Friday, September 16, 2016

Could Mom or Dad Qualify for VA Pension Benefits?

It is possible to receive various need-based pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and it could be a good idea to explore these benefit options fully if you think mom or dad may be eligible. A qualified Veteran (together with any spouse) or a surviving spouse who has low income and few assets can apply for non-service connected disability VA Pension benefits. The VA pension program provides monthly benefit payments to certain wartime Veterans who demonstrate financial need, and their survivors. The VA offers both a Veterans Pension and a Survivors Pension, which are tax-free monetary benefits payable to low-income wartime Veterans or low-income surviving spouses and/or unmarried children of a deceased Veteran who served during wartime. To be an eligible wartime Veteran, the service member must be discharged under other than dishonorable conditions and served 90 days or more of active military service with at least 1 day during a period of war (with different requirements for those Veterans who entered active duty after September 7, 1980).

There are three different levels of VA Pension that a Veteran and survivor may be eligible to receive. The first is the Veterans Pension, which provides supplemental income and is a needs-based program for low-income Veterans and survivors. The second pension available is the Housebound Pension, which provides an increased monthly pension amount when a Veteran or survivor is housebound as defined by the VA and certified by their doctor. The third pension available, and one that may be the most familiar, is the Aid & Attendance Pension. The Aid & Attendance pension increases the monthly pension if the applicant needs help with at least 2-3 activities of daily living and would normally require a protected environment, and certified by their doctor.
The VA Pension is a great program to explore, however, it is important to recognize that as far as VA benefits are concerned, the law is complex and currently is unsettled due to changes that have been proposed by the regulators and could change at any time.

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Welcome Back to School!

It’s that time of year again when the kids go back to school or even start a new school. While the kids may have been nervous and sad that summer is over, hopefully they were excited to start school and see their friends and make new friends. We hope that everyone had a safe and enjoyable first day back to school!

Monday, August 29, 2016

What is adult day care and what services are available?

Adult Day Care Centers are intended to provide care and companionship for adults who need assistance or supervision. These programs provide caregivers and family members a temporary rest from caregiving, while the senior adult receives care in a safe environment. The senior adult benefits from staying in the community, structure to his or her daily activities, and social interaction. Placing the senior adult in a day care center allows the caregiver or family member to go to work, run errands, or just relax while their loved one is safe.

            Generally, there are two different types of Adult Day Care Centers: adult social day care and adult day health care. Adult social day care provides a social outlet for the senior and offers activities, meals, recreation, and some health-related services. Social activities can include crafts, cooking, exercise, field trips, and games. Adult day health care offers intensive health, therapeutic, and social services for adults who otherwise may need institutionalized care. Adult day care services can also include counseling, education, physical therapy, medication management, assistance with eating, toileting, and/or walking, and transportation services.

            The cost of day care services vary depending on location, the services offered, and other factors. However, adult day care services are often less expensive than hiring a home health nurse or placing the senior in a facility and day care could be a good option for families to consider. To explore Adult Day Care Centers in Virginia, the Virginia Department of Social Services maintains an online search database that can be found here:

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What should I do after a loved one has passed away?

When a loved one passes away, it is an emotional and difficult time. The last thing someone wants to think about are the practical steps that need to be taken care of during this time of grieving. Some practical steps family members and/or friends may want to take during this time include:
  1. Request copies of the death certificate through the funeral home, mortuary or the state’s vital records office.
2.      Locate important papers, such as the decedent’s legal documents, financial records and information. 

3.      Notify any bank or credit unions where the decedent did business, any brokerage firms, and life insurance companies where the decedent maintained life insurance. Find out whether these assets had named beneficiaries or were payable on death. 

4.      Notify Social Security Administration, Department of Veteran’s Affairs (if the deceased was a veteran), Medicare/Medicaid (if applicable) and similar agencies.

5.      Start the probate process, if probate is necessary to administer the estate.

6.      The personal representative should collect the decedent’s assets that are part of the probate estate and follow the state’s laws of administration of the estate. 

