Chattanooga Elder Law

Chattanooga Elder Law

As you might have guessed, elder law is a specialty area of the law focusing on the various needs of the elderly. The issues an elderly person might need assistance with include the following: Medicaid and asset protection planning, Medicare, TennCare, Veterans Benefits, long-term and nursing home care, payment for health care, disability planning, Social Security and retirement planning, durable power of attorneys for health care and for personal affairs, use of living wills to facilitate end of life decisions, and general estate planning through wills and trusts. Elder law is becoming increasingly more important as health care law changes and the fact that the Baby Boomers are fast approaching the age of retirement. Statistics say roughly one person turns 50 every seven seconds! Add to that the advances in medical technology and the longer life expectancy of Americans, and one can see the importance of elder law.

Elder law is also not just something the elderly should be concerned about. The effects of caring for seniors can impact subsequent generations. For example, family legacies can be swallowed up to pay for grandmother's nursing home bills and the inheritance that was once expected, could be gone.

Veteran's Benefits

Veterans Health Administration

Its primary purpose is to provide health care for prior service members.
Programs include:

  • VA Hospitals
  • VA Nursing Homes
  • prescription benefits
  • outpatient dental services
  • services for Blind and Vision impaired Veterans
  • prosthetic services
  • Alcohol and Drug-Dependence Treatment

All veterans who served in the military and received a discharge other than dishonorable can take advantage of the veteran’s health care services. However, the veteran must be enrolled in the health care system and submit to a physical. Due to the large numbers of veterans, there is typically a long waiting list to receive the physical. Moreover, the veterans health care system ranks veterans with an hierarchy of preference based on whether the veteran has service connected disabilities, is a POW, is in need of aid and attendance, etc.

Generally, only veterans with a service connected disability rating of at least 70% or whose service connected illness caused the need for skilled nursing care will be able to reside in a VA nursing home. If a veteran meets this criteria, then they will be able to stay in the nursing facility at no cost. If the VA has space in the nursing home, it may permit veterans who do not meet the service connected disability standards to live in the nursing home as well. When this is the case, the veteran must either pay privately of the care, or be receiving Medicaid services.

To receive health care services, the veteran may need to meet certain income eligibility criteria. Thus, the VA will require the veteran to complete an income verification form each year proving the exact amount of income the veteran made for the previous year. Some veterans may have to pay a co-pay for certain services if income is found to be excessive.

Veterans Benefits Administration

This branch administers monetary benefits programs for eligible veterans.
Programs include:

  • Compensation for Service-Connected Disabilities
  • vocational rehabilitation and employment
  • education and training
  • home loan guaranties
  • Disability and Indemnity Compensation for Surviving Spouses and Dependents
  • Special Monthly Pension: House Bound & Aid and Attendance
  • specially adapted housing
  • life insurance benefits
  • burial benefits

Special Needs Trusts

A disabled person who is receiving public benefits, such as Medicaid (TennCare) or SSI, can transfer assets received from an inheritance or personal injury settlement to a Special Needs Trust established under the authority of federal law, thereby qualifying the beneficiary for the aforementioned governmental programs that would otherwise disqualify the beneficiary due to the income and asset tests that must be met.

The rules governing special needs trust are very technical, so the client should be careful about who is to serve as trustee of the Special Needs Trust. The general rule is that money in a Special Needs Trust is for the beneficiary's extra, special or supplemental needs. Generally, the money in the Special Needs Trust cannot be used for the support of the beneficiary, but is for things not covered by the governmental programs of the which the beneficiary is receiving.

National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Elder Care Matters