The VA versus The Veterans

Sigh. Some of the departments at the Federal Government have been so busy lately. The latest example is the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which is trying, unilaterally, to make it harder for Veterans to qualify for benefits.

Background: There is a Federal pension program for Veterans. It is needs-based, so to qualify the Veteran or Veteran’s spouse must have limited income and net worth.  The qualifying amount is determined as of the date of the benefits application. There is no “look-back” period, meaning that a Veteran who exceeds the limit can give away assets, and then file his application the very next day without incurring any penalty.

Congress set it up that way. Congress could have done it differently. When it set up two other programs, Medicaid and Supplemental Social Security, it provided for a look-back period.

Apparently the VA has decided it has the power to act all by itself.   On January 23, 2015 the VA issued proposed regulations that impose a 3-year look-back period. The penalty will apply to any transfer of assets for less than fair market value – which would include certain gifts to family members and places of worship.

Talk about a “gotcha.”

Other not-so-helpful changes proposed by the VA – limit the allowable deduction for in-home health care, prohibit the deduction of expenses incurred at an independent living facility if they are not for health care or custodial care, and limit exclusions on a Veteran’s personal residence to 2 acres.   That this might limit Veterans’ ability to receive quality care in lower cost settings, or be a huge disadvantage to Veterans who live in rural areas, is apparently just acceptable collateral damage.

And this from a governmental department whose specific goal is to help Veterans. Sigh.

If you want to take some action, then 1) contact your representative on Capital Hill; 2) submit your comments to the VA; or 3) contact a local Veterans’ organization and offer your assistance.

Our soldiers fought for us. Maybe it’s time to fight for them.