Most people dream of the day they can retire. The problem is that many do not move beyond dreaming to planning. Planning can be done no matter what your age, but experts encourage people to start as early as possible. Retirement planning can seem like a daunting endeavor for many people as they focus on day-to-day financial obligations. Many people have no idea where to start. A few simple questions can help people of any age plan for retirement.
What does retirement look like to you?
This is an essential question to ask when beginning to plan for retirement. A good starting place is to start jotting down your ideas and, if married, your spouse’s ideas for retirement. Maybe travel is in your plan. If not travel, then how do you plan to spend your time? Will you want to downsize your home? Many people find that the home where they raised their family is too large or more than they wish to maintain. Will you continue working? If so, how much do you wish to work. Part-time or contract work can give more flexibility while still providing a source of extra income.
What assets do you have?
This is the beginning of financial planning for retirement. Look not just at your bank account and retirement accounts, but also property you own. Other assets to consider are collections that have significant financial value. Also, take stock of other investments that will be used to fund your retirement.
How is your health?
Personal health can play a large factor in retirement planning. The first step is to make sure you are up to date on all of your health screenings and check-ups. Once your health has been evaluated, you can better assess your plans for retirement. Health can affect finances and quality of life in retirement. There is no better time than the present to evaluate lifestyle and, if necessary, improve health habits to improve your quality of life and extend it.
When should you take social security?
There is no easy answer to this question and it is really a case-by-case decision that an attorney or financial professional can help you make. In the most basic terms, waiting longer to take benefits will increase the monthly benefits you receive. However, for many, this is not an option. It is important to assess your expenses and make the most informed decision possible with help from informed professionals.
How can I cut expenses to save more?
This is an excellent question for people of any age to consider. Cutting expenses can provide for extra savings to throw into your retirement plan. Cutting expenses can also help when creating a budget for retirement. If you can cut in some categories, then you can reallocate to other categories in order to be able to live more comfortably in the future. Paying off debt also becomes more manageable when other expenses can be cut.
How do I need to plan for the unexpected?
There is never any guarantee that the retirement you plan becomes reality. Many unexpected events can and will arise in retirement. These events can put a financial strain on a family, so it is important to plan a contingency for these events. This also good time to talk family and think about future care needs. Good health today does not guarantee it in the future – in fact, the possibility of needing long term care increases with each year we grow older. Creating a plan that includes legal and financial considerations helps get all family members on the same page and can greatly reduce stress should the unexpected occur.
Considering these questions can help you to begin working on a retirement plan that will fit your needs in the future. An attorney can also help you with the legal side of planning for retirement, especially when considering the possibility of needing long term care in the future. The destination (retirement) is easier when the roadmap is clear and you have a plan for bumps in the road.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us.
Elder Law Attorney McIntyre Elder Law 123 W. Marion Street
Estate planning is important for people of all ages, but as we age, the need for planning becomes even more critical. Many people avoid estate planning, because they do not want to think about the end of life, failing health or disability. Others believe that an estate plan is only for rich people. However, an estate plan is helpful for the senior adult and their families regardless of overall wealth.
The estate is all the property owned both individually and jointly, including bank accounts, real estate, jewelry, etc., and what is owed. Without an estate plan, it is very difficult to carry out a person’s wishes and can bring on a long, drawn out probate that can be very expensive for the family. If an estate plan is in place, it can provide peace of mind for the senior adult and their family, as well as protection for the wishes of the senior.
Below are some basic guidelines for what should be included in an estate plan.
Will. A will provides for an executor of the estate, who will take care of managing the estate, paying debts, and distributing property as specified. The distribution of assets can be outlined in the will. This can be as broad or detailed as a person wishes. In a will, beneficiaries and guardians for minor children should be assigned. It may not seem necessary to discuss minor children when discussing seniors and estate planning, but with the rise of grandparents raising grandchildren, this may indeed be an important part of the will. A senior adult can spell out, in the will, how they want their funeral and burial to be carried out as well.
Living Will. A living will outlines a senior’s wishes for end of life medical care. It can include, in as much detail as the senior wishes, what medical treatments the senior would or would not like to have in specific situations. A living will takes the stress of making those decisions off of family members and helps to keep peace in families during times that can be difficult and emotional.
Healthcare Power of Attorney. A healthcare power of attorney is also a key part of an estate plan. This legal document provides for someone to legally make healthcare decisions for a senior adult. A durable power of attorney will remain in effect for the senior if the senior becomes unable to make decisions.
