Veterans Benefits are perhaps the most misunderstood and underutilized resources available to millions of veterans and their families. While it is commonly known that certain benefits are available for the brave men and women who served in our armed forces, many veterans (and their families) are unaware that they could be eligible for a wide range of benefits through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs even if they did not directly retire from the military or suffer injuries in the line of duty.
VA Improved Pension (For Living Veterans) and Survivor’s Pension
One such benefit, the non-service-connected pension, is a monetary benefit that may pay up to $2,085/month to wartime veterans or $1,130/month to their surviving spouses. The pension for veterans is called the “Improved Pension” and the pension for surviving spouses is generally called the “Death Pension,” and is paid tax-free to the claimant.
These non-service-related pension benefits are not well publicized. Only approximately 10% of the eligible claimants are receiving the Improved Pension and Death Pension benefits.
Many people refer to these pension benefits as “VA Aid and Attendance” (A&A). However, Aid & Attendance refers to an additional benefit a veteran or surviving spouse may receive once they are eligible for the Improved Pension.
Eligibility for VA Improved Pension and Death Pension
For eligibility, the veteran must:
• Be age 65 or older, or permanently and totally disabled; AND
• Have served 90 or more consecutive days of active duty service, one day of which must have been during a war-time period; AND
• Have limited income and assets available; AND
• Have been discharged from the service under conditions other than dishonorable.
Note: Gulf War Veterans or later generally must meet a minimum active duty service requirement of two continuous years that includes one day during a wartime period.
Eligibility for a surviving spouse would also require that he or she:
• Had been married to the veteran at the time of the veteran’s death;
• Had been married to the veteran for at least 12 months, unless the couple had a child; AND
• Cannot have remarried.
Note: The wartime service requirement is also met if the Veteran had at least one day of active duty wartime service and was receiving or was entitled to receive disability compensation at the time of death.
Aid & Attendance
An additional benefit known as Aid & Attendance may be available to Veterans or widows of Veterans who meet the eligibility requirements for Improved Pension listed above AND require the regular aid and attendance of another person. The Veteran or widow of a Veteran shall be considered in need of Aid & Attendance if they are either blind, living in a nursing home, or is so significantly disabled as to need or require the assistance of another person with their activities of daily living and who need a protective environment.
VA Improved Pension eligibility plus Aid & Attendance eligibility provides the highest possible monetary benefit available through the non-service connected pension programs. The specific dollar amounts are listed below.
2014 Maximum Rates for Pension plus Aid & Attendance
Single Veteran – $1,758 per month $21,107 per year
Married Veteran – $2,085 per month $25,022 per year
Widow/Surviving Spouse – $1,130 per month $13,563 per year
Because the Improved Pension and Death Pension are needs based, claimants must not exceed income and asset limits to be eligible. We offer veterans and their families planning services to assist in attaining eligibility for the VA Pension benefits. Unfortunately, many eligible claimants are initially denied these benefits when a claim is filed because the claims process can be complicated and confusing.
If you or a family member is a veteran facing long-term care expenses, you should call us to discuss how you may obtain these tax-free VA Pension benefits.
Note: Each VA Claim is unique and the above criteria is generic in nature and may not be applicable to each claimant. There are never any guarantees that any claim or specific benefit amount will be awarded.
Legal Disclaimer: This information has been provided for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice. Proper legal advice can only be given based on the specific facts and relevant law for each individual. Therefore, you should always seek appropriate counsel before acting upon the information contained herein.