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Proposed VA Regulations Will Delay and Deny Benefits

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has released proposed regulations that would make it even more difficult for veterans and their spouses to access VA Aid and Attendance benefits. In response to a US Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) report decrying the predators that take advantage of veterans and sell annuities - the VA, instead of proposing any rules to outlaw or punish these predators, chose to punish the veterans.

Lacking any statutory authority, the VA’s package of onerous regulations is basically a mishmash of federal Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) statutes. Medicaid is the federal/state health care program for low-income individuals and SSI is an income benefit program for low-income aged, blind and disabled individuals.

The VA Aid and Attendance program is an additional pension for wartime veterans and survivors who are eligible for a VA pension and require the aid and attendance of another person, or are housebound. This program helps thousands of veterans remain out of institutionalized care.

The proposed rules, based on SSI and Medicaid federal statutes, include:

  1. Establishing a net worth limit of $119,220 (includes annual income and all assets except a home and 2 acres). Note that this limit is the Community Spouse Resource Allowance under Medicaid – but Medicaid does not include annual income.
  2. Establishing a 36 month look back period for any transfer of assets; a presumption that any transferred assets were transferred to become eligible for VA pension; a 10 year penalty period and no opportunity to declare a hardship - basically denying benefits for the life of the veteran.
  3. Severely narrowing what can be counted as medical expenses - limiting payments to assisted living, which is currently the only option for many veterans except for a nursing home.
  4. Placing a cap on what veterans can pay for home care.

How these proposed regulations will help expedite claims processing at the Veterans Administration offices – already under fire for thousands of delayed claims- heaven only knows, since it will require three years of documentation and enormous amounts of paper. Unless the goal is to deny claims and ask questions later, hoping that the veteran will die before getting any relief.

The GAO report specifically recommended that the VA obtain clear statutory authority for any transfer of asset regulations and further recommended that Congress consider such legislation. However, no Congressional authority was given, and Senate and House bills ultimately died in committee. Instead of waiting for statutory approval, as recommended by the GAO, the VA decided that they had the ‘authority” to promulgate regulations. They don’t. These regulations will surely be challenged in federal court and it’s a shameful act on the part of an administration that should be providing services to those who have served our country.

VA must receive comments on or before March 24, 2015.

Click here for a copy of the regulations and instructions on where to send comments.

Meanwhile, write to your Senator and Congressperson and urge them to pull these poorly drafted rules.

Page Last Modified: March 24, 2015