The Veterans Pension Protection Act, Senate Bill 1982 (which has been many different bill numbers and under other titles) did not obtain the 60 votes necessary to pass on Thursday, February 27, 2014. What does this mean?
The bill, under the auspice of promises to “fix” the backlog of Veterans Benefits Disability Claims (service connected claims and appeals), also included a penalty period for non-service connected wartime veterans who apply for the Improved Pension with Aid and Attendance benefit if the claimant gives money or assets away before or after applying for the benefits.
If the bill had passed, the VA would be mandated to ask claimants if they had given any assets away up to three years before the application filing date, or any time after filing an application. If so, the claimant would not be eligible for the improved Pension benefit until the “penalty” period for the value of the transferred gift had expired. The calculation of the penalty varied depending on whether the claimant was the veteran or the widow, or whether married or single.
Under current laws, the VA is permitted to disregard the value of any gifts to persons who live in the same household as the claimant or when the claimant retains any control or beneficial use of the asset, thereby not effectively reducing their net worth. On the other hand, when a claimant transfers money to a person or specific type of trust now, the VA cannot count it toward the net worth calculation unless the gift violates the two rules (1) transferred to a person in the same household or (2) maintained ownership or control.
While the issue may be at rest during this legislative session, be assured that it hasn’t died and will be proposed in one form or another next session. For up to date information, follow the Lawyers for Wartime Veterans blog http://blog.lawyersforwartimeveterans.com.
Written by Victoria Collier on 2/28/14.
Victoria Collier is a Veteran and Certified Elder Law Attorney, Fellow of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Co-Founder of Lawyers with Purpose, LLC and author of “47 Secret Veterans’ Benefits for Seniors – Benefits you Have Earned…. but Don’t Know About.”