GAO Recommends Changes to VA Pension Eligibility Rules: Legislation Introduced to Impose New 3-Year Look-Back

Written By: Attorney Jeffrey A. Marshall for the June 2012 Marshall Parker Law Alert

The VA pension program is intended to provide economic benefits to “wartime” veterans and survivors with financial need. In fiscal 2011, VA provided about $4.3 billion in pension benefits for about 517,000 recipients. At the request of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has now conducted a study of veteran’s benefit planning companies and issued a report recommending substantial changes in the rules and procedures governing eligibility for VA Pension benefits. The GAO report, VETERANS’ PENSION BENEFITS: Improvements Needed to Ensure Only Qualified Veterans and Survivors Receive Benefits, was released to the public in conjunction with a June 6th U.S. Senate hearing.

The GAO was asked to examine (1) how the design and management of VA’s pension program ensure that only those with financial need receive pension benefits and (2) what is known about organizations that are marketing financial products and services to enable veterans and survivors to qualify for VA pension benefits. GAO’s study included online research and interviews of organizations that market financial and estate planning services to help veterans and survivors qualify for VA pension benefits. Learn more about the findings of the GAO report

On June 13, 2012, after the release of the GAO report, US Senator Ron Wyden introduced a bill (S3720) to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to consider the resources of individuals applying for pension that were recently disposed of for less than fair market value, and for other purposes.

S3720 would establish a look-back period of 3 years and impose a period of ineligibility of up to 3 years for asset dispositions by the veteran or spouse.   The Marshall Parker Law Alert will keep you updated on the status of S3720.