Where Veterans Benefits Fit in an Estate Plan
If you, your spouse, or a parent have served in the United States Military, there is a good chance that you are eligible for one or more of several government benefits offered to our country’s Veterans. Benefits such as free or discounted medical care, pension and survivor benefits, life insurance, and disability compensation are available and can be great supplements to an estate plan. These unique circumstances presented to our country’s Veterans deserve individualized, specialized planning to address the unique needs facing our country’s finest servants.
Making sure adequate healthcare is available without depleting estate resources is a pivotal part of planning for the future. The Department of Veterans Affairs has hospitals and clinics located in every state throughout the country. These facilities offer healthcare to Veterans and their families. Depending on a Veteran’s circumstances, these healthcare services, especially prescription medication, can be severely discounted or even free. Because the system is nationalized, Veterans do not have to pay premiums for healthcare coverage and only are required to pay copayments for the services they receive.
Fortunately, there are many ways to qualify for this benefit, the principal way being by meeting the “minimum duty requirement.” This requirement is met for Veterans whose entry date of service was after September 7, 1980, by having at least 24 continuous months of service. Veterans that served prior to that date or that were discharged early for hardship or a disability caused—or made worse— by active-duty service, are automatically eligible. More ways to become eligible can be found at https://www.va.gov/health-care/eligibility/.
Pension & Survivor Benefits
An unfortunate reality is that not everyone who reaches “retirement age” is prepared for retirement. This can leave a significant gap in an estate plan, given that retirement benefits are usually a staple in planning for the long term. Thankfully, the VA Pension program provides monthly compensation to eligible wartime veterans who meet certain age or disability requirements and whose income/net worth does not exceed a certain threshold. This tax-free benefit is vital to many older, disabled, and low-income veterans who might not have been able to save for retirement in the traditional manner, but who can no longer maintain gainful employment to provide for his or her needs.
To find out if you are eligible for these benefits, visit https://www.va.gov/pension/eligibility/ and check the eligibility requirements.
Part of every estate plan is planning for the care of loved ones after we’re gone. Unfortunately, not everyone passes away with a transferable amount of wealth to meet those needs. That’s where the VA Survivor’s Pension can fill in the gap.
The VA Survivor’s Pension provides monthly compensation to qualifying spouses and unmarried dependent children of Veterans who meet certain income and net worth criteria. Widow(er)s who have not remarried and school-aged children are eligible if they meet the additional criteria set forth here: https://www.va.gov/pension/survivors-pension/.
Another key part of any estate plan is life insurance. Life insurance can provide liquidity to an estate to pay off debts, after-death expenses, and to take care of loved ones after we’re gone. The Department of Veterans Affairs provides a number of group life insurance options to choose from, depending on your military service status. For recently-separated Veterans, there is the Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI), which provides coverage between $10,000-$400,000, based on the amount of coverage a Veteran had while serving. For service-connected disabled Veterans, there is Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI), a low-cost plan that can potentially provide up to $30,000 in coverage, depending on your disabilities. For more information about what is available, visit https://www.va.gov/life-insurance/options-eligibility/.
These benefits and more are available for our country’s Veterans and their families. Veterans deserve careful planning to maximize their impact in an estate plan. Veterans should not undertake this task alone, and therefore the attorneys at Smith Dominguez, PLLC are trained and ready to take care of our Veterans’ special, individualized estate planning needs. Contact us today at email@example.com or (919) 825-4895.
About the Author
Manuel X. Colón is a third year law student at Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law. He is Campbell Law School's Ben and Patrice Achievement Scholar for the Class of 2022. He is a veteran of the United States Navy's Nuclear Power Program and, prior to coming to law school, spent years as a mechanical engineer working in hydraulics and fluid power. He received his BS in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Old Dominion University in 2015 and his Masters in Trust & Wealth Management from Campbell's Lundy-Fetterman
School of Business in 2019.