As a favored retirement destination, our area will continue to have an influx of senior veterans who may be eligible for benefits through the VA. A majority of these wartime veterans or spouses may not be aware that they qualify for a pension benefit, which can be in excess of $2,000 per month. As many seniors face long-term care costs or nursing home expenses as they age, this assistance is crucial to many families. Sometimes this benefit can mean the difference between enjoying a healthy quality of life and living in poverty. Many assume that VA benefits are only available to those who were injured during their service or to those deployed overseas; this is not the case. An online source noted that a third of people over the age of 65 in the United States are eligible for this benefit. Only an estimated five percent of these potentially eligible veterans actually receive these benefits. This fact can be attributed to the complicated and frequently changing laws surrounding the rules and regulations. In many cases, Evan Turk assists these veterans in obtaining benefits, even after they have been denied benefits or told that they do not meet the qualifications.
With a maze of ever-changing guidelines, it is vital that veterans and their spouses have a trustworthy expert on their side who knows how to navigate the system. Without expert advice, veterans may encounter, at the very least, a lengthy process and at the worst, years of denials. Even worse, many financial planners in our area, working under the guise of a veteran’s organization or nonprofit entity, create additional complications for benefits seekers. Most of these representatives are independent insurance agents who are compensated through commissions to sell annuities. To target these seniors, many of these salespeople lecture at retirement communities throughout south Florida, delivering the message to area seniors that the process for receiving benefits is “free.” This “free offer” is based on their counseling strategy of helping veterans to meet the asset and income limitations of the VA Aid and Assistance program through asset redistribution. The advisors commonly direct the veterans to purchase annuities with their assets, which are then gifted to their children. At first glance, this advice may seem like a good deed on the part of the representative and is often presented as just that. Although these financial advisors do not charge veterans to handle their applications, it is important to remember that they are simply licensed agents making a commission on the investments they recommend. Without taking into account proper legal advice, these investment recommendations often disqualify veterans from receiving other important benefits, such as Medicaid. Giving away assets to family members, for example, while allowed for VA purposes, is not allowed for Medicaid purposes. These types of practices may disqualify veterans from receiving Medicaid in the future. The VA application is always prepared at no cost, even when prepared by a qualified attorney. The time spent with an attorney may only incur fees when preparing the proper legal strategies for safeguarding the assets. These very specific strategies are really something that only someone with extensive specialized legal training can provide. Most times, these services are well worth the additional time and cost. Even a well-meaning financial planner does not likely have the legal training to provide this type of skilled advice. When a qualified veteran does not earn benefits, each day he or she is losing money. In a year, the unclaimed amount could equal $24,000 or more.
Evan Turk is one of several accredited attorneys with the VA who prides himself on serving the veteran community and specializes in eldercare and asset protection law. While it is unlawful to charge someone to apply for VA benefits, the planning strategies achieved only by hiring a qualified attorney can be invaluable. An initial consultation with an accredited attorney is typically offered at no cost, and the attorney can provide the proper legal guidance when assisting the veteran with exploring and obtaining benefits.