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Workshops focus on veterans’ health benefits

POSTED: February 16, 2009 12:05 a.m.

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A Gainesville estate planning attorney has found that many people visiting his office or attending workshops he has held on asset protection are veterans.

And many of them have overlooked or are unaware of a particular benefit that can provide veterans, spouses of veterans, or widows or widowers of veterans up to $1,842 monthly to pay for home health, assisted living or nursing home care, said J. Kevin Tharpe.

"It is not connected to the veteran’s service, per se," he said. "The disability was not caused by their service. ... For example, a veteran who has Alzheimer’s would be eligible, at least medically, for this benefit."

Tharpe, a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, plans to hold the free workshops at 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday at the Hall County Library System’s Spout Springs branch in South Hall and 10 a.m.-noon Thursday at the Frances Meadows Center in Gainesville.

Paying for long-term care is "probably the biggest No. 1 question my clients ask me," he said. "It’s a huge issue. It’s probably, to me, one of the biggest risks facing people over the age of 55 today."

Estate taxes used to be the huge concern, but the tax-free "limit has been raised so high — right now it’s $3.5 million — that a lot of people are not facing that. But long-term care is not a respecter of wealth."

To qualify for the "aide and attendance" benefit, the veteran must have served 90 consecutive days in the military, one day of which is during war.

Also, they must have a disability "that requires the attendance of an aide to help them with the activities of daily living, or they are blind or they’re in a nursing home," Tharpe said.

Finally, veterans must meet financial criteria.

A married spouse can qualify for as much as $1,842 monthly.

"If your net income is zero, then you’re going to get the
(maximum amount). If your net income is $1,841, then you’re going to get a dollar a month or basically you won’t qualify," Tharpe said.

The benefit is "many times is the difference between staying at home and going to a nursing home or the difference between staying in an assisted-living facility and going to a nursing home," he said.

Tharpe said that many veterans assume they don’t qualify for the benefit because they make too much money or have too many assets.

However, "like Medicaid, there are certain assets that are counted ... and aren’t counted," he said.

The veteran workshops are a first for Tharpe. He is planning others throughout North Georgia.

"I believe we owe (veterans) a tremendous debt of gratitude," said Tharpe, who is not a veteran. "I feel like this is a small way I can give back."



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