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War on Poor Elders: Veterans Affairs and House Committee
Looking at Reducing Ability to Access Long Term Care Assistance


Congress is waging a war against low-income elders who need assistance with long term care services. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Congressional Representatives are both proposing new laws that would severely limit access to VA Aid and Attendance benefits and to Medicaid assistance for long term care services.
As if long term care consumers aren’t punished enough, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is now considering capping the Home equity limits back to the minimum ($500,000 plus inflation). No increases will be permitted by the states regardless of the property values in that state. Although the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (signed by President Bush) set a home equity limit of $500,000 above which persons would not be eligible for long term care Medicaid, it also allowed states the option to begin the equity limit at $750,000, which California did. With annual increases since 2006, the maximum home equity limit is now $828,000 in California. Given the property values in California, a limit of $500,000 would be devastating to many long term care consumers, force them to sell their homes or – what the mortgage industry really wants – force them to take out predatory reverse mortgages that will end up eating up all the value of their homes.
H.R. 136, sponsored by Brett Guthrie – R-KY, is ironically titled the Medicaid Home Owner Maximum Equity (HOME) Improvement Act, although what it will “improve” is anyone’s guess.
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) has also been raising concerns about H.R. 1771 (Markwayne Mullin – R-Oklahoma), which would limit community spouse annuities, requiring half the income to flow through to the institutionalized spouse. If payment of income is made in the names of the community spouse and another person or persons, one-half of the proportion of the community spouse’s interest in that income shall also be considered available to the institutionalized spouse. This puts a new twist on “Spousal Impoverishment.”
HR 1771 was part of a hearing on Sept. 11, 2015 and Republicans are expected to try to push it through.
Last year, the Department of Veterans Affairs published far-reaching proposed rules that would severely limit the ability of veterans to access VA Aid and Attendance. Lacking any congressional or statutory authority, the VA simply published draft regulations that would, among other onerous provisions, impose a 36-month look back period; cap the net worth assets of veterans and their spouses even lower than the Medicaid limit; limit the “lot size” of the veteran’s home to 2 acres; and limit the amount of medical expenses that can be deducted.
Clearly, the VA’s proposed regulations will not help expedite claims processing at the Veterans Administration offices – already under fire for thousands of delayed claims- since it will require three years of documentation and enormous amounts of paper. Nor will these regulations “reduce the opportunities for financial advisors to provide advice for restructuring assets” – the stated goal of the proposed regulations. Instead of proposing any rules to outlaw or punish the predators who take advantage of veterans and their spouses, the Department of Veterans Affairs has chosen to punish the veterans. If the goal is to deny claims and ask questions later, hoping that the veteran will die before getting any relief, these proposed regulations will be successful. The VA regulations are scheduled to be published sometime in March of 2016.
We need to stop this war on elders and long term care consumers! Between the DRA limits on transfer of assets in order to qualify for Medicaid in – at best - a mediocre nursing home; proposed VA rules that would limit war tested veterans to 2 acres of property in order to be eligible for home care, regardless of where they live; proposed limits on home equity in order to force elders to enter into predatory reverse mortgages – this is, indeed, a war on our elders – the same ones who’ve paid the taxes to create these programs in the first place.
Please contact your congressperson and Senators and ask him/her not to mess with the home equity limits or spousal income or VA Aid and Attendance rules – enough is enough!

Page Last Modified: August 24, 2015