Financial Power of Attorney. A financial power of attorney names an agent who has the power to act in the place of the senior adult for matters relating to finances. The durable financial power of attorney stays in effect if the senior adult becomes unable to handle their affairs. By having a financial power of attorney in place, the stress and expense of a guardianship can be avoided, and the senior has the final say in who will make decisions relating to finances.
Trust. Setting up a trust can be beneficial for the distribution of specific assets or pieces of property. The benefit of a trust is that it does not go through probate, as compared to a will. Property is still distributed at the death of the trustmaker, but it is done without the need of a court. This also allows for privacy of the trustmaker, where with a will and a probate, all of the deceased person’s assets and the the terms of their will is made public.
Having an estate plan is necessary if you or your senior loved one wishes to have a say in what happens in the end of life and with assets after death. Consulting and planning with an elder law attorney will help to ensure that all options are explored and the best possible solution is utilized. The elder law attorney can walk you through all of the necessary parts of the estate plan, provide explanation, and prepare the paperwork. Elder law attorneys will help take the guesswork out of estate planning.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us.
Elder Law Attorney McIntyre Elder Law 123 W. Marion Street
A Lady Bird Deed is a wonder of elder law. It gives a senior or couple the power to stay in control of their property, keep it in their name their entire lifetime, and give it directly to a named individual upon their passing. This property transfer happens automatically (outside of probate) where Medicaid Liens attach.
Here are three things you must be aware of to safe-guard your property.
You are in Control:
Seniors routinely ask me, “What age should I give my home to my children?”
I’m not a fan of gifting your home because I’ve heard and witnessed many horror stories of mom or dad being thrown out their house by their own child.
A Lady Bird Deed can prevent that.
Avoiding Medicaid’s look-back period:
Long-term care services can be very costly. The reality is many do not have enough funds accumulated during their lifetime to pay for long-term care.
In this case, you may apply to a long-term care Medicaid program to pay for care.
The issue here is, this generates a Medicaid lien that could attach to your home when it passes through the estate after the person receiving the care and benefit passes away.
Traditionally, the home property was required to be protected or gifted prior to the benefit look-back period (3 year look-back for assisted living, 5 year look-back for nursing home Medicaid).
However, a Lady Bird Deed may be placed on a property at any time regardless of the look-back period.
To sell or mortgage your property the Grantee must also sign:
Because you’re placing a trusted individual on a home deed to receive your property once you and/or your spouse passes away, you are granting them a future interest in that property.
Should you wish to sell or mortgage your property in the future after placing a Lady Bird Deed on the house, the child or children you placed on the deed would need to sign the deed of sale (to a buyer) or deed of trust (to a bank).
This can be both an advantage or disadvantage. It is a disadvantage if your child refuses to sign off on a deed selling the property (against your wishes). However, it can be an advantage to prevent a family member from signing away their home to an undeserving swindler.
Elder Law Attorney McIntyre Elder Law 123 W. Marion Street
Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December of 2017 which is aimed at cutting taxes for corporations and all Americans. While the bulk of the legislation went into effect January 2018, most taxpayers will not see much of a difference in their taxes until 2019, when they file their 2018 taxes. However, there are several important changes seniors need to be aware of now that could affect not only their tax bill, but other items such as their health care premiums. Legislation as complicated as a new tax code can be difficult to dissect, and certainly requires the help of a tax professional. Please feel free to contact our office with any questions you may have while reading through the points below:
Before explaining the changes, let’s examine several facets important to seniors that will remain the same. The new tax bill keeps the extra standard deduction for those 65 and older, which is $1,250 for individuals, $1,550 for heads of households, and $2,500 for couples who are both age 65 or older. Also, the new plan keeps the popular medical expense deduction. This deduction is for people with incomes below $75,000 which allows them to deduct medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of their income for the 2017 and 2018 tax year. In 2019, this will increase to bills that exceed 10 percent of their income. Further, the new plan does not affect the way Social Security or investment income is taxed.
Perhaps the most talked about change in the new tax plan is the repeal of the individual mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act. According to the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), by 2027, this will increase the number of Americans without health insurance by 13 million. The CBO also states that because there will be a smaller pool of insured, it expects insurance premiums in the individual market to increase by 10 percent over the next 10 years. Citizens age 50 to 64 can expect a premium increase of up to $1,500 in 2019.
The tax bill slashes taxes across the board, contributing to a loss of $1.5 trillion in revenue to the government over the next decade. This deficit would trigger cuts to “pay-as-you-go” programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is expected to have its budget slashed by $25 billion in 2018.
