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Be Wary of Lawyers and Financial Planners looking to help You Apply for Aid and Attendance Benefits

"Aid and Attendance" benefits are monies paid, above and beyond a veteran's pension, by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to veterans, veteran spouses or surviving spouses. The benefit is only payable to those entitled to a VA pension, and is for applicants who need financial help for in–home care, to pay for an assisted living facility or a nursing home. Shady lawyers and financial planners continue to defraud veterans with promises of VA Aid and Attendance benefits. They have these elderly and disabled veterans oftentimes turn over assets, such as homes, cars, and land; and sign over liquid assets like savings and IRAs in order to get them qualified for Aid and Attendance benefits.

They target war veterans (often World War II vets) who cannot afford in home care but whose assets and income exceed the qualifying amounts for Aid and Attendance benefits. Assisted living facilities and nursing homes are sometimes in on the scam. The attorneys oftentimes charge thousands of dollars to the veteran to set up a trust or an annuity allegedly to transfer assets so the veteran can qualify for Aid and Attendance. Others like financial planners charge the veterans a "fee" to assist them in meeting the income and asset requirements for Aid and Attendance, when in fact most of these services are provided at no expense through various service organizations, like the American Legion, as well as numerous state and county veteran's agencies. The GAO completed an investigation last summer, concluding that the program is being abused by lawyers, financial planners, and other professionals.

Veterans should know that there are certain qualifying conditions that must be met to get Aid and Attendance benefits, and, most importantly, that many service organizations and your local County vet office will help you apply for Aid and Attendance benefits. You should not be writing a check to a lawyer or a financial planner to help you fill out the application. T

To qualify for Aid and Attendance benfits, the veteran must not have obtained a dishonorable discharge, must have served at least one day during a designated wartime period. In addition there are certain disability and income requirements that must be met to obtain Aid and Attendance benefits.

Disability Requirements - Veterans, spouses of veterans or surviving spouses must meet the following disability requirements:

-the aid of another person is needed in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting himself/herself from the hazards of his/her daily environment; or

-the claimant is bedridden, in that his/her disability or disabilities require that he/she remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment; or

-the claimant is in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity; or

-the claimant is blind, or so nearly blind as to have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less, in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.

Income Requirements – Claimants for Aid and Attendance benefits must also meet certain income requirements:

The family income must be below a yearly limit set by law. Public assistance, like SSI, is not counted as part of the income calculations. The maximum Aid and Attendance benefit that can be paid monthly to a single veteran is $1,704, but the veteran must have countable income of $0 to receive the maximum benefit. A portion of unreimbursed medical expenses paid by claimants may reduce the countable income.

Finally, VA pensions are a need–based benefit, and a large net worth might affect your eligibility. All personal goods are exempt from the net worth. These goods include the home you live in, a vehicle used for the care of the claimant, and household goods and personal effects such as clothes, jewelry and furniture.

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© 2012 All Rights Reserved.