When seeking financial support, a veteran has several options for what type of support they can receive. One type of financial support that a veteran 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.
VA Pension is different from VA Disability Compensation in many ways. Many veterans ask if they can apply for a pension in addition to their disability compensation but they are paid out for different reasons. The pension is limited by income levels and is reserved for specific veterans.
To be eligible for VA Pension, a veteran must meet the following criteria:
- Have been discharged from active duty with an other than dishonorable discharge; AND
- Have at least 90 days of active duty service with at least one (1) day during wartime period; AND
- Wartime period includes:
- Gulf War: August 2, 1990 – present date;
- Vietnam Era: February 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975 for veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam or August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975 for all others;
- Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955;
- World War II: December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946;
- World War I: April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918; and
- Mexican Border Period: May 9, 1916 – April 5, 1917.
- Be aged 65 or older; OR
- Be totally and permanently disabled, OR
- Be a patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care, OR
- Be receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Social Security Income, AND
- Meet the income eligibility requirements.
- Wartime period includes:
The veteran does not have to have actually served in combat, only to be active duty at least one day during those time periods considered “wartime.”
Income based on the entire household’s income, including spouse and any dependent children. Income considered includes any income from wages, retirement income, interest and dividends, and some qualified disability payments.
However, even if the income is over the limit, the VA also takes into consideration expenses such as unreimbursed medical expenses (if over 5% of maximum annual pension rate), certain educational expenses, and Social Security Income.
When applying, always ensure that you are listing all income sources and expenses accurately.
Income level limits can be found at the VA Current Pension Rates page. The current limit as of December 1, 2021 for a veteran with no dependents is $138,489.
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.
To be eligible for a pension, a veteran does not have to have disabilities that are service-connected. This means that the disabilities do not have to have been incurred or caused by the veteran’s military service. These are called non-service connected disabilities.
The VA conducts a C&P exam just as if it were a service-connected disability to verify diagnosis and level of rating. If the disability or disabilities combined meet the criteria for total and permanent, then the veteran would be eligible for non-service connected pension.
Not all total disabilities will be considered permanent. Many disabilities rated at 100% are considered temporary, as there is a possibility of improvement with treatment.
To meet the requirements for total and permanent, the veteran would have to be rated at a level that is considered unemployable and the disability is one that there is no recovery from.
An example would be the loss of or loss of use of both hands or feet, or one hand or foot, the sight of both eyes, or being permanently bedridden. Diseases or injuries that are considered totally incapacitating where the probability of permanent improvement is remote are also often considered total and permanent.
Age can be considered a factor when considering total and permanent disability and the VA will look more closely and with more scrutiny at veterans who apply that are under the age of 40 years old.
The VA pays pension to supplement the income. The income rates found on the pension income limits page is the maximum income limit, so the pension paid will make up the difference between the income the veteran has and that maximum income level.
For example, Tony has an income of only $8,000 a year and is over 65 years old. He applies for and is awarded pension benefits. His pension payment will be $4,907, the difference between the $12,907 maximum income for a single veteran with no dependents and the $8,000 income he already has.
This is a pension check of $408 per month. For more information on how the VA calculates pension payments, go to their Pension Calculations page.
How to Apply for VA Pension
Applying for VA Pension is as easy as clicking on the VA Pension Application and filling out the VA 21-527EZ form. Veterans can submit their application electronically, print it and mail, or fax it in.
Veterans should ensure that their application was received to ensure their effective date is preserved.
Also, completing a fully developed claim may help speed up the process.
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