Other notable provisions that will affect senior taxpayers include the new tax brackets which range from 10 percent for the lowest earners to 37 percent for those with the highest incomes. Taxpayers can deduct state and local taxes, which may include income, sales, and property taxes. The state and local tax deductions are capped at $10,000. Alimony payments will no longer be deductible. Anyone who inherits an estate can now exempt $10 million compared to the previous $5.6 million. The charitable giving deduction will increase under the new plan until this provision expires in 2026. The mortgage interest deduction is also being updated. Now, the deduction on mortgage interest is capped to loans of $750,000 for new home purchases and interest accrued on home equity loans is no longer deductible.
Under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the majority of seniors may see their tax bills decrease. However, it is still prudent that seniors be aware of the changes that may affect them such as their health care premiums or deductions on medical expenses. If you would like to meet with a professional who will be able to assess your personal situation and provide you with guidance on how this will affect you, please don’t hesitate to give our office a call.
Elder Law Attorney McIntyre Elder Law 123 W. Marion Street
Aging is the sign of a successful life. After all, when you think about the alternative to aging your perspective about getting older shifts. You should start seeking self-sufficiency for your retirement years well before the age of sixty-five. But, even if you have not done so, don’t shun the planning stages. You need to address planning no matter what your age. Some preparation is better than none at all. It can provide you with some peace of mind and can take pressure off of family members who would have to make their own income adjustments to be able to provide money to support your cost of living. No one wants to become a burden to their children or otherwise extended family. It feels good to be able to provide for oneself (and one’s spouse) no matter how lavishly or modestly. It is a relief to know that you have solid plans as well as contingency plans for the future. Although it can be hard work and tough to realize how much it will take to cover your future living expenses, putting off the planning stage does not lead to easier or better outcomes.
First of all, consider your location. Many seniors prefer the idea of living out their lives in their own home but there is much to consider about that approach. Are you close to family members or someone willing to help drive you to doctor appointments and grocery stores when you are no longer able? Can your home accommodate a wheel chair; is there a bedroom on the first floor or is there a way to get up and down the stairs? How expensive are the property taxes in your area? How mild is the weather? If you want to go to a retirement community, what locations are most affordable as well as most desirable? How would you transition to less independent living over time?
Once you know your location goals, do some worst-case planning. Adverse health and unforeseen life events can ravage your finances unless you are already managing a sizeable sum of assets or have incorporated proper planning. You might look for advice as to how to turn a nest egg into retirement income, or how to add to your long-term insurance care, or to establish some long-term insurance care. Think particularly about in-home care should your goal be to stay in your own home as you age.
You need to know if your state has approved the Long-Term Care Partnership Program, a joint federal-state policy initiative to encourage the purchase of private long-term care insurance. A professional can explain to you how it can protect some of your assets if you would require extensive care in the future, for instance for Alzheimer’s disease, which could potentially exhaust your private insurance policy benefits and require you to apply for Medicaid. A professional can also advise you if there are any federal or state tax incentives available to you for long-term care partnership insurance. You can also discuss implementing some additional life insurance that can remain in force until you are eighty. It can help a spouse with extra money should something happen to you. In the meantime, both of you could sleep better at night knowing the insurance policy is in place. The point is, you need to examine some potential worst case expenditure scenarios and how you would be able to meet the needs of your care should the moment arise.
Your aging is a success story. Embrace how you prepare for your senior years no matter what your age is, and the sooner the better! Retirement requires careful thought, planning and decision making for the best outcome possible for you and your loved ones.
Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.
The term “Veterans Benefits” is somewhat misleading. Only a percentage of the people covered by VA benefits served formerly in the Armed Forces. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides vocational rehabilitation, health care, employment services, pensions and more to both active and former service members, as well as their spouses, widows, parents and children.
When you make up your mind to apply for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs it is beneficial to have all of your important documents and forms ready, because they will most certainly be needed. Relatives of Veterans who wish to apply for benefits should have any relevant marriage certificates, birth certificates, and the Veteran’s birth and death certificates if necessary. You will also need the Veteran’s discharge papers.
Find out if you are eligible for enrollment to receive health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. This is easily done at the VA website vets.gov, or via telephone at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) where you will be asked no more than 15 questions and be told whether or not you are eligible to receive benefits. You may also mail an application to the Health Eligibility Center, or apply in person at a physical Veterans Affairs location. Veterans and their families should be aware that they may be eligible for care at a non-VA health care provider if certain conditions/hardships are met, such as if they live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility. The VA will help you determine which “priority group” you best fit in, ranging from 1-8 depending on various conditions, to best give you quality care, as determined by their standards.
Although it may first seem unlikely, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers services to Veterans and their spouses that go far beyond simple health care. The VA can help you secure a house for your family via specialized home loans or purchase a car. Naturally these programs take into account the various levels of physical disabilities with which the recipient may struggle. For example, the VA can help you modify your home to be wheelchair accessible, should you require.
