe you will use it for something a little more extravagant. The one thing I do know is that these days, some extra money in your family’s budget each month is never a bad thing. The maximum V.A. Aid and Attendance benefits for 2012 are:
Single Veteran: $1,704
Married Veteran: $2,020
Surviving Spouse: $1,094
For those veterans who are currently receiving V.A. Aid and Attendance Non Service Connected Pension, this increase is a welcome change after years of receiving the exact same check every month. For those who have not yet qualified, now is the time to apply. You have earned it through your honorable service to this country. Obtaining the benefits owed to you or ensuring that you will qualify to receive them when you need them is an integral part of your estate plan. Now is the time to ensure that your spouse and children are taken care of, especially while they are taking care of you.
This year’s rate increase corresponds with an increase in Social Security payments beginning January 2012 as well. As a result, many elderly veterans will receive both, although higher Medicare premiums could offset some or all of the Social Security increase.
Additionally, the President in his State of the Union address last week pledged more spending for the V.A. and veteran care. Hopefully, it will mean a restoration of annual increases to programs such as V.A. Aid and Attendance and Social Security. As rates increase this year and in the future, the burden of poor health can be eased even more substantially for you and your loved ones.
Eligible veterans generally include wartime veterans who are 65 or older. There are net worth and income requirements that you may meet already, or in some cases, it may be worth planning ahead to meet. To determine your eligibility, you should make sure you consult with a V.A. accredited attorney to ensure that your attorney is well-versed in the qualifications and requirements. Although there is no “lookback” period with VA Aid & Attendance as there is with Medi-Cal, you still should meet with an attorney several years in advance. Failure to do so can cause problems if a stroke occurs and the estate planning documents have not taken Veterans Benefits into account.
As an aside, speaking of changes to monetary limits in 2012, California has finally updated the level at which your estate must be in order to require a full probate. The law as it now stands states that if you own real property valued at greater than $150,000 or if your entire estate is valued above $150,000, your heirs will be required to probate your will. Again, proper planning will avoid the need for the probate process.