VA Secretary Announces Plan to Upgrade the VHA Electronic Health System

On June 5, 2017, DVA secretary David Shulkin announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs would adopt the same electronic health records management system as the Department of Defense, called MHS GENESIS (https://health.mil/mhsgenesis).  The primary motivation is to permit the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to communicate and exchange information between the DVA and DoD health records.

In the past, the DVA attempted to adapt their existing VHA electronic management system so to permit the exchange of information with the DoD, however, it was later determined that the two systems could not communicate with one another.  For those interested, the Government Accountability Office released a report in to 2014 explaining the history of the attempted VHA and DoD system integration at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-302.

A link to Secretary Shulkin’s press release can be found at the following link:  http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/38637/va-secretary-announces-decision-next-generation-electronic-health-record/

Unsure about VA Burial? Now You Can Inquire in Advance.

Setting up meaningful funeral and burial arrangements is an important component of estate planning and end of life planning.  Many veterans are unsure about whether they or their family members are entitled to burial in a VA Cemetery.  Family members may not realize that  VA burial is a possibility and may miss an opportunity despite the fact that service in the military was very important to the identity of the decedent.  Now, the VA is taking steps to let everyone figure out what burial services are available to veterans and their families well before death.

Eligible individuals are entitled to all of the following: burial in any open VA national cemetery, opening/closing of the grave, a grave liner, perpetual care of the gravesite, and a government-furnished headstone or marker or niche cover, all at no cost to the family. Veterans are also eligible for a burial flag and may be eligible for a Presidential Memorial Certificate.  It’s important to know if your loved one is eligible for this before making alternate arrangements for a private funeral that may otherwise not be needed.

It certainly can be emotionally difficult to tackle the task of making pre-arrangements. However,  pre-planning and pre-funding a funeral will be helpful to the surviving family members who will be struggling with their grief.  In fact, if a person requires nursing home care and will be applying for Medicaid, they can fully pre-fund an irrevocable funeral trust, and the value of that trust will be an exempt asset that won’t preclude eligibility. So whether one seeks to have a VA burial, or one privately paid, these arrangements should be fully explored and planned in advance whenever possible.

Call us about estate planning for veterans and non-veterans alike … 732-382-6070

VA National Cemeteries Pre-Need Eligibility Press Release . . . A Really Good Idea

On December 8, 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs ( “VA” or “DVA”) issued a Press Release allowing veterans and dependents to file an application for eligibility for interment in a VA national cemetery “prior to time of need” through the Pre-Need Determination of Eligibility Program.  The Press Release can be viewed at va-press-release-burial-benefits.

To simplify, a veteran or qualified dependent can obtain written notice of eligibility for VA interment at a national cemetery before death (i.e. “prior to time of need”) by submitting the new VA Form 40-10007.  Burial at a national cemetery includes gravesite, headstone or marker, opening and closing at the grave, and perpetual care of the gravesight at no cost.  Eligibility as a qualified veteran or dependent closely mirrors the eligibility requirements as a veteran under 38 U.S.C. 101 and the VA has a separate website that explains eligibility at National Cemetery Eligibility.

It is common during estate planning that the topic of burial expenses/arrangements arise.  It is also common that family members are contacting our office to handle estate matters immediately after the death of the individual where burial arrangements were not made or are unknown.  Written notification from the DVA before death, would be a great vehicle to alleviate the person’s concerns prior to death and eliminate one variable for family members both grieving and attempting to handle estate affairs immediately after death.

I assume the VA written notification of pre-need eligibility will give clear instructions on how to proceed upon death and can kept with other estate documents for simple reference.

To the extent, individuals have questions concerning Title 38 (Department of Veterans Affairs) benefits, please don’t hesitate to contact us at (732) 382-6070.

 

VA Publishes New Compensation Benefits Rate After .3% COLA Increase

In October 2016, the DVA announced that a .3% increase in DVA benefits rates for 2016-2017.  This increase is a reflection of the cost-of-living adjustment for this fiscal year based upon the Consumer Price Index.

Last week the DVA updated its website to reflect this increase and the new compensation benefits chart can be found at the link below:

New Compensation Benefits Rates Chart

 

Concurrent Title 38 Disability Compensation and DoD Retirement Benefits for Retirees

A few days ago, I was speaking at an assisted living care facility regarding Title 38 benefits (Department of Veterans Affairs).  These discussions usually involve the adult children of World War II and Korean War veterans so they can have a basic understanding of what benefits their mother/father may be entitled to through the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).  The elderly spouse of a retired World War II officer was there and was under the incorrect understanding that a retired veteran cannot receive both compensation under Title 38 and military retirement pay.

While this was the existing rule until 2004, two separate statutory amendments may — and in many cases do — entitle a veteran to both military retirement pay and DVA disability compensation in full.  The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) has a good breakdown of the two separate programs: (1) Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP); and (2) Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC).

A link to the DFAS breakdown can be found at DFAS CRDP/CRSC.