Planning for benefits eligibility in old age makes good financial sense. Many people fear outliving their retirement accounts even without major expenses depleting their accounts. Unforeseen health expenses can deplete an estate rapidly, particularly if you need help with basic, daily tasks through regular home care or skilled nursing. When it comes to planning for benefits, however, you must know how to qualify and how to use each program. Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) and VA Aid & Attendance Non-Service Connected Disability Pension are not mutually exclusive benefits; if you have one, you can still have the other under certain circumstances.
Aid & Attendance is available to low income wartime veterans and their spouses who are at least 65 or are totally and permanently disabled. In order to qualify, certain income requirements must be met. Similarly, Medi-Cal is available to seniors who are over age 65. However for Medi-Cal eligibility the senior must meet certain asset requirements. Although the limits appear low, there are exempt assets and income deductions that may be used to fall beneath the thresholds. Taking stock of your expected retirement income and assets at the outset is helpful for planning to receive either benefit.
Aid & Attendance benefits are most helpful for veterans who need assistance with daily tasks, in-home care or assisted living. The benefit supplements the cost of care so that the assistance does not bankrupt the veteran. If you meet the qualifications for Aid & Attendance benefits, it is worth it to take them! They are not treated as a loan; instead the payments are a gift from a grateful nation for your service. If you do not qualify for Aid & Attendance benefits, then Medi-Cal may be used to pay for skilled nursing facilities. However, Medi-Cal payments are treated as a loan and are potentially recoverable against your estate.
In cases where your health declines to the point where skilled nursing is required, it is possible to transition from Aid & Attendance benefits to Medi-Cal to cover the higher cost of a skilled nursing facility. In these cases, the Aid & Attendance benefit does not stop entirely, but is significantly decreased once Medi-Cal coverage is obtained. However, the decrease is not automatic when a spouse is also alive, meaning that a married couple may be able to receive both Medi-Cal benefits and Aid & Attendance payments. Further, the Aid & Attendance benefit payments often do not count toward income for Medi-Cal purposes! It is important to have assistance when preparing your application for Aid & Attendance benefits to ensure that your Medi-Cal eligibility is preserved; you do not want to make an error that comes back to bite later!
Considering and planning for the possibility that you will need public benefits is an important part of ensuring your financial security. In some cases, you may need to shift assets around in order to meet the strict limitations of either program. Using a QVap Trust or a QMap Trust, may be the ticket to qualifying while maintaining some flexibility with your assets and preserving your estate for your heirs. By planning ahead, you can also avoid issues with the look-back period for Medi-Cal!
VA Aid & Attendance–How Can I Correctly Choose Help for my Application Process? FREE REPORT: This complimentary report focuses on the various kinds of people one can consult when applying for the Veterans Aid & Attendance benefit. Who one chooses can mean the difference between success and failure. Remember, if you are denied, you may not be able to reapply for up to a year or longer. Download our complimentary report for a behind the scenes look at the different types of people you can consult and the dirty underbelly of the Veterans Aid & Attendance industry.