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Nevada Estate Planning and Asset Protection Blog

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Guest Blog- Veterans' Benefits Overview

Using Benefits, Managing Money: Financial Planning Information for Senior Veterans 

From deciding where to live to accessing healthcare, senior veterans have benefits and obstacles that many of the rest of us don’t. The trick is knowing how to navigate the good and the bad.

Senior veterans have problems and advantages that are generally unfamiliar to people who lack a military background. Unfortunately, many of those advantages may be unfamiliar to some veterans. It’s important to understand your military benefits, which may play an important role in meeting your healthcare needs and requirements of everyday living. Careful financial planning can help you make the most of your available income and savings and put those hard-earned military benefits to work for you.  

Healthcare Help

The Veterans Administration (VA) is a key source of health care for senior veterans. Check your VA health coverage on a regular basis, especially if there are any substantive changes in your situation. It’s important to understand how it works, because as you grow older, you may need to make changes to your healthcare. Certain providers like Humana offer certain Medicare Advantage plans that allow you to expand your coverage. You can gain benefits such as dental or vision care, and some even offer caregiver support and fitness programs. Be sure to research these plans to find out more about their benefits.

The Geriatrics and Extended Care Services (GEC) benefit provides assistance for a number of chronic conditions, from life-limiting illnesses to disabilities associated with disease, injury or aging. The GEC, a comprehensive funding and informational resource for long-term care, provides support whether you’re aging in place at home or living in a nursing home or other residential facility. Those who qualify have access to home health aide, as well as palliative, respite and hospice care. 

Where to Live: Assisted Living Options

Senior veterans may qualify for care in a senior living community, including a nursing home or assisted living facility, as well as in-home care. These resources are administered through the VA pension, Aid and Attendance program, and the Housebound benefit. The VA contracts with nursing homes nationwide to provide care for veteran residents in community nursing homes and provides for community nursing care for those who meet certain criteria (involving level of disability, income, and service-related status). 

If you’re looking for a care facility with a more residential feel, VA community living centers provide nursing care to veterans of all ages, their goal being to restore well-being, prevent a decline in health, and help sustain an acceptable overall quality of life. State veterans’ homes provide nursing home and adult day care for disabled veterans who are unable to earn an income. If you need help finding veteran housing programs, including in-home care, assisted living, and retirement home care, call 1-877-222-8387 or reach out to the nearest VA medical center.  

Where to Live: Home Financing Assistance

Veterans who wish to buy or refinance a home can seek financial assistance through VA home loans and grants. The VA will cover a part of your loan if you default, which makes it easier for lending institutions to extend more favorable loan terms. Veterans can also apply for VA home improvement grants through the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant program (eligibility is based on service and aging-related disabilities), which can be used to increase mobility throughout your residence. The maximum allowable grant is $85,645 and must be used for modifying or constructing a home to meet specific, adaptive needs. 

You can also apply for a temporary grant to adapt the home of a family member (i.e. someone with whom you’re currently living) up to a maximum amount of $37,597. This amount adjusts annually, so be sure to monitor the VA website regularly. 

Financial Planning

If you’re a senior veteran who’s made no provisions for retirement, be aware that you shouldn’t rely solely on your military benefits for care, income and living expenses. That’s why it’s important to keep planning and adapting to meet your needs. Veterans who have participated in the Thrift Savings Plan (a retirement plan for federal employees) should maximize it, as well as their 401(k), while utilizing employer matching programs. 

Insurance and Living Expenses

Insurance can be costly, but if you’re receiving a retirement pension, consider transferring a portion of this income into an interest-bearing savings account to help cover deductibles and other out-of-pocket living expenses. This is an excellent way to stretch your military benefits and keep them working for you well into retirement. 

Pensions

Senior veterans are eligible for an array of pension packages designed to take care of you through retirement. You may be eligible for the supplemental income pension if you served at least 90 days of active duty, are at least 65 or receiving Social Security Disability, and are disabled or receiving skilled care in a nursing home. Surviving dependents with a deceased parent or spouse who served in wartime may be eligible for the survivors pension, a tax-free form of compensation for the unmarried children or low-income (unmarried) widow of a service member. 

Other Benefits

Permanently disabled senior veterans restricted to their premises may be eligible for additional financial benefits that can increase your monthly pension. For example, the Aid and Attendance benefit provides funding for veterans receiving care in a nursing home who need help with activities of daily living, or whose eyesight is no better than 5/200 (corrected) in both eyes. 

As a veteran, you are also eligible for a wide array of life insurance benefits, including everything from servicemembers’ group life to veterans’ mortgage life insurance. Servicemembers’ group life insurance, a low-cost form of insurance, is automatically granted to most active-duty service members and can be extended for disabled plan members. 

Financial planning for senior veterans requires an understanding of all the benefits available to you and your family. If necessary, seek out a financial advisor who can help you with long-term financial planning and make the most of the assets and benefits at your disposal. It’s essential to continue monitoring your financial situation beyond retirement - it’s not enough to sit back and wait for the government to take care of everything, because benefits and benefit requirements can change. Remember, you’re not just providing for your own needs; financial planning is about taking care of your loved ones’ needs after you’re gone.

About the Author, Jim McKinley:
As a former banker, Jim McKinley uses his background and skills to provide advice and valuable resources to anyone who needs help with their financial literacy through his website moneywithjim.org.  In his spare time, he spends time with his family and his dogs.

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