Florida Attorney Kantner answers Elder Care Question on ElderCareMatters.com

Question:  “My parents live in Melbourne Florida. My Dad has dementia and my mom is the primary caregiver. They live in their home. The house they live in is in a trust. They do not have a lot of money. My Dad is a vet with a 15% Hearing Disability. 

I have a 3 part question:  

  1. What are their options for care – Especially for my Dad.
  2. Being a vet is my Dad able to get Veterans Aid and Assistance?
  3. Should they move to Assisted Living Facility or Retirement Community? 

We just don’t know which way to go – Thank You.”

Answer:  There are various options available to your family for the future care of your father.  Your father can inquire into a home health care agency to help him stay at home by providing various functions and services to him depending upon his individual needs after being medically assessed.  The next level if that option is not available is an assisted living facility (ALF) where he may get assistance with some of his living activities but generally retains some level of independence.  Finally, a nursing home will provide comprehensive, full-time residential care services for those that require more advanced medical and physical assistance.     

Because you note that your father is a Veteran, it would be advisable and worthwhile for you to explore VA Pension Benefits with an Elder Law attorney who is also a VA accredited attorney.  Most Veterans and their families know about the disability pension available through the VA, however very few Veterans know about The VA Improved Pension, which is not dependent upon any service connected injuries or disabilities.  This benefit was established to help Veterans and their spouses live out their lives with dignity by assisting them with their financial needs.  There are different programs, so by meeting with an accredited VA attorney you will be able to determine which programs for which you father may be eligible.  There are three types of Special Monthly Pensions (SMP) to offset the cost of necessary health care.  The three SMPs are “Low Income Pension,” “Housebound” benefits, and “Aid and Attendance” benefits. 

There are qualification standards in order to be eligible for any of the three pension benefits, so it is not available to every Veteran.  In order to qualify, the Veteran must be disabled or over the age of 65 and in financial need, and has been discharged honorably, serving a minimum of 90 days, at least 1 day of which was during a period of war.  Financial need is determined by evaluating the net worth of the Veteran or surviving spouse, as well as the gross annual income.  The income limits noted below are 2012 figures and are subject to change annually. 

To be eligible for the Low Income Pension, in addition to the above requirements, the Veteran and one dependent, for example, may have income of about $1,300.00 a month.  The Low Income Pension is similar to SSI benefits. 

Eligibility for the Housebound benefits program limits the Veteran and his/her dependent to monthly income of about $1,560.00.  This program is suited for the Veteran who is determined to be disabled and confined to home.  If the Veteran is over the age of 65, a disability rating is not required but a physician’s affidavit substantiating the Veteran’s condition will be required. 

The third program that is available, called Aid and Attendance, assists veterans and their surviving spouse who requires the aid and attendance of another person in order to avoid the daily hazards of their living environment.  The monthly income limit for this program is about $2,020.00.  Typically, the Veteran is living at home or in an assisted living environment. 

You should inquire whether or not your father is receiving VA Disability Compensation if the 15% hearing disability you note stemmed from an injury received while on active duty and have been administratively approved by Department of Veterans Affairs officials, commonly referred to as a Disability Rating. 

If Veterans benefits are not available or appropriate for your father’s situation, other benefits, such as the Medicaid Institutional Care Program (also a needs-based program), should also be explored to help them afford his long term care needs.

I hope that I have answered your questions and reiterate the importance of consulting with a qualified and experienced attorney to direct you and your family through this complicated set of rules and regulations.

Richard I. Kantner, Jr., Esq.
The Kantner Law Firm, PL
St. Petersburg, FL  33701
Member of the national ElderCare Matters Alliance, Florida chapter

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