Senate Bill 748, entitled the “Veterans Pension Protection Act,” was introduced on April 17, 2013. The bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to consider the resources of individuals applying for VA pension that were disposed of for less than fair market value when determining the eligibility of applicants for pension benefits, including Homebound benefits and Aid and Attendance supplement. The proposed legislation also would enact a 36 month, or 3 year, look-back period in regard to VA pension claims.
Under Section (a)(2)(A) of the bill, the VA is directed to impose a penalty, or period of ineligibility, when a veteran transfers any resource for less than fair market value (in other words, makes a gift) within 36 months before the date of application for benefits. If a transfer of resources occurs after the application is submitted and during eligibility for pension benefits, the VA may discontinue benefits for gifts made within the 36 month period before the date of the gift. Penalties may also be imposed for gifts made by a veteran’s spouse within the 36 month look-back period.
Under Section (a)(2)(E), the length of the penalty period resulting from a transfer of resources is equal to the value of the transferred resource divided by the maximum monthly pension benefit payable to the applicant. The length of any penalty period cannot exceed 36 months.
Under Section (a)(3)(c), pension benefits shall not be denied or discontinued if (a) all of the transferred resources are returned to the applicant, or (b) the denial or discontinuation of pension benefits would cause undue hardship. However, there is no definition of “undue hardship” in the proposed legislation.
The bill was assigned to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole. The committee postponed the veterans pending benefits legislation hearing from June 5th to June 12, 2013 due to Senator Lautenberg’s passing.
The Senate Bill is attached here - Senate Bill 748