I am honored to have recently become an accredited attorney for the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims for Veterans’ benefits before the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”). Since Veterans Day was November 11, I thought it timely to share some information regarding pension benefits available to United States wartime Veterans, and the surviving spouses of wartime Veterans. Please note that there are a wide variety of benefits available to all Veterans: health care, insurance, and education, to name a few; however, I am limiting this article to the discussion of pensions available to assist wartime Veterans and their surviving spouses.
How do I qualify for a pension if I am a wartime Veteran?
There is a three-part qualification process to qualify for a wartime Veteran pension.
First, you must have active-duty wartime service with a discharge or release for reasons other than dishonorable. If you served prior to September 7, 1980, you must have 90 days of continuous active duty. For Veterans serving after that date, only one day of active duty is required during a declared period of war.
Second, you must be disabled. Disability is presumed if you are 65 years or older, if you have been determined disabled by the Social Security Administration, or if you are a patient in a nursing home. If you don’t meet any of these presumptions, the VA will conduct its own disability determination.
Finally, you must meet the income and net worth limits established by the VA. Your income must be less than the annual pension for which you are applying. Some medical and caregiver expenses may reduce your countable income for VA purposes. The VA net worth limit is currently $130,773.00, and includes your annual income. The good news is, your primary residence and personal effects (your vehicle and household appliances, for example) are excluded for VA net worth purposes. Keep in mind, if you are concerned that you have too much income or are over the VA’s net worth amount, there are strategies that can help you reduce those amounts.
What pensions are available to wartime Veterans?
There are three pensions available to wartime Veterans: 1) Basic Pension, 2) Pension with a Housebound Allowance (“Housebound”), and 3) Pension with an Aid and Attendance Allowance (“Aid and Attendance”). There is also a Survivor’s Pension, available to spouses of wartime Veterans. Your benefit amount is based on how many dependents you have, if you’re married to another Veteran who qualifies for a pension, and if your disabilities qualify you for Housebound or Aid and Attendance.
Basic Pension: Basic Pension is the lowest pension available to wartime Veterans. To qualify for this pension, you must meet the three requirements listed above.
Housebound: Housebound provides a higher monthly payment than the basic pension. To qualify for the Housebound benefit, you must meet the three requirements listed above; in addition, you must prove that you are unable to leave your home, or have one disability rated at 100% and a second rated at 60% by the VA.
Aid and Attendance: Aid and Attendance is the highest monthly payment available from the VA. To qualify for this benefit, you must require the aid of another to perform the personal functions required for everyday living, be blind, or be a patient in a nursing home because of physical or mental incapacity.
Survivors Pension: In order to qualify for the Survivor’s pension, the spouse of the wartime Veteran must provide proof of a valid marriage to a Veteran. The spouse uses the Veteran’s service record to satisfy the service requirement, and must meet the financial and disability requirements of the Basic, Housebound, or Aid and Attendance Pension.
Navigating pensions for wartime Veterans can be difficult. If you would like to talk to us about your benefit eligibility, please reach out and let us know. Thank you, Veterans, for your service.
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