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2018 veteran's pension family income limits

When determining a veteran's eligibility for a pension, part of the equation is simply how much income the family brings in during the year. These limits can change. The most recent update, which went into effect at the end of 2017 and which applies for 2018, includes the following:

  • For a veteran who does not have any dependents: $13,166.
  • For a veteran who does have either a child or a spouse: $17,241.
  • For a veteran who does not have any dependents and who is housebound: $16,089.
  • For a veteran who is housebound and who does have just a single dependent: $20,166.
  • For a veteran who does not have any dependents and who needs attendance and aid: $21,962.
  • For a veteran who has a single dependent and who also needs attendance and aid: $26,036.
  • For a pair of veterans who have gotten married: $17,241.

Now you may be wondering what happens for veterans with families who have more than one dependent. The same basic guidelines apply as they are described above, but you simply have to add on $2,250 for every additional child in the family.

What if you can no longer care for your parents?

Rather than go into assisted living or a nursing home, many older people prefer to stay home or to live with their children. Sometimes, this arrangement works out wonderfully.

Of course, there can be times when you realize that it is no longer realistic for you to care for your parents. For instance, maybe they are in their 90s and you are in your 60s or 70s, no longer able to handle the physical, mental and emotional demands of such "sandwich generation" caregiving. If you are younger, you may need more income coming in, which means starting work again or going back to work full time. So, what are useful tips to keep in mind when you can no longer care for your parents?

Comparing the costs of different types of elder care

As people grow older, the odds they will need elder care continue to increase. In many cases, living alone becomes impossible and even dangerous.

The key to being able to afford this elder care lies in planning ahead. But how much is it going to cost? While the numbers do change over time, it is good to compare the costs to see how different types of long term care stack up. Following are a few examples:

  • A nursing home that comes with a semi-private room costs about $78,110 every year, or $214 per day.
  • A nursing home with a completely private room is even more expensive, at $87,235 per year or $239 per day.
  • Hiring a home health aide to provide care in the home itself costs $21 per hour, which runs up a tab of $21,840 per year.
  • An assisted living center, a step down from a nursing home, costs $41,724 per year. That's an average monthly cost of $3,477.
  • The most affordable option is to get adult day services, but even that costs $18,200 per year, or $70 every day.
  • A slightly more expensive option is to hire a "homemaker," which costs $19,760 every year, or $19 per hour.

Review your estate plan if these 9 things happen

You made an estate plan. That's a great first step, and it is one that too few people take. Every year, many people pass away with no plan in place at all.

However, do not make the mistake of thinking that your estate plan never needs to get updated. You should not just create it and forget about it. When big life changes happen, it is likely time for a review. Even if you do not end up changing anything, you always want to check. Nine life events that may mean your plan has to get updated include:

  1. You get married for the first time. More and more people are doing this later in life.
  2. You get married for the second or third time. Your plan has to reflect this new relationship.
  3. You have a new child. If you have multiple children, review the plan with every birth.
  4. You and your spouse split up. When you get divorced, you may need to remove your spouse from the plan.
  5. You get sick or become disabled. It may be wise to consider end-of-life planning, for instance, or a medical power of attorney.
  6. A beneficiary passes away. You need to change your plan to allocate assets elsewhere.
  7. You move out of Texas. Make sure your plan holds up in your new home state.
  8. Your income and/or assets change significantly. Maybe you got an inheritance or saw large-scale career advancement.
  9. The estate planning laws change. While the basics may stay the same, laws do change often.

Should you give away assets to reduce your estate for Medicaid?

You want to qualify for Medicaid, but your assets go above the predetermined thresholds. What now?

One option is to spend-down your estate. You need to eliminate some of the assets you control to get below the threshold.

What is a Medicaid spend-down?

If you are a mature Texas resident, or if your parents are getting on in years, you may be concerned about what will happen if you or they eventually need nursing home or other long-term care. Even if you and/or your parents are relatively well-to-do financially, few people can afford the extraordinary costs of long-term care and must rely on Medicaid to pay these costs. Unfortunately, you must meet strict financial requirements to obtain Medicaid benefits. However, contrary to popular belief, you need not go broke in order to qualify

Virtually all state Medicaid programs require that a person must be “indigent” in order to qualify. This means that if single, a person must have no more than $2,000 worth of assets; married couples must have no more than $4,000 in combined assets. Few people have only this virtually negligible amount of assets, so it becomes necessary for them to reduce their assets to this amount. One of the ways you may be able to do this is through a Medicaid spend-down, a perfectly legal, albeit deliberate, way to “impoverish” yourself or your parents.

Does your power of attorney still apply if you recover?

A medical power of attorney appoints an agent to act on your behalf. For most people, this agent is a direct relative, such as a child. This person can then make decisions when you are not able to do so.

For instance, you may suffer a stroke and go into a coma. Doctors need to do surgery right away, but the type of surgery they want to do is very risky. They also need to keep you on life support.

7 pieces of information you'll need for VA pension benefits

You are thinking of applying for your VA pension benefits. You have not done it yet, but you believe you are eligible and you want to get the process started.

You have also heard other people talk about getting denied for simple reasons and mistakes on their forms. You want to avoid dragging the process out any more than necessary. To help, here are seven crucial pieces of information that you will need to provide:

  1. Your Social Security number: You can also use your VA file number. This information is absolutely required and you will not be able to move forward with a successful application without it.
  2. Records of your military history: Again, you are required to provide this information to get benefits.
  3. Your personal financial information: You have no choice but to turn over this information disclosing assets, income, debts and the like.
  4. Your dependents' personal financial information: This is the final piece of absolutely required information, though providing everything on this list is still important to help the process go smoothly.
  5. Your bank account information: This includes your account number and your routing number. It will be used to send you direct deposit payments if you do wind up getting the benefits.
  6. Any relevant medical information: It may be worth a trip to your doctor to make sure that all of your files are up to date.
  7. Information about your work history: Note if you have held other jobs besides being in the military.

Do not procrastinate with your estate plan

One of the biggest mistakes people make with estate planning is simply putting it off. They procrastinate. They forget about it. They don't want to talk about. They figure those are decisions best made another day.

In some cases, the real reason is that they do not want to think about the end. That's understandable. It can be a delicate subject, and many people do whatever they can to avoid it.