The words “GI Bill” probably bring to mind images of baby boomers’ parents and the post-World War II program designed to help returning Veterans receive a college education, but did you know that the GI Bill still exists? The Forever GI Bill, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, is a comprehensive program that offers post-9/11 Veterans a wide variety of tools to help them get their degree, including a monthly housing allowance and priority enrollment in classes wherein Veterans are allowed to register before the general public.
Although we probably do not like to think about it, there are thousands of servicemen and women who do not return home from the field of battle. For these heroes, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers funeral services and/or burial in a national military cemetery, whereupon the gravesite will be maintained in perpetuity.
Contact our office today for more information on benefits for war-time Veterans.
Within the next 20 years, the need for memory care housing options will become more necessary than ever. In 2016 alone, more than 2.5 million Baby Boomers turned 70 years old, the youngest boomers hitting age 52. With advancing age comes an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. Recent estimates state that the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease could potentially triple from the 5 million sufferers in 2013 to around 14 million by the year 2050. By the year 1976, Alzheimer’s disease was officially identified as the most common cause of dementia. In most cases in the past, people living with Alzheimer’s disease would stay in a typical nursing home or assisted living community, receiving the same basic care as other residents. However, because so much more is being discovered about the disease in recent years, the way we think about caring for people with dementia is changing.
Some of the most recent innovations in memory care include:
Alternative Therapies Music, art, and even pet therapy are often provided to residents with dementia as a way to stimulate memory, cognitive skills, and communication. In addition, these therapies can help improve residents’ physical and social skills, as well as reduce their stress and ease aggressive behaviors.
Dementia Staging Dementia staging refers to the ability to understand exactly what stage of the disease a person is in to help provide the correct level of care needed. This person-centered approach sees each individual as unique and focuses on what they can do, rather than what their limitations may be.
Specialized Technology As smartphone and computer technology advances, so does technology for dementia sufferers. GPS tracking devices for those who are at risk of wandering, emergency response devices to detect warning signs of illness or a fall, and the use tablets to play brain games or keep in touch with distant relatives, technology makes memory care today more efficient and streamlined. Technology is also beneficial for the person with memory care issues as it allows their cognitive abilities to continue functioning at a high level.
Unique Housing Designs While many senior living communities have a special area designated for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, some communities today go above and beyond, providing just one floor to these residents. Intimate homes are offered that house up to 10 residents with a staff that specializes in memory care. These types of environments nurture a familial experience and build deep relationships between the residents and the caregiving team. The residents are allowed to maintain their own personal routines and are encouraged to continue to pursue their interests.
Dining Experience In a central dining area setting, everyone sits around a single table for meals. The seniors are encouraged to engage in conversation and develop friendships.
Colors and Patterns Because people see more yellow as they get older, gray was often chosen as the common denominator for institutional living. Instead, using green or yellow paint enhances colors as visualized by seniors. Coral blended with a bit of yellow makes a nice combination and engages the senses.
Memory Recall Nostalgia-evoking displays throughout the halls, such as workbench stations or wooden coat racks draped with glamorous dresses from a distant era, are meant to stir residents’ memories. Personal touches like family photo cases near the entrances of their rooms brighten otherwise unremarkable hallways.
As research continues for this disease, more and more innovative ideas are uncovered that can help seniors with memory care issues and can help care givers of those individuals.
If you would like more information about caring for a loved one who suffers from memory issues, contact our office for an appointment today.
Elder Law Attorney McIntyre Elder Law 123 W. Marion Street
There is good news! Social Security payments will increase by 2% in 2018. The bad news? It’s not enough to keep up with inflation.
Many senior citizens will be happy to learn that the amount of money they will receive in their social security checks will increase two percent in 2018. This averages about $27.38 per month, or $329 per year under a new Cost of Living Allowance (COLA). “It will help them make ends meet,” says Erin Parrish of AARP Minnesota, pointing to an example of how the modes increase may allow a person to purchase a month’s worth of medication.
Unfortunately, this modest increase in benefits, the largest since 2012, still does not allow many seniors to keep up with the ever-rising costs of medical care. As the age of retirement has continued to rise, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has continued to warn that the present rate of depletion of social security funding will result in the fund being empty by 2034.
Other changes to social security in 2018 include a slightly higher tax cap. At present, Americans in the workforce who pay social security taxes give up 6.2% of their pay to Social Security if they make up to $127,200. That cap will slightly increase to $128,700 in 2018.
