The VA Improved Pension was established to assist Veterans, their spouses and disabled dependent children. It was designed to offer a level of income above the minimum subsistence level, with the goal of allowing Veterans and their survivors to live their lives with dignity and afford basic necessities. Though it has been in existence for decades, it is widely unknown and under-utilized.  This pension benefit is not dependent upon service related injuries.
Check Your Eligibility.   Are You….
  • a Veteran who served at least one day on active duty during a war period?
  • a spouse of a deceased Veteran?
  • 65 years or older?
  • finding that your medical expenses are more than your monthly income?
There are three levels of this program:
  1. Basic: This is the least benefit for those 65 and older with recurring medical and/or assisted living expenses that exceed their income.
  2. Housebound: This is the second highest benefit for those who cannot leave their homes without assistance.
  3. Aid and Attendance: This is the highest level of assistance. This level assists Veterans and their surviving spouses who require the attendance of another person to assist with activities of daily living. It helps cover the cost of qualified unreimbursed medical expenses, in-home care, assisted living facility care and even nursing home care. 
  Maximum Monthly Benefit Maximum Annual Benefit
Married Veteran $2019 $24,238
$1703 $20,446
Widow of a Veteran $1094 $13,136

As of December 2011

The VA does not make it clear who qualifies for the Improved Pension.  Applicants are often told that it is based on income, but it is actually based on need.  Once the applicant deducts from their income their qualified unreimbursed medical expenses and assisted living and/or nursing home costs, many will qualify. Those with higher income and higher net worth are often surprised when we show them how they too can qualify.

The VA Application Is NOT Simple

Applying for pension benefits with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is not simple. It is a long and complicated process upon which the VA Department’s own staff is not well versed.

Who Can Best Assist With VA Pension Planning?

Because the VA Pension Benefit is widely unknown, it has created a business opportunity for many insurance agents and annuity sales representatives. Your first question to those who offer to help should be: “Are you accredited by the VA?”  We advise you to be cautious when working with unaccredited individuals and companies.  Many times they are not acting in your best interest.

If the answer to the above question is no, they should not be consulted. To check an advisor’s accreditation, go to the VA’s Accreditation Website,  then type the name of the advisor with whom you wish to work. (A one-time agent – usually a family member – does not need to be accredited.) 

Robert L. Goodin, Jr. is an attorney, accredited by the VA, to advise you on these benefits. recommends only accredited Elder Law attorneys be used for VA pension planning for good reasons.  Knowing the VA pension process is a big task in itself.  Knowing how the VA pension can affect a Veteran's Medicaid and Medicare benefits, income tax, inheritance tax, and other financial factors is critical!  A reputable Elder Law attorney, like Bob, can give you sound guidance on how to juggle all the pieces of this financial puzzle.

As an accredited VA planning attorney, Bob takes a comprehensive planning approach ensuring the client, not just their money, is protected. Below are some of the reasons Bob is the best advisor for VA pension planning.

As a VA Planning Attorney, Bob:

  • is accredited by the VA Office of the General Counsel;
  • is legally obligated to act in the best interest of the client;
  • must be knowledgeable of the current types of Trusts and Trust laws, as well as know when and how to move money appropriately;
  • must be knowledgeable of the income, estate and gift tax implications for transferring assets;
  • can draft the appropriate Trust, when needed, to allow an applicant to meet the asset requirements;
  • can prepare real estate documents to allow an applicant to meet the asset qualifications;
  • can prepare a Medicaid compliant caregiver agreement to allow an applicant to meet the income requirements;
  • is not looking to make a commission but is looking for a long-term relationship with their clients in order to assist them throughout their lives;
  • cannot give a finder’s fee for a referral but can give peace of mind and confidence that the Veteran’s needs will be covered; and
  • works with the family to annually requalify for continued benefits.

Qualified Attorneys Take a Balanced, Holistic Approach

As a qualified, reputable Elder Law attorney, Bob uses a holistic approach.  He not only provides pension planning, he looks at all aspects of a client’s financial picture, ensuring decisions are made to protect the client’s well-being, estate and family.  Bob will address the following issues:                  
  • Impact on Medicaid and Medicare qualification
  • Income tax issues
  • Inheritance tax issues
  • Gift tax issues
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Health Care Advance Directives
  • Living Wills
  • Family dynamics
  • Elder abuse
Some decisions may be based solely on finances while others may be based on emotional needs. As an experienced Elder Law attorney, Bob is accustomed to managing a balance between financial and emotional needs.  
When it comes to the VA pension planning, estate planning and elder care planning, an attorney is the most knowledgeable in managing the complexities associated with qualifying for the VA Improved Pension and protecting the client from financial hardships.  A reputable, experienced, knowledgeable financial planner can partner with Bob  to provide comprehensive planning for the client.

AVAPP:  Academy of VA Pension Planners
Bob is also a member of the AVAPP.  The goal of AVAPP and its members is to assist Veterans and their families in obtaining the benefits they have earned through their service to our country.  AVAPP is committed to educating and mentoring reputable attorneys in VA pension planning as they serve Veteran communities.  It is our way of thanking Veteran families for their service to our country.
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