It is important to understand the interplay between the Veteran’s Administration (VA) Aid and Attendance (A&A) Benefits and state Medicaid law.
Clients often come to our office in Sterling Heights after hearing about the A&A benefit through seminars organized by financial planners. Seminars in Southeast Michigan are becoming more and more common place as insurance agents and planners learn that eligibility for such benefits can be created through the use of careful financial planning.
Although seminars can provide valuable information to veterans, an attendee should exercise caution prior to working with a planner to apply for such benefits. Prior to working with a planner, a potential client should perform his or her own due diligence by asking the planner a few simple questions:
1. Do you also practice Medicaid financial planning?
2. Do you have a relationship with a Service Organization?
3. Do you have an existing relationship with an elder law attorney?
4. What is your commission in assisting with my planning?
These questions will shed light on the planner’s intentions and whether or not he or she truly has the best interests of the client in mind. If the planner is unable to answer these questions, the potential client should consult with an elder law attorney that is skilled in the areas of VA benefits and Michigan Medicaid law.
Because federal law currently does not provide a “look-back” period for A&A eligibility there is an incentive for planners to earn commissions by funding financial products owned by people other than a veteran seeking A&A benefits. This strategy can be catastrophic if the planner is not well versed in state Medicaid law.
Conversely, current federal law provides that a Medicaid applicant is subject to a five (5) year “look-back” period. This audit period is designed to identify gifts, transfers, or “divestments” made within five (5) years of an individual’s application for Medicaid benefits. Any such transfers will result in periods of ineligiblity to receive Medicaid benefits even if the applicant is otherwise qualified to receive nursing home benefits from Medicaid. As a result, transfers made for A&A eligiblity can disqualify an applicant from receiving Medicaid benefits for later nursing home care.
However, through prudent planning an individual can avoid this pitfall. Prudent planning can be accomplished by working with a team of advisors which should include an elder law attorney, CPA, and a financial planner well skilled in Medicaid and VA planning that also has an affiliation with a veteran’s service organization.
As always, if you are a resident of Metro-Detroit and are looking for legal advice feel free to contact our office for a free consultation at (586) 264-3756 or via the internet through our website: www.smdalaw.com.
Remember, “Call first… Act second!“