(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

It’s going to be harder for veterans to qualify for a benefit that’s already little known.

According to a report on ElderLawAnswers, new rule changes finalized by the Department of Veterans Affairs will put in place “an asset limit, a lookback period and asset transfer penalties for claimants applying for VA pension benefits that require a showing of financial need.” At the top of the list of those benefits? Aid and Attendance.

The Aid and Attendance program can help veterans in need of long-term care. There had already been restrictions on income to qualify for the benefit, but the latest rules add more hoops to jump through.

New regulations limit vets to a net worth limit of $123,600, the same as a Medicaid applicant’s spouse may keep — but this includes both the applicant’s assets and income. There are also revisions to policies governing qualifying medical expenses to determine IVAP (the veteran’s household income minus all unreimbursed medical expenses).

There’s also a three-year lookback period now, which means that applicants who transferred assets to protect them will be penalized by being denied benefits for up to five years. There are exceptions; for instance, for transfers to a trust for a child who cannot “self-support.” There are also new transfer penalties for any gifts and/or transfers that were made at less than fair market value.

The use of immediate annuities and planning strategies around gifting will also be restricted.

The new rules, which go into effect on Oct. 18, can be found here.

Veterans would be well advised to have any pending planning strategies re-evaluated — or set them in motion as quickly as possible. The report says, “The VA will disregard asset transfers made before that date. Applicants may still have time to get through the process before the rules are in place.” It suggests that veterans or spouses who think they may be affected by the new rules should immediately contact their attorneys.

Additional information can be found here, although as of this writing it had not been updated to reflect the new rules.

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