Will Your Power of Attorney for Your Mom Work with the VA?
Dear Mr. Miller: My Mom signed a Power of Attorney for Financial Matters appointing me to handle her affairs. But I have been told that the VA will not work with me and that I cannot sign the VA Aid & Attendance Application for her. How can that be, the Power of Attorney is signed, notarized, and sealed!
–Daughter with a Powerless Power
Dear Daughter: Simply put, the VA makes its own rules when it comes to VA benefits. And one of those rules is that it does not recognize state powers of attorney. If you sign the VA application for your mom, it is highly likely that the VA will send a letter to your Mom requesting her signature. This will do nothing but slow the process down. So, if at all possible, your Mom should sign the application. Interestingly, the VA does not care if your Mom is mentally capable of understanding the application or even what she is doing; they just want her signature.
If the VA is of the opinion that your Mom cannot handle her own financial affairs (usually determined by the physician letter that typically accompanies the application), at the time they send their determination letter (called an “award”) they will also send a letter indicating that they are planning on appointing a “Federal Fiduciary.” Unless there is a competent spouse, this process is usually unavoidable if the physician letter indicates a lack of mental capacity and will add 3 to 6 months to the process. If your Mom receives this letter, there is a form you may file (after the award letter is received) with the VA requesting that you be appointed in that capacity. Attaching a copy of your State Power of Attorney to the form is helpful so the VA knows that your Mom apparently trusted you to take care of her money.
Eventually, the VA will have an investigator make an appointment with you at your Mom’s place of residence. Often the VA will run a credit report on you. They may also request your financial information. The purpose of all of this is to determine that you are an appropriate person to handle your Mom’s money and can be trusted not to steal it or use it for your own benefit. Further, the VA may require that you post a bond and annually account for the money by a formal report.
Once you are approved, another 4-6 weeks minimum may pass before you receive a letter from the VA officially appointing you as the Federal Fiduciary to handle your Mom’s monthly VA pension money. You will be required to open a separate bank account (in a special specified title) to hold this money and will not be entitled to invest it except for interest on the bank account.
Although this entire process may take 6 months at a minimum, the first check that you finally receive will be for all of the accrued monthly payments since the first day of the month following the date the original application was filed. Subsequent payments are generally made by direct deposit to the bank account.