Thursday, October 15, 2009

VA Pension Benefits - The Other Free Money

When someone tells me that they are offering me free money, I usually ask them what Nigerian bank are they the manager of. The truth is that there is some tax free money out there offered by the Veteran's Administration for those that qualify.

I hear all the time from entitled veterans that they are not receiving any benefits from the VA because they don't believe they are entitled.

To qualify for a VA Pension the applicant must:

(1) Have served in the active military for at least 90 days, one day of which must have been during a wartime*. It is not necessary that the applicant have been in a war zone. A widow of a veteran may be an applicant so long as (s)he is the surviving spouse of someone that met the service requirement above.

(2) Have received a discharge other than dishonorable.

(3) Have limited income and assets available**.

(4) Have a permanent and total disability (not caused by willful misconduct) at the time of application*** or be over the age of 65.

(5) Have submitted a signed application to the Veteran's Administration.

* A wartime is:

        World War I
        World War II -    Dec. 7, 1941 - Dec. 31, 1946
        Korean War -     June 27, 1950 - Jan. 31, 1955
        Vietnam War -    Aug. 5, 1964 - May 7, 1975 OR
                                  Feb. 28, 1961 - May 7, 1975 (if in Vietnam)
        Gulf War -          August 2, 1990 - Present

** The VA Pension Programs provide an amount of money to bring an applicant up to the VA maximum (discussed below). An applicant may decrease their countable income by showing that they have unreimbursed medical expenses (such as care/facility costs, medications, etc.)

** The VA Pension Programs require that and applicant not have excess resources. Currently the number to determine excess resources is $80,000, however the VA currently does not apply a penalty to transfers of assets to third parties.

*** In determining whether an applicant has a total and permanent disability, the VA considers whether the applicant is blind, living in a nursing home, if the claimant is unable to dress/undress, keep themselves clean and presentable, attend to the wants of nature, or if the applicant has a physical or mental incapacity that requires assistance on a regular basis to protect the applicant from daily environmental hazards.  If the applicant needs assistance with any portion of any of the above, they likely meet this requirement.

NOTE: A DISABILITY RATING IS NOT REQUIRED FROM PEOPLE AGED 65 OR OLDER.  People 65 or older a presumed to be disabled, however the VA does require a physician's statement regarding the applicant's condition.

The specific program that the Veteran or Widow might qualify is dependant up on the disability, needs, and abilities of the applicant.  Typically, application is made for Aid & Attendance Benefits.

Improved Pension Benefit:

        Veteran with no dependants:       $985/mo
        Veteran with one dependant:       $1,291/mo
        Widow(er) with no dependants:   $661/mo

Housebound Pension Benefit:

        Veteran with no dependants:        $1,204/mo
        Veteran with one dependant:        $1,510/mo
        Widow(er) with no dependants:    $808/mo

Aid & Attendance Pension Benefit:

        Veteran with no dependants:         $1,644/mo
        Veteran with one dependant:         $1,949/mo
        Widow(er) with no dependants:     $1,056/mo


38 USCS Section 1521
38 USCS Section 1522
38 USCS Section 1502

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Avvo - Finding Lawyers the Generation "Y" Way!

It used to be that if you needed an attorney, you would either know one, have one referred to you by your family and friends or one would be appointed for you. Public and professional policy of the day highly disregarded the practice of attorney's soliciting business. It was not until 1977 in the seminole US Supreme Court Case of Bates v. State Bar of Arizona that lawyers were first able to advertise their services so long as the advertisements were true and were not misleading.

Following this case, attorneys first began to publicly advertise their services - think yellow pages. It is often said that a lawyer's skill in the law is inversely proportional to the size of their advertisement. While this may be a truism for some, many attorneys have fallen into the rat race that they must advertise proportionately to their biggest competition. Then along came the Internet.

The Internet, and specifically sites like Avvo and Martindale Hubble have changed the way that consumers search for attorneys. Avvo is a consumer driven site that caters to providing information about attorneys that consumers would like to know. For instance if the attorney has any profession misconduct, what their practice areas are, if they have gained acclaim in their profession by speaking or being recommended by other attorneys, and even permits former clients to rate the attorney.

Unlike Martindale Hubble where an attorney will pay (often a substantial fee) to be listed, Avvo permits each attorney to have a free listing and contribute to the community. My biggest question is not whether Avvo is changing how consumers search for their attorney, but rather how can they possibly improve on model that they have created.

As a younger attorney I do not always have the luxury of relying on my decade of experience to be self-proving of my ability. Avvo puts me in a position to advertise my knowledge to the end consumer 24 hours a day. By participating in the online forums and even to allow me to post a link to this blog, Avvo has given me another tool to reach my future clients and to compete for a market share with attorneys that are less willing to embrace the new technology.

If you have not had an opportunity to visit Avvo, please take the opportunity. If you are a former client, I would appreciate your feedback on my services. Your recommendation is my goal.

View my profile on Avvo