The SSA has announced that the maximum possible benefits that a person can receive increased from $2,687 per month to $2,788 per month, or $33,456 per year. Additionally, seniors who continue to work while receiving Social Security can earn up to $17,040 without being penalized. This is a modest increase from $16,920 in 2017. Likewise, disability payments will increase in 2018 by $10 per month.
One of the biggest changes to Social Security is that it no longer mails paper statements. Beneficiaries in 2018 are now required to have an online account at ssa.gov. This development may be quite irksome for senior citizens who are not tech-savvy. To make matters more complicated, the SSA will require two-step verification for security purposes which will likely require more than one pin or password to access an account. While security is always a concern, some seniors may wish to have a trustworthy friend or relative walk them through the procedure the first few times.
So, there are some modest increases coming to various aspects of social security benefits in 2018 that will be welcome for millions of Americans. What has long been “the bedrock of American financial security” will continue to be so for the short term but what happens after 2034? With the social security predicted to be depleted, what will our seniors do then?
The aging population needs to take steps today to ensure their financial security. Look at alternative means for future income such as safe investments and early planning. They should take these actions while they are still working. Go one step further and work with an elder law attorney to create a strategy that will help protect assets and allocate funds for long term care. It’s crucial to plan as early as possible, contact our office today for an appointment.
Aid and Attendance is for veterans, spouse of a veteran, or spouse of a deceased veteran needing day-to-day care to get paid a monthly benefit.
The term applies to individuals needing the aid and attendance of another person to help with daily activities, and is paid in addition to an individual’s pension. Clearly, to receive the Aid and Attendance benefit, you must first receive a pension.
There are certain requirements to qualify. If the veteran is in assisted living or a nursing home, they automatically meet the initial requirements. After the initial qualification, further criteria still need to be met.
There are three tiers of additional aid offered to veterans and people that meet the requirements.
The Third Tier: Aid and Attendance
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, one of the following is needed for an individual to qualify to receive Aid and Attendance:
The individual must prove he/she requires aid and attendance of someone to carry out basic daily functions, such as bathing and getting dressed.
The individual must be disabled to the point of being bedridden.
The individual must be admitted to a nursing home because they cannot provide basic care for himself/herself.
The individual must record an eyesight of 5/200 or below in both eyes.
The maximum amount individuals will receive once qualified for Aid and Attendance differs on a case-by-case basis. Below are the current maximum monthly benefit amounts as of 2018:
The Asset Level Threshold for Aid and Attendance qualification. The threshold is accepted as being below $80,000, but we believe it’s around $20,000. However, there are ways to position assets and still qualify for Aid and Attendance.
One day of war time duty
If you’re a veteran, and have served ninety days of active duty, one day beginning or ending during a period of War, you may be eligible for Aid and Attendance benefit.
Example: I would qualify because I was in the military during the window for the Gulf War. It also qualifies my spouse. Even if I passed away, she’d be eligible for that benefit through me.
Check to see if you qualify for this beneficial program. Eligibility must be proven by filing the Veterans Application for Pension or Compensation.
A copy of DD-214 or separation papers
Medical Evaluation from a physician
Current medical issues
Net worth limitations
Out-of-pocket Medical Expenses.
To qualify (financially), an applicant must have on average less than $80,000 in assets, excluding their home and vehicles.
Checklist for Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefits:
Veteran? Spouse of Veteran? Spouse of deceased veteran?
At least 90 days of active duty service
At least one day of active duty service during a wartime event. Service does not have to be in a combat theater.
Under $20,000 in assets, excluding home.
A current need: At least 2 out of 6 standard ADLs impaired*:
Activities of Daily Living:
§ Preparing Meals?
* A physician must sign an FL2 form confirming current need.
I often get questions about surviving spouses of veterans.
What happens if the veteran is of good health, yet their spouse has healthcare problems and incurs staggering medical bills?
According to veteranaid.org, the spouse of a veteran who incurs healthcare costs is eligible to receive no more than $1,176 each month. Similarly, a veteran with a sick spouse is eligible to receive no more than $1,436 each month. These figures are of January 1, 2018.
Veterans Improved Pension: Other Tiers
As mentioned, the Veterans Improved Pension program has three tiers.
TheFirstTier — Basic Pension for disabled veterans 65 years and up. This also extends to the surviving spouse of a veteran if he/she meets the income qualifications.
The following are the countable income requirements (as of January 1, 2015) a veteran must meet for the Basic Pension.
The joint countable income of a veteran and spouse must be less than the pension amount for which they are eligible. Example, a married veteran in 2017 is eligible for $25,525 in pension; if their countable income is $10,000, they are eligible for an additional $15,525 / year in pension.*
The Second Tier Housebound Pension. You must also qualify to be eligible for this monthly amount.
