What You Need to Know About Recent Changes in VA Law: Part I

In October of 2018, the Veterans’ Administration released new regulations that makes it far more difficult for applicants to qualify for VA benefits then it did in the past. ThinkstockPhotos 979212248

These rule changes affect several different aspects of VA benefits such as creating new Medicaid-like transfer penalties related to an applicant’s net worth. If you are a recipient of VA benefits, you need the support of an experienced estate planning attorney to assist you in understanding how previous VA benefit planning strategies may no longer work.

Let’s dive into the first aspect of VA rules, known as countable assets. Under previous rules, there were no asset limits specified, however, $80,000 was typically used as the number to identify asset eligibility.

Under former guidelines, the $80,000 amount did not include a car or a house. In the past, most VA caseworkers used this as a guideline, but would make decisions regarding benefit eligibility on a case by case basis.

However, under the new VA rules, the asset limit is established at the same level as the Medicaid Community Spouse Resource Allowance, as clarified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This allowance is used to identify the maximum amount of assets that a community spouse is eligible to keep while their spouse qualifies for the nursing home benefit.

The new annual amount includes an annual cost of living increase. For 2019, the countable assets amount is $126,420. This asset amount also applies to all applicants regardless of their marital status. While this is larger than the previous limit of $80,000, the new lookback period and transfer penalties make it much more difficult and expensive for veterans to qualify for long-term care benefits. Schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer who is familiar with VA benefits if you have questions about how this affects your individual planning.

Stay tuned to this blog for our next installment on changes in VA laws.


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