Questions on the application process, etc.

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by TabBaldwin, Dec 16, 2007.

  1. TabBaldwin

    TabBaldwin Newbie

    Hello:

    I have an almost 89-yr-old mom who is the widow of a WWII vet. She lives in a facility that offers assisted living (2 levels offered--basic and assisted living, of which she pays for "basic", but her doctor has filled out forms saying that she needs at least this level of care and can't live on her own, etc.).

    The family has just learned of VA pensions from a man who visited the facility and made a presentation. The man has reviewed my mother's information and says she could qualify for nearly $1000/mo. BUT, he thinks we need to move some of her money into a TDA (Tax deferred annuity) in one of the children's name (at least out of her name) saying that she should only have $40,000 worth of assets of her own (though he did mention that the VA says $80,000 in assets is the limit). She currently has some money (from sale of her home) invested with Edward Jones which gives her enough income (in addition to her S.S.) to help pay for where she's living, all the while eating into principle to do so. If she didn't have this money, she wouldn't be able to afford the place. We're also worried about her outliving this money as it is.

    I guess my question is this--is the financial part of the application process based mostly on "monthly income" (which I believe can be offset by some of her monthly payments, etc.), or do they look at total assets? (The same financial information has helped her secure some free medications from a pharmaceutical company, which bases need on income.)

    Also--this guy says that he has "different forms" with which to apply for the pension, that it'd be best if HE made the application for us instead of us doing it ourselves. Can you be as successful applying for it on your own if you have all your ducks in a row? He seems to be in business with his father, an investment analyst, and is suggesting relocating my mother's funds to something his dad suggests. We'd rather my mom keep her money where it is, with someone we've known for awhile, so right now (until I know more this week) I'm hesitant to let him go ahead with the application.

    Thank you--anyone--for any information/hints/clues, etc. It's great to have found this site!
    Best regards,
    Tracey

    Edited to reflect my (albeit limited) updated knowledge
     
  2. veteranadvocate

    veteranadvocate Full Member

    Tracey,

    I will attempt to address some of your questions and comments.

    I guess my question is this--is the financial part of the application process based mostly on "monthly income" (which I believe can be offset by some of her monthly payments, etc.), or do they look at total assets?

    Both monthly income and total assets are taken into consideration by the VA in determining entitlement to ‘Aid & Attendance’.

    Also--this guy says that he has "different forms" with which to apply for the pension, that it'd be best if HE made the application for us instead of us doing it ourselves. Can you be as successful applying for it on your own if you have all your ducks in a row?

    There are no different forms. The VA requires the same forms from everyone. Is this guy a financial advisor or a ‘veterans service officer’? I recommend you read the post from lpick, under Happy Ending. As long as the packet is complete and supporting documents submitted, you can be as successful as anyone else can. The key is to make sure the application is complete. If you have any questions there are plenty of people on this forum that will give you advise.

    We are aware of some companies making presentations at facilities and offering free advise or assistance to make application but they usually want to have your business of managing funds for a fee. It may be legal but I don’t think their best interest is for the veteran or widow.

    You may also want to consider talking to an Elder Law Attorney for recommendations on transferring any assets.
     
  3. TabBaldwin

    TabBaldwin Newbie

    Thank you very much for your reply.

    If all the forms are the same (found at the VA site, I assume?), I wonder what he meant..... Do you have to file different forms for the regular pension versus the one that includes "Aid & Assistance"? Or, in my mom's case, would you go straight to the one for "Aid & Assistance"? Is there a difference?

    I know a little more than I did when I first posted. There's 2 gentlemen--father and son. The father is a "retirement benefits analyst" who described what he does as a fee-based fiduciary (something like that). His son is the one who does the actual VA pension application work since he says, the VA forbids anyone charging more than $10 to help in filing for a VA pension (something about it having been on the books since the Civil War). Sounds like you're already aware of something like this because the guy did say that if he makes any money, it's from the fee he gets from the fund he sets someone up in for the TDA. He did concern my sister that if we didn't use these guys to file, then we wouldn't be likely to get it on our own.

    Anyway, thank you very much.
    Tracey
     
  4. veteranadvocate

    veteranadvocate Full Member

    If all the forms are the same (found at the VA site, I assume?), I wonder what he meant..... Do you have to file different forms for the regular pension versus the one that includes "Aid & Assistance"? Or, in my mom's case, would you go straight to the one for "Aid & Assistance"? Is there a difference?

    The main form for veteran's pension is 21-526 amd for widow's pension it is 21-534. The veteran/widow must also submit the 'assisted care facility' letter or 'nursing home' letter for the 'aid & attendance'. I recommend filing for the 'aid & attendance' and the VA will consider for the maximum benefit.

