Well the Super Bowl is over tomorrow is Fat Tuesday and the weather is still not that bad here in Michigan. All this means we are marching ever forward toward spring...hooray !
This week we finally will be meeting with the person from the VA to set up the fiduciary account for my mother's Aid and Attendance Benefits. Now mind you she has been getting monthly benefits since June of last year so that tells you how far behind the VA is in getting stuff done.
For those of you who are working with the VA setting up a fiduciary account may be in your future too. Just what is a fiduciary and why do we need to go through this process? I will try and explain to the best of my knowledge.
When we applied for mom's benefits she was, because of her dementia, deemed unable to manage her finances by the VA. We already knew this as she no longer could remember to even ask about her finances which was quite a change for her. All her life she was sharp as a tack when it came to money. She worked hard and saved her money wisely. She knew where her money was and when things came due etc... Because of her failing eyesight myself or my sister have been helping her with her bills for years but she always knew exactly what was what. Then about a year and a half ago she just stopped showing interest in it. By this time she was living at my sisters and my sister was a signer on her accounts so I guess mom knew in her mind everything was taken care of.
Because of the dementia the VA requires that a fiduciary be put in place to manage her money. A fiduciary is a person who
holds a legal or ethical relationship of trust with one or more other
parties (person or group of persons). Typically, a fiduciary prudently takes care of money or other asset for another person. So in plain English this is a person who manages money or assets for another and has a legal right to do so. When we applied for the benefits we were asked if we had someone we wanted to recommend for the position. Since my sister was already doing the job it seemed only logical that she would be appointed and so we put her name on the application. The VA then sends out a representative to see if my sister is capable of the appointment and if she is they will set her up as my mother's legal representative and responsible for receiving and distributing my mother's benefits on her behalf. Now it is my understanding that they will set up a separate account into which the money will be deposited. This will be a bit of a hassle, only because this means that my sister will now have to move the money into my mother's current checking account in order to write a check to the Adult Family Home where mom lives, which is one more step. However I suppose with online banking it will not be so bad. Mind you my mom has been receiving deposits from the VA since June into her checking account, but they have their rules.
We are grateful that mom's claim was approved so quickly because they are only withholding money for one month's benefits, which they will release once the account is set up. For people who are in need of a fiduciary account that had to wait 6 months or even a year or more for their claim to be approved, they could be waiting on thousands of dollars in back pay. Since the VA is so far behind in this process it seems to me unfair because as we all know when you apply for benefits it is because you NEED them to pay for care. You must already be paying for care, so a person would have to come up with the money to pay for several months, even a year and wait to be repaid by the VA. This can cause a real financial hardship on people. Don't get me wrong, we are so very grateful for the benefits, because without them I am not sure what we would do, just wish the process did not take so long for some folks.
This is why I suggest that anyone applying for benefits check out my post on how we applied and that they follow the suggestion to meet with a VA rep face to face. I cannot stress enough how important I believe that face to face meeting to be. As I have said before, our rep told me exactly what I was missing and held the claim until I got her all the documents so that we filed what the VA calls a "FULLY DEVELOPED CLAIM". If you send in your paperwork in bits and pieces, that is where you run into trouble, things get lost, the person you talked to on the phone is not available...yada yada yada. It slows everything down to a snails pace. And by the time you get done you may not have any hair left.
So Friday I will know more about the whole fiduciary process. Right now I know they require us to bring mom's bank statements, proof of her medical expenses, including her payments to the Adult Family Care Home and the name and phone number of two people (unrelated) who will verify that my sister is honest and will work in the best interest of my mother. After the meeting on Friday I will share with you how thing went and whether or not I understood the process correctly.
If you have any questions you would like me to ask the VA rep please feel free to contact me before Friday and I will be glad to try and get answers for you.
Until Next Time