Housebound Pension recipients must prove they require assistance of another individual in their home, by having their primary physician sign that they need the help. Their day-to-day actions are not as limited as those receiving Aid and Attendance.
(*Conditions to be met for countable income for Housebound Pension are the same as above).
When speaking about countable income, it is imperative you record all your expenses. The VA discourages individuals from paying various expenses in cash, this way you maintain a paper trail and can add this to your countable income.
Here’s how to calculate Countable Income.
(See VeteranAid.org for downloadable chart)
First Step Estimate total annual income of veteran whether single or married.
What to include
All income including social security, pension, interest income, dividends, income from rental properties, etc.
CDs, annuities, stocks, bonds, savings/checking, IRAs, etc.
Assets owned by spouse
What NOT to include
Residence or vehicle when calculating net worth
Life insurance policy
When taken into consideration, you get the estimated annual income of the veteran.
Second Step Add all recurring healthcare expenses incurred by veteran each month. This includes:
Assisted Living costs
Nursing home costs
Home Care service costs
Health Insurance premium
Monthly prescription costs
Add up these monthly costs and multiply by 12 for the annual healthcare expenses.
Third Step Subtract annual healthcare expenses from annual income.
Total annual income — (minus) Total annual healthcare expenses
= Countable Income.
This amount determines the veteran’s eligibility for one of the three tiers of the Pension program.
Proposed Changes to VA Pension Eligibility Rules
It’s a basic right to know when legislation is introduced that affects large groups.
The proposed changes to the VA Pension Eligibility were on the table January 23, 2015 by the Department of Veteran Affairs.
The VA Pension Eligibility is a needs-based program. Benefits awarded to veterans and their families provide help throughout the years.
Below are proposed changes and how they may impact you if you’re a veteran, or family member of a veteran.
Current Reading of the Law
Since 1980, the law stated that to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits, a veteran must have served a minimum of 24 months. At least one of those days must be actively served during a “wartime period”. Veterans who have been dishonorably discharged do not qualify. Allowances can be made for veterans 65 years of age and older who have a permanent disability.
In terms of income, the veteran’s household income cannot exceed the amount the veteran is trying to qualify for in assistance and benefits. Much of the language regarding income is about countable income.
What Might Change
Below are some proposed changes for Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits qualifications. These changes, if imposed, make it harder for veterans to qualify, and allows them to keep and protect less money and property.
A clear net worth limit. The VA proposed that the net worth limit a veteran can claim when applying for the Eligibility program cannot exceed $119,220.
Income and net worth calculation. The Federal Register has provided an example breakdown of how calculations will be made. First, the VA will calculate income to establish the pension entitlement. They will “subtract all applicable deductible expenses to include appropriate prospective medical expenses”. When calculating the net worth, the VA will take the annual income and add it to the assets. For instance, let’s say a veteran’s net worth limit is $115,000. The annual income of the spouse is $7,000 and the total assets are $116,000. The total net worth would come to $123,000, which exceeds the net worth limit by $8,000.
Exempt asset. A primary residence will not be included as an asset in the calculation of net worth as long as the residence sits on an area not exceeding 2 acres. Right now, there is no limit on the acreage of the primary residence and it is exempt from the net worth calculation.
If you want to read the full legislation, go to FederalRegister.gov and read their article entitled “Net Worth, Asset Transfers, and Income Exclusions for Needs-Based Benefits”.
I strongly urge you, if you are a veteran, or you are the spouse or child of one, to sift through the proposed changes to see how you might be impacted.
Should you have any questions or need would like to discuss qualification for Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefits further, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Welcome to the elder law report, I’m Greg McIntyre, the elder law guy and I have my usual support team with me today, Hayden Soloway and Taylor Shelton, and our special guest is Billy Peeler who is with Mike House Senior Consulting Services.
This is an awesome business organization that helps and guides seniors and their families through the unchartered waters of finding the right place to care for their loved one. For many people, they don’t know the answers to these questions. That is where our guest will come in and what we will talk about here.
Before we get to that, Taylor, what is memorial day about?
TS: You’ve put me on the spot. Memorial day is about remembering the fallen veterans that served our country.
GM: That’s true, it is remembering those who have fallen or been injured defending our freedoms and serving our country, so we can sit back and talk on the radio and talk freely, and all that stuff. One way we do that is to display the American flag and eat hot dogs.
As a veteran of the US Navy, I love my brothers and sisters in arms, and appreciate those who are serving now. I am a certified attorney with the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs and qualify veteran seniors for veteran’s aid and attendance. Many veterans could get up to $34,000 dollars a year to help pay for in-home, assisted living or nursing home care if they ever need it.
