What is VA Pension? Is that the same as “Aid and Attendance?”
VA Pension Basics:
VA Pension is a tax-free monetary benefit that is payable to low-income wartime Veterans and their survivors, and is administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA Pension program was originally designed to supplement the income of disabled veterans who were unable to save enough money to adequately support themselves after they became disabled because they gave up on career opportunities while serving their country during wartime.
Many people have heard about the Veterans and Survivors Pension programs (commonly referred to as “Aid and Attendance”). However, most people do not understand how these pension programs work or who is eligible to receive VA pension. This is very troubling because VA pension benefits can make a huge difference in the life of an eligible veteran or survivor who needs help paying for medical expenses.
For example, an unmarried veteran living in an assisted living facility who meets the eligibility criteria for Veterans Pension and requires the aid and attendance of another person can receive up to $1,788.83 per month. In states like Florida, where you can spend several years on a waiting list to receive Medicaid benefits for home-based care or living in an assisted living facility, the VA pension benefit can be a saving grace.
In order for a veteran to receive Veterans Pension payments the veteran must have qualifying military service. Generally, the veteran must have at least 90 days of active duty service, with at least one day during a wartime period. If the veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally he or she must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty (with some exceptions), with at least one day during a wartime period.
Although the veteran must have served during wartime to qualify for Veterans Pension, this does not mean that the veteran had to actually fight in a war. In other words, a veteran who served at a base in New York during World War II and never left the country could meet the wartime service criteria for Veterans Pension. The periods of wartime service for Veterans Pension purposes are as follows:
- World War II – December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946;
- Korean Conflict – June 27, 1950 to January 31, 1955;
- Vietnam – February 28, 1961 to May 5, 1975; and
- Persian Gulf War – August 2, 1990 to a date yet to be determined.
In addition to meeting the minimum service requirements a veteran must also be deemed disabled. To be considered disabled for purposes of Veterans Pension the veteran must be:
- Age 65 or older, OR
- Totally and permanently disabled, OR
- A patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care, OR
- Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, OR
- Receiving Supplemental Security Income
Assuming that the veteran meets the service and disability requirements, he or she must still demonstrate a financial need to qualify for and receive Veterans Pension payments. The amount of the monthly pension payments depends on the veteran’s total income after deductible expenses (referred to as “Income for VA Pension Purposes” or IVAP) minus the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR).
So, for example, if a veteran with no dependents who required the aid and attendance of another person had no income for VA pension purposes after deductible expenses, the veteran would be eligible for the Maximum Annual Pension Rate for a veteran with no dependents at the aid and attendance level of pay which is currently $21,466 or $1,788.83 per month. If the same veteran had an income for VA purposes of $1,900, you would deduct that amount from the Maximum Annual Pension Rate of $21,466 which would leave you with $19,566 or $1,630.50 per month. To learn more about how VA calculates pension payments, click here. For a complete list of the current Veterans Pension rates, click here.
You don’t have to be a veteran to receive VA pension payments. If you are an un-remarried widow(er) of a deceased veteran who had qualifying wartime service, and your unreimbursed medical expenses exceed your income, then you are likely eligible to receive Survivors Pension payments. Certain children of deceased wartime veterans can receive Survivors Pension if they are: 1) under the age of 18, or 2) under the age of 23 and attending a VA-approved school, or 3) permanently incapable of self-support due to a disability before the age of 18.
The Survivors Pension rates are lower than the Veterans Pension, but they can still be very helpful. A surviving spouse with no dependents who requires the aid and attendance of another person can receive a Survivors Pension of up to $13,794 per year or $1,149.50 per month. For a complete list of Survivors Pension rates, click here.
Are you or a loved one eligible for the VA Pension program?
If you think you or a loved one might be eligible for VA Pension benefits, or you have been told that you have too many assets to qualify for VA pension benefits, contact elder law attorney Javier Centonzio of Weylie Centonzio, PLLC, today at (727) 490-8712.
Javier is accredited by the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs and admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and the Kansas Army National Guard. Javier lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and serves the Pinellas County area. His office is conveniently located in Largo, Florida, in the center of Pinellas County.