    His son is the one who does the actual VA pension application work since he says, the VA forbids anyone charging more than $10 to help in filing for a VA pension (something about it having been on the books since the Civil War).

    That old law was changed earlier this year. A veteran/widow is now able to hire an attorney but there are certain restrictions.


    He did concern my sister that if we didn't use these guys to file, then we wouldn't be likely to get it on our own.

    First of all, I doubt if they will file the application for the VA benefits unless your mother let them control her investments. I would ask for some report on their track record for approvals. You should also ask him about follow-up work and/or appeals if needed. I think he is trying to scare you into using his service. I recommend you go with your gut feeling. I don't think you feel comfortable with what you know.
     
  5. TabBaldwin

    TabBaldwin Newbie

    Thank you, Veteran Advocate. You're right, we don't feel good about the direction these men seem to be trying to lead us. In fact, in checking around a site linked from this one, I found something under "VA scams....". It mentioned this very practice! He made my sister feel that he was the only one with access to the "correct" forms (different ones from the "usual ones")--something to that effect. It is my understanding that only the forms found on the VA website are the ones used, right?

    If I file form 21-534, form 21-0779 (nursing home/assisted living information), and a form called "Medical Statement for Aid & Attendance", that is all I need? Elsewhere, on another post, someone mentioned needing a "VDVA form 10"--what's this? Is this the same as the Medical Statement form?

    My mother is almost 89. Is having $45,000 in assets too much to qualify in most cases? Her income exceeds her expenses in the lower tier of ALF.

    Is it best to find the name of someone within the VA who handles these types of applications and make the application to his attention?

    Thank you so very much for your time and effort. This website is a Godsend.
    Tracey
     
  6. jdgranger

    jdgranger Newbie

    I would suggest that you get help from an accredited representative of a veteran's service organization to assist you and answer your questions. If you can get in touch with someone at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, they also have people to help in the claims process but they are so busy that they are not always available and it could mean a long trip for you, depending on how close you live to a Regional Office. If you call the VA toll-free number (1-800-827-1000), and you are lucky enough to be able to get through, someone there can give you information on the closest location to get help. At a minimum, they can provide VA Form 21-22 which lists, on the back, all of the national service organizations, and they can give you the location of the VA Regional Office nearest you.

    VDVA Form 10, about which you asked, is a form developed by the Virginia Department of Veterans Affairs (now Virginia Department of Veterans Services) and can be used to obtain a medical statement for Aid & Attendance Benefits. It is not a federal form but can be used for a federal claim. If you live in Virginia, you can call the VDVS at 540-857-7101 for the address of the VDVS office nearest you.
     
  7. bumblebee

    bumblebee Newbie

    I applied for the Aid and Attendance for my mom back in April 07. I just received her retro-pay yesterday. YEAH!!! I started the process by contacting a veterans service officer in our area. She asked that I meet with her and she helped me with the application. After that first visit, she had me email her any info I received in the mail from the VA. She told me what to put in the blanks and I then I would mail it to her - so she could look it over and she mailed it on to the VA for me. I could not have done this by myself. If you miss anything...it will delay getting approved. It took 10 months, but they do back pay to the date that they receive your original application. In my mother-in-laws situation, she sold her home while in the process of getting approved for benefits. My husband contacted a Senior Information Services Officer in our area, and he advised him to put the money from the sale into a Family Irrevocable Supplemental Special Needs Trust. It has all been set up and this money is not counted when qualifying for the A & A benefit. To tell you the truth, I could not have done any of this on my own. I would recommend contacting your local VA office and getting in touch with a Veterans Service Officer. Just remember...be very patient - it is a long process, but in the end well worth it! Good Luck
     
  8. veteranadvocate

    veteranadvocate Full Member

    I am glad to see that some individuals do have good results with the VA and local service officers but for the majority, this is not the case. If the majority of our visitors received such service, they would not be visiting this site for answers and assistance.

    There are some very dedicated employees associated with these organizations and agencies but they are few and far between. The following information was extracted from an article that is posted on this website.

    According to the VA's own data, people who call the agency's regional offices for help and advice are more likely to receive completely wrong answers than completely right ones.

    To see how well its employees answer typical questions from the public, VA benefits experts in 2004 called each of the agency's U.S. regional offices, which process veterans' disability claims. The so-called mystery callers, saying they were relatives or friends of veterans inquiring about possible benefits, made a total of 1,089 calls. Almost half the time they got answers that the VA said were either completely incorrect or minimally correct.

    According to an internal VA memo on the mystery-caller program that's buried deep in the department's Web site, 22 percent of the answers the callers got were "completely incorrect," 23 percent were "minimally correct" and 20 percent were "partially correct." Nineteen percent of the answers were "completely correct," and 16 percent were "mostly correct."