7.      Safeguard the decedent’s home and vehicle(s) and protect valuables, including checking on insurance coverage for the estate or heirs for any real estate, vehicle(s) and specifically insured items. 

8.      Forward the decedent’s mail at the post office.
9.      Cancel utilities and other services when appropriate and request final bills.
Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

Monday, September 21, 2015

World Alzheimer's Day

Today, September 21st, is World Alzheimer’s Day, which aims to raise awareness about the disease that afflicts 47 million people worldwide. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a group of disorders that impair mental functioning severely enough to interfere with daily life. In the United States, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease every 67 seconds and the disease is the sixth leading cause of death.

Purple is the official color of the Alzheimer’s movement and we hope you’re wearing purple in support of the movement. There are many different ways to show your support and help those affected by it, such as joining the Alzheimer’s prevention registry, volunteering your time, or thanking a caregiver. More information about Alzheimer’s can be found at 
Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

Monday, August 3, 2015

I Am My Mom’s Agent under a Power of Attorney. What are my Responsibilities?

It is important to remember that even though mom named you, her child, as her agent under a financial power of attorney, mom is still able to act for herself. The power of attorney does not take away mom’s ability to take care of her own financial matters. Mom can choose the powers that her agent will have under the document. When you act as agent under a financial power of attorney in Virginia, the agent has four basic responsibilities. The basic responsibilities include the following:

1.      You must act in mom’s best interest
2.      You must manage mom’s money and property with care
3.      You must keep mom’s money and property completely separate from your own
4.      You must keep good records of all transactions

The agent is managing money or property for mom and you’re supposed to enter into all transactions for mom’s benefit, not for your own benefit. You must also be honest and act in good faith. You should carefully read the power of attorney and only do what the document allows you to do. You are under a duty to follow mom’s instructions and wishes. 

Further, it is important that you keep mom’s assets separate from your own. This means that all of mom’s expenses should be paid from her own funds, and not from your own checking account to be reimbursed by mom later. You should keep a detailed list of everything that you receive or spend as agent and additionally keep all receipts and a copy of all financial statements. If mom requests one, you must give mom an accounting of all of the actions you have taken as agent. Acting as agent under a financial power of attorney comes with a lot of responsibility and the agent should know their obligations to avoid any legal problems.

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Can I Reduce My Chances of Developing Dementia?

New research published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association indicates that people may be able to reduce their chances of cognitive decline with lifestyle changes. Of course, the risk of some cognitive problems is due to genetic factors, but there is also evidence that various lifestyle factors can help keep your brain healthy. Here are some tips from the Alzheimer’s Association that may reduce your risk of cognitive decline:

1. Exercise Regularly. Exercising raises your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Consider joining a gym, jogging in your neighborhood, or increasing movement by routine activities like gardening, cleaning, and laundry. Also try parking your car further away in the parking lot while running errands.

2. Keep Your Mind Active. Education helps reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Stimulate your mind with activities such as puzzles, word games, memory training, reading, or learning something new.

3. Eat Healthy Foods. Eating a healthy diet that is lower in fat and higher in fruits and vegetables can help reduce cognitive decline. Consider following a Mediterranean diet for meals that are full of whole grains, fresh produce, fish, and nuts.

4. Stay Social. Being socially engaged may help your brain health. Studies have shown that the more social we are, the better we perform on memory and cognition tests. Ways to keep an active social life are through volunteering, joining a club or social group, reaching out to neighbors, and getting out in the community.

5. Manage Stress Levels. Severe or chronic stress has a negative effect on the brain, and simple tools can minimize these harmful effects. Try doing breathing exercises, prioritizing relaxation, meditating, or practicing yoga to mitigate the damaging effects of stress.

6. Quality Sleep. Not getting enough sleep can impair your ability to think, problem-solve, and process, store and recall information. Try getting 8 hours of sleep per night by establishing a regular sleeping schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime ritual, and minimizing light and noise before bedtime.

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire