VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) -- 10 On Your Side is helping Veterans prepare for a new rule that goes into effect on Thursday, Oct. 18.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, pensions will change beginning Thursday for those of you using long-term care services.
Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, a lawyer with Hook Law Center, says failing to plan is planning to fail when it comes to these changes.
"In a region like ours that is home to so many military Veterans, we think it’s important to tackle this issue head-on so people can start to address these changes before they take effect," Laymon-Pecoraro said.
Laymon-Pecoraro is referring to Veterans like Frank Rough, a retired senior chief who served in Vietnam.
"I planned all my life for retirement and to have that possibly taken away so I could have Veterans benefits is crazy," said Rough.
Rough is talking about changes that could make it more difficult to qualify for certain important benefits, according to Hook Law. That's why Rough and other Veterans attended a Hook Law seminar regarding the changes.
The VA pension program is a needs-based benefit for wartime Veterans who served at least 90 days active duty service, who have limited or no income, who are 65 and older and who may have a permanent and non-service connected disability.
What's at risk? According to Hook Law, aid and attendance pension up to $2,170 per month for a Veteran and spouse -- which is money that could be used for long-term care.
With the new rules, assets cannot exceed $123,600 to get the long-term benefits.
According to the seminar presentation, gifts that you made in the past 36 months -- either to a family member or to an irrevocable trust and an investment in an annuity -- would be penalized with the new rules.
This means you could be prohibited from qualifying for VA pension benefits for up to five years, depending on the amount of the gift.
"I'm getting older and I may need long-term care and if I go into long term care and they start taking the money I've saved - that's awful," said Rough.
So, what should you do between now and Oct. 18?
Laymon-Pecoraro said, "Assess are there any significant transfers you want to make or any assets you want protected so that you can then qualify for this benefit if you think you may need within the next 3 to 5 years."
It is important to note this change does not affect all Veterans.
According to Hook Law, if you are receiving VA service-connected disability or compensation payments, your benefits will not be affected.