When seeking financial support, a veteran has several options for what type of support they can receive. Over the next two posts, we will discuss the two most common types of financial relief most veterans can seek: compensation benefits and pension benefits. As a refresher about compensation benefits, compensation is the benefit paid to veterans who have service–connected disabilities. Compensation benefits are not income-based, and are related solely to the severity of a veteran’s disability along with his or her ability to work. However, not all veteran’s become disabled solely based on their military service, and therefore, many veteran’s are not eligible for compensation benefits. One type of financial support that a veteran in this category can obtain is disability pension benefits. Disability pension benefits are a dollar amount awarded to veterans who served their country during congressionally defined wartime and are permanently and totally disabled from a cause that is not solely related to their military service. It is important to note that pension benefits are not accrued based on length of service similar to pensions awarded to employees within government and other corporations. Rather, pension benefits are a monthly payment awarded to certain disabled veterans.
To be specific, in order for a Veteran to be eligible for pension benefits:
- The veteran must be discharged under conditions other than dishonorable;
- If the veteran joined the military after 1980, the veteran must have served for a minimum of 24 months of active duty or the full length of time he or she was called to duty. The veteran must also serve a continuous period of at least 90 days during a period of war or at least one day during wartime if the veteran is discharged based on service-connected disabilities;
- The veteran must have limited income (below the maximum annual pension rate);
- The veteran must be permanently and totally disabled at the time he or she seeks pensions; and
- The disability must not be due to willful misconduct.
If you meet all of these criteria, than you may be eligible for pension benefits, and will be able to receive financial support to supplement any other benefits you may receive. If a veteran is disabled and requires the assistance of another for basic daily activities, then he or she may be eligible for an increased Aid and Attendance payment in addition to the standard pension. More information regarding Aid and Attendance can be found here. If you are the spouse of a veteran, you may be eligible to receive pension benefits if you have not remarried and your veteran spouse was eligible for pension benefits.
Initially, the VA created the pension program as a means to supplement income to veterans who had to alter their career goals to serve in the military. Due to the financial security many veterans had to give up, the pension was established as a need-based program to provide for a totally disabled veteran, in addition to social security income. One important fact to note is that a veteran over 65 is presumed to be permanently and totally disabled to receive pension benefits. Therefore, a veteran over 65 may automatically be eligible for pension benefits. However, the VA is prohibited from paying both pension and compensation benefits, and a veteran who qualifies for both must elect which benefit they would prefer to receive. The VA normally requires a physician’s exam, titled the Compensation and Pension Exam, in order to establish eligibility for Pension Benefits. The main point to remember is that even if you are unable to establish service connection to your disability, there is still relief out there available to you, such as disability pension payments.