The concept of paying for long-term care in Florida can be daunting. According to the Genworth Long-Term Care Study for 2018, assisted living costs per month average $3,500 while the cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home is approximately $8,150. For the majority of Florida seniors, they do not have these additional funds available in their monthly income and are looking to pay for care either through savings or public benefits assistance.
When the need for long-term care arises, it is often a crisis. For example, the Florida senior may have a fall that results in a broken bone and the need for rehabilitation in a skilled nursing facility. If the need for assistance becomes more permanent, he or she may not be able to leave the facility or require extensive hands-on care upon the return home.
How do we plan now to afford long-term care in the future? Are we able to plan for what we may need in advance? Further, how can we ensure that we have a plan in place so that we, as Florida seniors, are making our decisions of how we want to be cared for and not leaving the choices to our adult children or decision makers?
Elder law planning contemplates all these needs. Together, we can design a plan that may not only find a way to pay for care but also ensure that you receive good care. In Florida, programs such as Medicaid exist to help us pay for the cost of long-term care. If you are a Florida veteran, however, there also may be additional funds available to you.
For wartime veterans, the VA pension program exists to provide monthly, tax-free income to veterans with a qualifying service record. The VA pension program is in no way tied to a service-connected injury or disability. Instead, it is tied to the service record of the veteran. To begin to qualify, the veteran must have 90 days of active military service with one day during a period of war. Further, the veteran must have been discharged under conditions that were other than dishonorable.
The rules governing the eligibility for the VA pension program change substantially last year on October 18, 2018. Prior to this date there was no set amount that the veteran, or his or her surviving spouse, could have in countable assets. Now, for 2019, the new rules created a limit. The veteran may only have $126,240, less excluded assets that he or she is allowed to own. We anticipate this amount will change each year with a cost of living increase similar to the Social Security program.
Another way this program changed was to create a “look back” period. A “look back” period is the time period in which the VA may look at the veterans bank records to determine if he or she gave away money that could have been used to pay for care. This type of program is currently in place for the Florida Medicaid program, although it operates slightly differently. Under the new VA rules, the “look back” period will be for the thirty-six months prior to application.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We encourage you to reach out and ask us your questions on this, or any elder care issue. When it comes to finding ways to access good long-term care in our community and be able to afford it, we are your local law firm here to help you.