The VAs Pension Program Can Help Struggling Veterans and Surviving Families

Elder veterans and disabled former service members can fall on hard times if they are no longer able to work and generate income. Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides a safety net for them, and their families, in the form of a veterans pension.

A veterans pension is a tax-free, monetary benefit payable to low-income wartime vets. In most cases, a veteran will need to have at least 90 days of active duty service to qualify, with at least one day during a wartime period. If they entered active duty after September 1980, then they’re generally required to have served at least 24 months or the full period they were called or ordered to active duty, with at least one day during a wartime period.

In addition to these service requirements, qualifying veterans must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Age 65 or older
  • Totally and permanently disabled
  • A patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care
  • Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance
  • Receiving Supplemental Security Income

The VA also offers a Survivors Pension benefit, or sometimes called a Death Pension. This is another tax-free monetary benefit that is payable to low-income, un-remarried surviving spouses or unmarried children of a deceased veteran with wartime service. The basic military service requirements generally match those of the standard VA pension.

In both cases, a veteran’s annual family income must be less than the legal amount set by Congress. If eligible, calculating an individual pension benefit can be complicated, but it involves 12 monthly payments of the difference between a veterans annual income and the congressionally mandated income limit.

The VA also issued new pension regulations on October 18, 2018, which include the following:

  • Require a clear net-worth limit for income and assets for veterans to qualify.
  • Establish a 36-month look-back period to review asset transfers at less than fair market value that reduce net worth and create pension entitlement.
  • Establish up to a five-year penalty period to be calculated based on the portion of the covered assets that would have made net worth excessive.
  • Update medical expense definitions for consistency with VA internal guidelines.

Pension and Surviving Pension benefits are tremendously important for those who served and now may be in need. If you’re not sure how to proceed, do not wait to ask us your questions! We are your local community law firm ready to help you answer your questions on this and any of your elder law challenges you are facing.

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