VA pension is a program from the Veterans Administration that provides monthly cash payments to veterans and widows to pay for long term care.  These payments can be used to pay for a variety of care, including assisted living, at home care, and skilled nursing home care.  These payments can also be used in some cases to pay for stays in independent living facilities, if a sufficient level of care is provided.

Along with showing a medical need for long term care, applicants for VA pension must meet both an income test and an asset test.  To satisfy the income test, the applicant must have unreimbursed  medical expenses in excess of their monthly income.  To meet the asset test, the applicant can have no more than $20,000 in their name, not counting their  personal residence.  There are estate planning techniques available to reduce assets to qualify for VA pension.

There is usually a delay of between three months and a year between when the application for VA Pension is filed and benefits are approved.  Once benefits are approved, the VA pays one lump sum payment of back pay to account for the retroactive benefits from the date of application.  The waiting period can be reduced by giving the VA everything it needs to approve the application at the time  of filing.  The includes discharge papers, birth certificates, divorce decrees, death certificates, and insurance information.  The VA also requires evidence of any financial accounts owned by the applicant.  The VA will also look at the previous tax returns of the applicant.  If the applicant has previously sold assets and those assets are no longer in the applicant’s name, the VA application should explain why the assets are no longer in the applicant’s name.

The goal of the initial VA application is to anticipate any questions the VA may ask and proactively provided answers to these questions.  If the VA has to contact the applicant to obtain more information, the grant of benefits will be delayed.

As the rules for qualifying for VA pension are complex and can have impact on future qualification for nursing home Medicaid, it is recommended that applicants for VA Pension retain the assistance of an experienced elder law attorney.