Articles Posted in VA Benefits

There is a new mobile system that veterans can utilize in order to access healthcare services from their mobile devices. The Veterans Affairs Telehealth Services can now be accessed by app, making it easier for patients to schedule visits from as many as 50 types of health care services remotely.

Last year alone 700,00 veterans received care through telehealth services. Leaders of the VA hope that with this mobile app, accessibility of medical services continues to improve for veterans across the nation, making it even easier for veterans to receive the help they deserve.  

If you or a veteran you know is unsure of their rights or in need of home assistance please contact SMDA for a free consultation so we can help you receive the appropriate assistance.

Michigan Vietnam Veterans that were exposed to Agent Orange may now have the ability to file for benefits. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs recently expanded its list of ships that were subject to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam era. This is good news to Navy Veterans that were denied benefits in the past. Attached is the new database which includes the new ship listings. http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/shiplist/list.asp

If you are residing in Michigan and were denied benefits related to Agent Orange exposure PRIOR TO AUGUST of 2010, please call, we can assist you with an appeal for benefits, or direct you to another that can.

We frequently come across others that assist veterans with benefits other than non-service connected benefits like aid and attendance. Benefits provided by the GI Bill or through the service connect programs can also assist veterans with service connected illnesses, injuries or conditions. One such benefit provided by the VA is the VA loan and mortgage program.

For more information contact Jeff Zimmerman at Simple Mortgage. Mr. Zimmerman specializes in VA loans and mortgages. As a special thank you to veterans, anyone who utilizes Simple Mortgage for a purchase or refinance between now and the end of the year and mentioned your blog will receive a $500 visa gift card at closing!

Metro Detroit and West Michigan seniors that receive VA benefits for long term care through VA Aid and Attendance Benefit, have always looked forward to the annual federal budget announcement of the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). This year the announcement is not favorable. The latest from the Social Security Administration is that there will not be a COLA adjustment for 2016.

As a result veterans receiving this benefit can be all but certain to receive the same monthly amounts that they have in 2015. For now this is the only change to the VA non-service connected benefits that will be in effect for 2016. The proposed “looks-back” and transfer regulations are not a definite yet…

For more information about the COLA and your benefits follow the link below. If you do not receive VA benefits to assist you or your loved ones with long term care, please call our office at 1-866-529-ELDR. We can assist wartime veterans with long term care planning throughout the State of Michigan.
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Have an IRA? Facing a long-term care planning situation? Or maybe you have a loved one with elder law needs?

The biggest misconception for clients facing elder law issues is that Michigan elder law attorneys can only help veterans or adults facing nursing home placement and Medicaid planning.. This is not true. Using the same techniques for families that are facing nursing home placement or VA benefit planning, skilled elder law attorneys in Michigan can achieve fantastic results.

Understanding the law is key. Michigan Medicaid, which provides benefits to seniors confined to nursing homes, has a five (5) year “look-back” period. The law is interpreted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as a strict policy that applies to ALL transfers occurring within a five (5) year period of application for Medicaid benefits. Further, the law assumes that any person over the age of sixty-five (65) can presume that they will reside in a nursing home in the future. As a result, many seniors and their families are reluctant to make transfers, even at the expense of their own care. However, if proper planning is used, a potential benefit applicant can INTENTIONALLY trigger a “divestment penalty” and actually PRESERVE assets if and when he or she needs nursing home care.

The time has come and gone for “public comment” regarding new proposed rule changes to the VA’s non-service connected benefits program. The benefits can provide much needed relief to seniors struggling to provide for their own long term care expenses. Currently, eligible veterans or their surviving spouses can collect up to almost $2,100.00 per month if married; $1,750.00 per month if single; and, $1,150.00 per month as a surviving spouse.

Proposed regulations introduced in late January, will, more than likely, be effective in the near future. The regulations will introduce a three (3) year “look-back” period and “penalties” for asset transfers performed to create eligibility for these benefits. The regulations, like most new legislation creates uncertainty. Many of the provisions within the regulations appear to affect veterans eligible under current law and treat applicants differently depending upon the class of eligibility they are seeking.

Pursuant to federal law, regulations like these, should not become law any earlier than one (1) year from the expiration of the “public comment period.” The public comment period expired in late March of this year. According to this analysis, more than likely, the effective date of the new regulations will be April 1, 2016. However, as with much legislation, executive orders, and regulations, the answer remains clear as mud. For now, the best path remains to move forward with planning and seek assistance from skilled elder law professionals that understand current law.

Michigan veterans may be able to file presumptive claims related to exposure to herbicides from their service in Vietnam. In august of 2010, the VA released a list of over thirty (30) presumptive conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides.

The VA also tweaked its rules with regard exposure to these herbicides to include naval and other veterans that did not have “boots on the ground” during the Vietnam era. A great example are United States Navy Veterans. Blue Water Veterans are those who served in deep water, but did not actually dock or set foot on land in Vietnam; whereas, Brown Water veterans patrolled the inland shoals and waterways.

Brown Water veterans are covered by statute related to presumptive conditions; whereas, Blue Water veterans must prove that they were directly exposed (forming a nexus) and are not covered presumptively, with the exception of those with non-Hodgkins lymphoma (which is presumptive to Blue Water service).

In about a month, the public commentary period for the new proposed VA regulations will end. There is still time to help our veterans and seniors that rely on non-service connected, improved pension and aid and attendance benefits. In Michigan there are about 600,000 living veterans that can become eligible for these benefits.

The proposed regulations are too restrictive, do not provide “cures” for ineffective planning, and will create a reliance on other, more costly, federal and state benefits. The likely outcome of the proposed regulations will be that seniors and veterans will be dissuaded to apply for benefits that are desperately needed to assist with memory care, assisted living and home care.

Please see our earlier posts regarding these changes.

Many deserving veterans are often overlooked when considering VA benefits to assist with the cost of long term care. Specifically, Merchant Marines, serving during World War II may qualify for VA Aid and Attendance. During Worl War II, Merchant Marines took up arms to assist in the Pacific and Atlantic to support Allied forces and to ensure that precious cargo and supplies continued during the Period of Armed Conflict, December 7, 1941, to August 15, 1945.

Michigan Merchant Marines serving during this time, can qualify for the same VA benefits that are available to their United States Navy brethren. Such benefits can provide up to:

$2,120.00 per month for a married veteran $1,788.00 per month for a single veteran $1,149.00 per month for a surviving spouse

Michigan veterans and seniors need to express their concerns over proposed new VA regulations affecting their ability to plan for benefits. Our office supports changes to regulations in order to protect seniors and veterans in Michigan, but, changes need to be consistent with Congressional intent, the Constitution itself, and, at the very least, consistent with Medicaid regulations that are true and tested over time.

Current VA regulations DO NOT include a “look back” period. This has provided unscrupulous planners to take advantage of the law to sell financial products unfit for seniors facing long term care planning decisions.

Seniors and veterans using accredited attorneys, agents, or other planners skilled in elder law often provide sound, legal strategies to ensure that seniors and veterans that need help, DO NOT exhaust their assets because of the cost of their care and are others forced into a nursing home, at the federal government’s own expense, in the form of Medicaid.