VA Pension Available for Low-Income Veterans and Survivors

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Did you know that the Department of Veterans Affairs offers a small monthly pension to very low-income wartime veterans and their surviving spouses? This pension, which is different from VA disability compensation, offers a monthly cash payment to older or disabled veterans and surviving spouses who have few assets and a small income.

I'm a little passionate about this VA benefit because it could have helped my grandmother during her last few years of life, but none of us knew that it existed. If you are helping an older friend or family member who doesn't have a lot of resources, this benefit could make a difference in their life.

Eligibility for VA Pension

There are five qualifications to receive the veterans pension or survivors pension: nature of discharge, assets and income, dates and length of service, wartime service and personal eligibility.

1. Nature of Discharge

The service member must not have a dishonorable discharge.

2. Assets and Income

The recipient of a veterans pension or survivors pension must have limited assets, which include both tangible assets and annual income. This seems counterintuitive because there's a separate income calculation, but that's how it works.

The recipient's primary residence vehicle and basic household appliances do not count toward the asset limit. Any other assets, including investments, other vehicles and personal property, count.

The income amount may be reduced by certain educational expenses, and medical expenses that exceed a certain amount.

The household asset limit for 2022 is $138,489.

3. Dates and Length of Service

Service must fulfill one one of these criteria:

  • Active duty of at least 90 days, beginning before Sept. 8, 1980
  • Active duty of at least 24 months or the full-enlistment (with some exceptions), as enlisted personnel, starting after Sept. 7, 1980
  • Active duty as an officer, starting after Oct. 16, 1981, without 24 months of prior service

4. Wartime Service

Service must include at least one day during wartime. Wartime is defined as:

  • Mexican Border period (May 9, 1916, to April 5, 1917, for veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders or in adjacent waters)
  • World War I (April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918)
  • World War II (Dec. 7, 1941, to Dec. 31, 1946)
  • Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, to Jan. 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam War era (Nov. 1, 1955, to May 7, 1975, for veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period; Aug. 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975, for veterans who served outside the Republic of Vietnam.)
  • Gulf War (Aug. 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)

5. Personal Eligibility

The recipient must meet one of these criteria:

  • Age 65 or older
  • Have a permanent and total disability
  • Be a patient in a nursing home for long-term care because of a disability
  • Be receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Application

If you, or someone you know, may be eligible for a veterans pension or survivors pension, applications are available at the VA website.

How Much Is the Pension?

The amount of the veterans pension or survivors pension is calculated by determining your maximum annual pension rate (MAPR), then subtracting the amount of income that you actually have.

For example, the MAPR for a veteran who does not qualify for Aid & Attendance and Housebound Benefits is $14,753 per year. If the veteran received $12,000 per year in Social Security benefits, they could receive $2,753 per year in veterans pension.

See: 2022 Veterans Pension Rates

As you can see, this really is for very low-income veterans and survivors. But because of the medical expense deduction, potential recipients who have higher medical bills may qualify for a larger payment.

If you know someone who might be eligible, it is certainly worth investigating. At low-income levels, every dollar helps.

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