That is a great benefit many veterans and their families do not know about. We qualify veterans for this benefit on a regular basis.
So, now it’s time for Hayden’s happy place, and I know you love lighthouses?
HS: I do love lighthouses, I will go out of my way to photograph a lighthouse.
GM: Didn’t you live in a lighthouse for a short time?
HS: No, but I spent a lot of time travelling by them, my favorite being Cape Lookout.
Everybody looks at the lighthouses in the gift stores and think, we’ve got eight lighthouses, well no, there are about nineteen and may be more, because you look at some lights that are just utilitarian out on a point, so it goes beyond Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras and the ones we see in the gift stores.
There are some interesting things about lighthouses and Taylor told me something about them.
TS: The United States has more lighthouses than any other country, and Cape Hatteras is the tallest lighthouse in North Carolina at one hundred and ninety six feet.
HS: And do you know which state has the most lighthouses?
HS: Michigan. Think about the lakes and the curvature of the land. They have one hundred and fifteen lighthouses in Michigan. Another interesting fact is that lighthouse keeping was one of the first United States government jobs made available to women. There are still lighthouses being used by the US Coastguard today. You would think with GPS and all the technology we have that they would have fallen out of use. Also, when lighthouses were close together, they had different flash patterns so mariners could count the number of seconds it takes for a rotation and determine the lighthouse and where they were. From 1886 to 1902 the tallest lighthouse that was active in the world was the Statue of Liberty. The newest one is the Charleston light which was completed in 1962 and is triangular. The oldest standing lighthouse in North Carolina which has been guiding ships since 1817 was ‘old baldy’ on Bald head Island.
GM: When I was in the Navy I did the light morse code on the ship, and one time I saw this ship or light coming toward us, and I said in morse code, ‘move, we’re an aircraft carrier and we’re coming toward you and will probably run right over you’, and the response was, ‘we’re a lighthouse, so you might want to correct course.’
So, Billy, how are you today?
BP: I’m doing fantastic Greg.
GM: We have known each other for a while, we’ve done some breakfasts and lunches, networking groups and seminars together. That was way back in the beginning when I first started doing seminars, so, you’ve been in the senior care world for quite a while, and have worked for some assisted living facilities?
BP: Yes, I worked for Carillon Assisted living, a great organization. I enjoyed what I did and it set the platform for what I wanted to do with this company, and what I wanted to provide. The biggest issue was, I wanted to help everybody and not cater to just one individual facility because that might not be best for everyone. I wanted to do what I could to guide folks in the right direction for what’s going to suit them the best.
GM: So, you’re someone they can trust to evaluate the care need and help them determine if this is the right fit, this in-home service, or this assisted living service, or this skilled nursing service?
BP: Absolutely. We have two wonderful contracted nurses on staff who will go in and do a physical level assessment, a cognitive level assessment, and then an in-home assessment, because if someone wants to stay home, we want them to be able to do that. We want them to come up with a plan but if that is not an option, we do have ways where we can do the assessments, talk with the doctors, talk with the family to see what the ultimate goal is, and have them provide a plan that way.
GM: That is awesome. I didn’t know about the nurses you have.
BP: Yes, we have two wonderful nurses who have been in nursing for, lord, as long as I can remember, since I was born, because one of them is my mom. She is very knowledgeable, and has been in the nursing field a long time. She’s worked for doctor’s offices, hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, so she knows the ropes.
GM: I’m a huge fan of family businesses. So, you guys go in and evaluate a care need, and then what happens? What questions do you think seniors or the families of seniors have when someone has a care need?
BP: Well, there is a couple of things:
Number one, when is the time to make a move?
It’s not always an easy transition or easy conversation to have with your family, with your loved one. That is one way we can come in and scope, and have the conversations with your loved one and the family, because you have some families where the primary caregiver is ready to do something but the family who lives out of town thinks, oh, mom or dad are fine. They think they don’t need any help, you’ve got it under control. They don’t see the everyday care that is involved and what a toll it takes on the caregiver and their family.
GM: A lot of the time, family caregivers will pre-decease the person they are caring for. That is crazy. Why is that?
BP: Because the caregiver gets so worn out. All the time and the energy, the mental state, it all takes a toll on the whole person, not just one side but it takes everything inside of you to care for a loved one.
HS: Caregivers often put aside their own needs to care, which can include delaying checkups and putting off social activities with friends, which brings about one of the things we need for longevity, happiness.
GM: You talk about that a lot.
HS: Well, I am a caregiver. Fortunately I have a brother and sister and it works out well for us but we have a dilemma coming up over a weekend when one wants to be gone for four days. We’re trying to put that together now.
