Saturday, March 28, 2015


We have been warned, and it is now up TO US to take immediate, decisive action or face the streets; Social Security, Medicare are on the target list for the White House, Congress traitors and WE MUST RECOGNISE THAT THEY ARE ALL THE SAME, ALL ENEMIES OF ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY, VETERANS   

By Ken Carlson

Once called the best-kept secret of veterans benefits, “aid and attendance” has become an important resource for older veterans needing long-term care or help with dressing themselves or other daily functions.

The time has come for us to fight for our benefits
Some local veterans or surviving spouses have been stunned, however, when the Department of Veterans Affairs has ordered them to repay thousands in “overpaid” aid and attendance benefits or benefits approved in error.

Many don’t understand why the benefit was cut off, and some are not able to solve the problem by seeking help from congressional offices.

Bobby Burnett of Oakdale, who was drafted during the Korean War, received the benefit for 16 months before the VA, in 2012, told him to return $16,236. 

To pay off the debt, the government for 21/2 years withheld his $600-a-month disability pension, which he received for losing an eye in boot camp. His pension check resumed in February.

“I am surprised the VA agreed to something and then so far down the road changed their mind,” said Joyce Burnett, who cares for her 84-year-old husband in a rental home near Knights Ferry.

Fay Fernandez, 81, of Modesto made headlines after a VA letter in November told the widow to pay back $47,000. She had used the benefit to pay rent at a retirement center for four years.

Veteran Bobby Burnett and wife Joyce Burnett are pictured Tuesday at their home near Knights Ferry, looking over paperwork on his VA benefits. Burnett was required to return $16,000 in what the VA said was overpaid benefits.  KEN CARLSON KCARLSON@MODBEE.COM

The Burnetts and Fernandez have been residents of the Standiford Place retirement center in Modesto, where the same financial consultant helped them obtain aid and attendance in 2011. Other local seniors who have received repayment demands were using the benefits at other care facilities.

Aid and attendance is for veterans or their spouses who are eligible for VA pensions and need help paying for in-home care, assisted living or a nursing home. Applicants must have served in the military during World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War or the Persian Gulf War, and require assistance with bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, prosthetic devices or protecting themselves against hazards in the home environment.

Veterans now under siege as Obama criminals, Congress
traitors give Social Security benefits, Medicare to illegal
aliens while cutting VA benefits
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Aid and attendance is for veterans or their spouses who are eligible for VA pensions and need help paying for in-home care, assisted living or a nursing home. Applicants must have served in the military during World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War or the Persian Gulf War, and require assistance with bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, prosthetic devices or protecting themselves against hazards in the home environment.

Eligibility is partly based on income and value of personal assets.

The Burnetts learned about the benefit at a Standiford Place seminar and were told it could increase Bobby’s VA pension to $1,949 a month so they could afford a $4,000-a-month bungalow. He ended up receiving less than $1,600. They lived at Standiford from December 2010 to June 2011, with Joyce serving as caregiver for Bobby, who was prone to falling and had medical needs.

The couple then lived with a daughter for four months before moving to their current residence. Joyce said a VA staff member told them their living arrangements had not essentially changed, so the benefit should continue. But the VA abruptly canceled the benefit and ordered repayment in 2012.

Are all Veterans to wind up like this?

“When we went to the veterans office in Modesto, the woman said we could think of it as a no-interest loan,” Joyce recalled.

One VA letter in their stack of paperwork said the decision to “change” the benefit was based on eligibility verification forms that were then required every year. Joyce said her memory of submitting the forms is not so clear.

Michael Weeks, an attorney who specializes in elder law near St. Louis, said the information provided on the verification forms could have a bearing on a person’s benefit status, though the VA has stopped requiring the forms. Eligibility could be nullified if the medical expenses and income on the forms did not match up when the VA checked Social Security or Internal Revenue Service records.

Weeks said he recently has seen more veterans receive overpayment letters from the VA. 

It can happen if a veteran cashed out assets before applying for the benefit. The VA may approve the benefit but later see the veteran had income from a mutual fund, which the VA assumes disqualifies the person for the benefit, even though it might not, Weeks said.

There has been much more exposure to the aid and attendance benefit in the past five to seven years, serving to increase the number of applications, Weeks said. Many assisted-living or senior housing centers inform veterans about the benefit to help them pay for services. “At times, the benefit is dangled out there and not enough time is spent talking with the veteran about what needs to happen to obtain and maintain the benefit,” Weeks said.

Some veterans don’t consider they are giving up control of assets to meet the VA’s asset test, or that they could run into complications with Medicaid in the future, he added.

Any veterans who receive a repayment letter regarding aid and attendance are advised to contact the county veterans services office or any certified benefits adviser that has assisted them. They may be able to work with the VA to resolve the problem.

Debera Fathke said she believes her mother, Fay Fernandez, was ordered to repay $47,000 because she wasn’t able to furnish information for the annual verification forms.

Hal Hagendorff, a financial consultant who helped them fill out the applications, said Fernandez was able to use the benefit for independent-living costs at Standiford, which is not an assisted-living facility, because of the center’s safety features. Also, Fernandez’s daughter was paid to help her with dressing, walking and other needs.

For a time, the VA allowed the benefit to pay for room and board in senior housing facilities that are equipped with emergency pull cords, 24-hour staffing and locked exterior doors. In October 2012, the VA changed the policy to recognize room and board expenses only if the senior housing has custodial care or a physician approves a third-party caregiver for the resident.

Bradley Erdosi, an accredited veterans attorney and specialist in trust and estate planning, said applicants for aid and attendance need to know the benefit is means-tested, and that the VA will check information with the IRS and Social Security, even after approving the benefit. Veterans may see a cancellation letter if the VA matchup finds inconsistencies, applicants fail to disclose an asset or income that disqualifies them, or the veteran sells a home that was an exempted asset.

“It is a good idea to keep accurate records for an extended period of time,” Erdosi said.

Senior advocates are concerned about the VA’s proposed changes to regulations that could make it harder for veterans and their spouses to obtain aid and attendance. California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform said the proposed tighter regulations were in response to a General Accounting Office report that found financial planners take advantage of veterans and sell them annuities so they meet asset limits for the benefit.

According to the group, the VA would establish a three-year “look-back” period for large gifts veterans make to family members – presumably to qualify for pensions – and potentially disqualify them for 10 years. The regulations also would narrow the definition for medical expenses and impose a cap on what veterans can pay for home care, the group said.

“The VA is in a state of turmoil,” Erdosi said. “It is trying to change the code of regulations and implement onerous penalties and rules around veterans who may apply in the future.”

The VA’s press office did not respond to requests for comment.

Weeks said his biggest concerns with the proposed regulations are that the VA won’t devote enough staff to enforcement and that benefit applications could take a year or more for a decision. “Unfortunately, these folks are in ill health and need the money now, not in a year,” Weeks said.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or (209) 578-2321.

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