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Here is the deal on VA and long-term care...

1. There are two types of VA benefits available for non-career military; compensation and pension. Compensation is what most are familiar with...a veteran is injured or disabled as a result of service and they receive a "rating" and a compensation check every month. Pension is a non-service connected benefit in that the veteran's disability does not have to be service related. A veteran cannot receive compensation and pension at the same time.

2. There are three levels to VA pension benefits - basic, homebound, aid and attendance. All are needs based. Basic pension can be received without medical evidence. Homebound and Aid and Attendance do.
3. The pension (monthly maximum for vet = $1,650, for couple = $1,950, for surviving spouse = $1,056) is paid directly to the veteran. Claim can be made for virtually any service including care provided by a relative except a spouse), home health aids, geriatric care management, assisted living facilities or nursing homes.

4. To qualify the vet must have served at least 90 continuous days one day of which must have been during a TIME of combat (the vet does not have to have served IN combat). The vet must have received at least a general discharge. To be eligible for the survivor benefit, the spouse must have been married to the vet at the time of the vet's demise (no divorce).

5. You will need help to successfully apply for the benefit. You can try a local Veteran Service Office (search for National Association of Veteran Service Officers to find same near you). Keep in mind that Service Officers will not make recommendations with respect to financial planning if the claimant is "over-resourced". Also keep in mind that if the application is not done properly the first time it may take up to 9-12 months to receive an award. Although you can apply on-line for veteran benefits, you cannot do so for survivor benefits.

6. Benefits will be retroactive to the month AFTER application.

7. If you use a private consultant pay a fee. Do not use one of the profilgate "we help vets for free" firms that are actually financial service firms, typically insurance brokers, looking to sell high commission annuities. My experience has been that most of these firms are woefully inexperienced in coordinating VA benefits with other public benefit programs and as a result future access to Medicaid may be seriously compromised.

To learn more about this benefit directly from the VA, visit here

By the way...qualifying for Medicaid now, if the financial situation warrants it, may free up cash for other purposes. Call your local Area Agency on Aging for additional resources.
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