In situations, especially where someone has had to quit their job, and it’s their only income, it effects their quality of life.
GM: Taking care of yourself is important. You must take some time for yourself. It doesn’t mean you don’t love the care recipient, your husband or wife, you have to take some time to take care of yourself.
HS: There are things like respite care, and sometimes it is expensive but if you qualify, you can go through care solutions. They can organize some money for a temporary respite so the family can have some time away.
BP: Respite is a great way for the family to get a break. Sometimes even the caregiver and person they’re taking care of just need to be separated for a little bit because you get tired of each other. If you’re the primary caregiver, you’re in there every day, it takes a toll on both of them.
HS: Is respite care a good opportunity for someone who anticipates having to go somewhere to go visit and see what the facility is really like on a day to day basis?
BP: I really can’t tell you how many folks I have moved into a community that just want to test it out, or who are not sure if it’s going to be the right fit. They go in and do a week, or a two week respite to see how they will adjust.
I would say be careful with that because the simple fact is, there is a transition period when someone moves into a community. A lot of time that transition is two to three weeks. So, can you really get the full idea of how that person will adjust during that short amount of time. I would make sure it is worth your time before you do it.
There are a lot of folks out there who would rather do these assisted living communities on a month by month basis. If you can do a month to allow the person to adjust and really see how they will do, give them that instead of just trying a week. That week is going to be your loved one adjusting to the move, so let them settle in, let them get used to the socialization, the activity and the structure of that facility.
I talk about those three things all the time, and even if you have the ability to stay at home and take care of a loved one, really take into consideration other than yourself, the care giver and the care receiver, what other socialization is that person getting? What other types of activities are they doing, and what is the structure because of the old saying, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
HS: But you can take someone out of a care facility in many cases if they don’t require constant medical care. You can take them to dinner, we take my father out to dinner at least twice a week. When he goes to rehab which he does about every six to eight weeks, and he has to be there a couple of weeks, we try and get him out. He went to the beach last week with my sister and brother.
BP: That’s what it’s all about. As long as you are able to do that and have the means to do that, then why shouldn’t that person stay at home? Then there are some families that have to work, there’s not a chance, especially when you think of alzheimers and dementia to leave someone at home by themselves while you are at work? How safe is that? They’re home alone.
GM: It’s not.
HS: There is certain technology available, such as, I’ve fallen and can’t get up, and the medication dispensers.
BP: Right, and now people are using baby monitors to hear what’s going on at home, or in-home camera systems, which are great things, but I still want to focus on that socialization, activity and structure because that is going to be key, especially in alzheimers, to know the development and progression of the disease.
HS: In my short and abbreviated experience, the things that matter the most, at least to my father, is food and visitors. I would say that for some, there would be bingo and activities like that. You must find out what means the most to your parents, or whoever you’re caring for.
GM: For families needing help in these situations, and there really is a great need, there seems to be no one to call. They’re feeling like there’s a void. In the senior care world, Billy Peeler can be that person to contact. You can be that lighthouse helping to guide them to where they need to go, and steering them away from situations that might be a bad fit. Plus, I see clients on a regular basis who say, they are full over here, they are full over there, where can we go, what can we do? You would be the person to call who can help them find the right place, where there is an open bed or room, or in-home solution. You also evaluate, and decide if can they do private pay or do we need to find a care benefit for them.
BP: I think that’s what is different about us from some of these other companies. We promote the one on one, guide you through the whole process, instead of just finding you somewhere and say, there you go. I want to be able to help everyone, so if it is Medicaid, I want to help educate them on the facilities that accept Medicaid. You know as much as I do, all the changes in Medicaid now, who bills for Personal Care Services and who doesn’t?
GM: We routinely qualify families for Medicaid. Regardless of asset situation, we will find the right benefit whether it be VA or Medicaid.
I want to thank you for coming on the show today. Maybe we can do a follow up on this, say, how seniors and their families can locate the right care facility?
BP: If anyone needs to get in touch with me, our number is 704-473-6149. We are in the process of getting our website up and running, and on Facebook, look up Mike House Senior Consulting Services.
If anyone needs to contact McIntyre Elder Law about anything discussed here, you can call us, if you are listening in the Charlotte to Tryon area on 704-343-6933, or if you are in the Henderson/ Asheville area you can reach us at 828-398-0181.
We are located in Shelby NC, at 123 W. Marion St. We see clients by appointment only in-home, or in one of our meeting locations in Asheville or Charlotte. You can see a video of this show on Facebook at McIntyre elder law, or go to our website at mcelderlaw.com
Contact me if you have any questions. Elder Law is what we do!
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