Monthly Archives: July 2013

Veterans Administration Pension: who qualifies?

Hands holding an American flag

I gave a talk to a Parkinson’s support group today, and we went over the Veterans Administration Aid & Attendance benefit. Aid & Attendance (“A&A”) is a VA Pension available to qualifying veterans and surviving spouses of veterans who need the regular help of another because of disability and lack financial resources to cover their medical and care expenses (caveat: the rules are much more technical, but I’m going for simplicity here).

I brought up the “service requirement”, as A&A is only available to those who served during war-time.  Someone in the crowd asked if a certain date was considered “war-time” and I did not remember the dates off the top of my head.  So, to redeem myself, I will put them here!

From a Veterans’ Aid website:

The following list sets out the periods of wartime designated by Congress for pension purposes.  To be considered by the VA to have served during wartime, a veteran need not have served in a combat zone, but simply during one of these designated periods. All other times are considered peacetime. Some veterans served part of their tour of duty during wartime and part during peacetime. Even if a majority of a veteran’s service occurred during peacetime, the service member would still meet the wartime service requirement for eligibility for pension benefits if he or she served ninety consecutive days, at least one day of which occurred during a period designated as wartime. All of the listed dates are inclusive.

Indian Wars: January 1, 1817, through December 31, 1898. The veteran must have served thirty days or more, or for the duration of such Indian War. Service must have been with the U.S. forces against Indian tribes or nations.84

Spanish-American War: April 21, 1898, through July 4, 1902, including the Philippine Insurrection and the Boxer Rebellion. Also included are those individuals engaged in the Moro Province hostilities through July 15, 1903.85

Mexican Border War: May 9, 1916, through April 5, 1917. The veteran must have served for one day or more in Mexico, on the borders thereof, or in the waters adjacent thereto.86

World War I: April 6, 1917, through November 11, 1918, extended to April 1, 1920, for those who served in the Soviet Union. Service after November 11, 1918, through July 2, 1921, qualifies for benefits purposes if active duty was performed for any period during the basic World War I period.87

World War II: December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946, extended to July 25, 1947, where continuous with active duty on or before December 31, 1946.88

Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955.89

Vietnam Era: August 5, 1964, through May 7, 1975.90 However, February 28, 1961, through May 7, 1975, for a veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period.

Persian Gulf War: August 2, 1990, through a date to be prescribed by Presidential proclamation or law.91

 

If a Veteran or surviving spouse is seeking A&A, the veteran must have served during one of these periods.  Later, we’ll discuss the other requirements for A&A.

 

 

CAVEAT:  This web site and the information contained herein have been prepared for educational purposes only.  The information on this blog does not constitute legal advice, which would be dependent upon the specific circumstances of a particular case.  In addition, because the law can vary from state to state some information on this site may not be applicable to you.

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Why have an attorney prepare your Last Will?

businessman signing a contract

My husband and I were riding along in the car the other day, discussing wills.  (I honestly don’t know why we were discussing wills.  Estate planning is not a common topic of conversation in my household, as Jeff – like most normal people, but unlike me – thinks it’s a pretty boring subject).

When I told Jeff the average price of a simple will, his reaction reminded me that many do not recognize the true value of an estate plan.  It is easy to see why a do-it-yourself approach, or perhaps a legal zoom kit, might be tempting.  Unfortunately, these devices are often ineffective and can lead to costly litigation.

Here are some common problems with DIY wills:

1.  They are often executed improperly.  In Georgia, a valid will requires that the Testator/Testatrix (maker of the will) sign before two witnesses who also sign. Among other things, a separate notarized affidavit is also required to avoid having to track down and serve the two witnesses with probate paperwork when the Testator dies.  I’ve seen costly and emotionally damaging litigation arise when the Testator’s intent was clear, but the proper formalities were not completed.

2.   Legal terminology is of utmost importance.  Estate planning attorneys use some strange language in their documents.  This terminology has a well-defined meaning in the law, but is not commonly understood by lay-people.  On the other hand, common language devices are often open to several interpretations and can be difficult to interpret at the Testator’s death. Simply put, an estate planner should know which words to use.

3.  They may not waive the requirement to file inventories and returns.  In Georgia, unless the Testator has waived this duty, an Executor must file an initial inventory as well as annual returns, both of which require court approval. This is a hassle and most clients choose to do away with this requirement in their wills.  However, such a waiver may not be included in a will purchased online, and is highly unlikely to appear in a  self-drafted will.

4.  Missing out on a comprehensive estate planning review.  An estate planning attorney will counsel clients on financial powers of attorney, advance directives for health care, titling of assets, pros and cons of using a living trust, beneficiary designations, and planning for retirement accounts, among other issues.  These are all very important to the estate planning process.

5.  Things are not always as simple as you think.  A client’s wishes might be simple, but the legal parameters involved in implementing the plan can become quite complicated.  Examples include planning for minor children, retirement funds, or unexpected tax issues.  An experienced estate planner can identify these problems and help clients develop effective legal strategies.

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The Daily Report on “Saving Grandma from the Grifters”

Hände

Today, in a special report to the Daily Report, attorneys Alan Levine and Dawn Levine published their article ‘Saving Grandma from the Grifters in Georgia‘.

According to the article, on May 3, 2013 Governor Nathan Deal signed House Bill 78 into law, enhancing Georgia’s criminal code and the Disabled Adults and Elder Persons Protection Act to protect Georgia’s seniors.

The Risk of Abuse

The elderly are vulnerable to financial and physical abuse not only because of diminished capacity but also as a result of undue influence.   Even a mentally competent person can suffer from domination, trickery or a combination of both, and the elderly are particularly at risk.  Seniors – especially the widowed – are often lonely, which also opens the door for fraud. Add even the slightest amount of diminished capacity into the mix, and the situation is ripe for abuse.

In my practice, I have come across seniors who have given money to their caretakers, promptly forgotten, and later given the gift again (much to the caretaker’s delight); seniors tricked into changing phone providers and then charged exorbitant fees for discontinuing the expensive new service (a scam called slamming); and seniors fed pharmaceuticals causing drowsiness and then robbed by home health aids over a period of months. I have seen caretakers help themselves to groceries and other goods on their client’s credit card.  I even remember my grandmother getting a call from someone saying he was from the bank and he needed her account number to verify a transaction.  Months passed before someone realized that several hundred dollars had disappeared from her account each month.

Hedging the Risk

As the baby boomers retire and our population continues to age, these problems will become more and more prevalent.  In my opinion, if there is even the slightest chance or the appearance of impropriety, caregivers and other family members should avoid taking any hand outs from vulnerable seniors. The fact that seniors are often unwilling to accept or admit their own vulnerability does not help. Still, the best defense is good planning.  If planning falls short, criminal and civil remedies are available, and I am glad to see Georgia take a proactive stance to protect our seniors.

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