Will the VA take all the assets that my husband and I share to pay for his care?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My husbands pension check goes directly into our joint checking account. I am afraid that I am going to have to commit him soon to the VA hospital, as I can no longer care for him. Is the VA going to take all our money if they do all the care for him? Do I, being his wife, automatically have power of attorney over his money?

Expert Answer

Barbara Steinberg is the CEO and founder of BLS Eldercare Financial Solutions, which specializes in helping families pay for long-term care for their loved ones. A registered financial gerontologist, she speaks regularly on the topic of paying for long-term care and is a financial expert for Caring.com.

Let me answer your second question first. You do not automatically have power of attorney over your husband's money. I suggest you take care of getting power of attorney as soon as possible. It is a good idea to name an alternate power of attorney in case anything happens to you. You should also have him sign an advanced medical directive so you can make medical decisions if he can't.

You said that your husband may need to go to a "VA Hospital". While VA Hospitals do provide long term care, it is usually limited to Veterans with a service connected disability rating and it is free. There are other VA sponsored facilities that provide long term care for Veterans with service connected or non-service connected disabilities. The types of facilities and payment schedules vary by state. For example, in New Jersey, there are 3 state run VA Homes which are subsidized by the federal government. Veterans (and surviving spouses) pay a flat amount per month until their assets fall below a threshold. For a single Veteran, the threshold is $20,000. For a married Veteran, the threshold is $80,000 for the couple. Once the resident's assets fall below the threshold, the Home takes 80% of his/her income. The assets are not touched after that point. These homes do not accept Medicaid. In New York, there are also state runs VA Homes. They charge a flat amount which is subsidized by the federal government until the resident is Medicaid eligible. In this case, the community spouse's assets are apportioned according to the state Medicaid rules. In both of these states, the community spouse can retain the family home. You need to visit the facility which you are considering for your husband and find out exactly how their payment schedule works. With this information, you may be able to do some planning to help preserve your assets