    The program also found that some VA workers were dismissive of some callers and unhelpful or rude to others.


    The Department of Veterans Affairs also required their VSRs (Veterans Service Reps) to take a certification test. In August 2003, the department offered the first certification test for the position but only a quarter of test-takers passed the 100-question multiple-choice open-book exam. After dismal scores on the first certification test, the department also created a 20-hour prep course, which resulted in a 42 percent pass rate on the latest exam.

    The veteran’s service officers, associated with the service organizations, are certified by the same agency that has many employees who failed their certification test. What is wrong with this picture?

    I also wonder why ‘bumblebee’ and ‘jdgranger’ had the need to visit this forum if they had such wonderful service from the VA and their local veterans’ service officers. Wish we all were so lucky.
     
  9. bumblebee

    bumblebee Newbie

    That last comment has made me feel like I am not welcome here. I visited this forum before I applied for my mom - just seeking answers about qualifying for A&A, and as the application process was going on to see if I could offer any help. I will not apologize for being here and for being able to have a great VA officer to help me. Thanks to VeteranAdvocate this will be the last time I post here!
     
  10. vetadmin

    vetadmin Administrator Staff Member

    We are sorry that you took offense. VeteranAdvocate's intention was not to offend, but rather to point out that this site and forum came into being due to the lack of information and resouces available regarding A&A.

    The Advocate comes to this forum with over 25 years dealing with the VA, and has a vantage point of knowing the system and where the shortcomings are. They have seen veterans and their families pay the price for incorrect and inaccurate information given out by Service Officers, and fight on a daily basis to obtain those benefits to which they are entilted. He is what ALL VA employees should be. He is not an outsider throwing stones.

    The system is not able to meet the demands of our veterans and you were indeed very fortunate to find someone who was knowledgable and able to successfully help you with this process. You should always give credit where credit is due.

    For years I turned to the VA to be told that my dad did not qualify for anything while my family stuggled for 9 years to pay for the care of both my parents. All those NO's from the VA should have been YES's and to the tune of $160,000. If you have not read my personal story on this forum, it may help you to better understand why this site was created to help make a difference.
    http://veteranaid.org/forums/index.php?topic=10.0
    It is regretable that my experience is more common than yours.

    We are thrilled that things worked out for you, and the system worked for you as it should. Your story is important, to the folks that visit here looking for answers. Most have run out of options and hope.

    What you don't see on these forums are the personal emails I get from folks who have fought the VA for over 2 years trying to get A&A and have hit rock bottom with no where to turn. Nor do you see the stories of a veteran who is being kicked out of a facility because the family can't pay the bill and the veteran and their family are still waiting for the VA to release funds. There are a lot of stories you won't see on this forum, but everyone has a story, and we are glad that yours had a happy ending.
     
  11. TabBaldwin

    TabBaldwin Newbie

    I came back to the forum to report that my mother was approved for Aid and Assistance by the VA. Paperwork was filed in early February, and in mid-May she received the approval letter, but not before being told in late March that they had lost her paperwork (which I heard is a tactic often used--first "lose the paperwork" before going any further with the application). She's already received back-pay for March and April.

    A "seniors benefits analyst" (something like that) took care of the paperwork for us, but because we had to re-distribute a small amount of her savings in order to qualify her, our "payment" is that we invest this money through this guy's father who is an investment analyst. After hearing so many horror stories about doing the filing with the VA on your own, the family finally decided this would be the easiest route to follow. Now to hope we make the right decision on investing that $60,000 of hers because she will still need some funds from it on a monthly basis.

    I don't understand why the VA, unlike Medicaid, doesn't have the "no-look-back policy", but I'm appreciative that it does not. She wouldn't have qualified otherwise. But, in crunching numbers (applying for aid or not), we figured the $998/mo from the VA will help keep her where she is (ALF) indefinitely since her savings was being depleted to do so. If her savings had been depleted and she'd been forced into a Medicaid nursing home, it would've cost a whole lot more than the $998/mo they'll be paying now. So, in our case, it's a win-win situation. Too bad all agencies don't consider the bigger picture in situations like these where a lower cost up front can save much more down the road........

    Anyway, after the filing was complete, in discussion with the "seniors benefits analyst" guy, he said he utilized the services of a VA advocate (veteran's service officer?) located in another county. He even said that not all advocates (or whatever he called them) are competent, but that this guy had a good track record, and that it took awhile to find someone like him. My advice would be to ask around the veteran's groups for whatever state you live in to find some such individual and then go through that person.

    Good luck to everyone!
    Tracey
     

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