Understanding the Veterans Pension Benefit

There is a little known and little used veterans benefit called the Aid and Attendance Benefit, or Veterans Pension Benefit. This benefit can provide up to $1,800 a month to veteran or $900/widow or spouse and can be used for home care, assisted living and nursing home care.

This benefit is available to active duty veterans who served at least 90 days with at least one of those days occurring during a period of war.  Combat service is not required, only that the veteran was in the service during wartime and received an honorable discharge. You should be able to prove your service during a time of war via your DD Form 214 or other military service records.

There currently only about 543,000 individuals receiving the Aid and Attendance Benefit, which represents only 4.7% of those who could be eligible.

Who is eligible for the Veteran’s Pension Benefit?

In order to receive the benefit, a veteran must meet an income and an asset test and, in the majority of situations, a medical needs test. If a Veteran’s Pension Benefit Applicant called a regional VA Benefits office to apply for benefits, the first thing the Veterans Service Representative would usually ask for is the total household income, the amount of assets the veteran owns, and his or her medical status.

Income Test

The household income of the veteran or the surviving spouse cannot exceed the Maximum Allowable Pension Rate (MAPR) for that category of application. There are several categories of pension incomes, so determining eligibility can be complicated. In addition, under certain circumstances, a veteran’s income can actually exceed the MAPR, provided there are enough non-reimbursed medical expenses to reduce the household income below the threshold.





Example: A husband and spouse apply for the Aid and Attendance Benefit. They do not have a medical rating and their combined income cannot exceed $1,220 a month or $14,643 a year from all sources. However, their income can be reduced by non-reimbursed medical expenses to fall under the $1,220/mo threshold. Some examples of qualifying non-reimbursed medical expenses include medical insurance such as Medicare Part B ($96.40 a month) and certain medical expenses associated with assisted living care, or home care costs. The rules can be quite complicated, but it can pay to investigate your eligibility.

Asset Test

As a rule of thumb, veterans applying for the Aid and Attendance Benefit cannot own cash equivalent assets of more than $80,000. However, this is not a hard regulation; it is the generally accepted limit because regional Veterans Service Representatives are required to file paperwork justifying approved applicants if they have assets that exceed $80,000.

Counting Assets: The VA is primarily interested in those veterans who have more than $80,000 in cash and cash equivalent assets such as stocks, bonds, and similar accounts. A personal residence along with a reasonable amount of land, automobiles for personal use, and personal property are normally exempted from the asset test.

Rearranging Assets to Qualify: Veterans can get can get creative with their assets and rearrange them so as not to have too much money to qualify for the Veteran’s Pension Benefit. Veterans can gift assets to someone who does not live in the same household, or a portion of the assets can be converted into an annuity to create immediate cash flow. However, if the veteran chooses this route, he should be careful not to create too much cash flow, which could reduce or eliminate the pension eligibility.

Enlist professional help when rearranging assets. There can be legal ramifications when assets are transferred or rearranged. One topic in particular to be aware of is interfering with Medicaid benefits. Assets reallocated to qualify for VA benefits could create penalties for Medicaid eligibility. Be sure that if you rearrange assets that you get the professional help you need to do be able to qualify for the Aid and Attendance while still qualifying for other benefits.

Medical Needs Test

The most important qualification to receive the Veterans Pension Benefit is demonstrating a medical need for assistance or supervision due to a disability. Certain medical costs can qualify as deductions to reduce household income levels. The high costs that accompany long term care such as nursing home care, assisted living, or home care are sufficient to allow medical deductions for a veteran to qualify for the Veteran’s Pension Benefit.

If the veteran under age 65, he or she must be totally disabled to receive the benefit and must provide medical documentation to support his claim. Veterans over age 65 do not have a disability requirement to receive benefits. Surviving spouses may also apply for a Death Pension benefit. In these situations, the deceased veteran did not have to meet any disability requirements nor does the surviving spouse need to meet any disability requirements, regardless of age.




Most of the veterans and surviving spouses who qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit qualify with low incomes and have few cash assets. They usually meet both the income and asset tests without the need for the special provision for medical expense deductions to reduce income.

Take advantage of your Veteran’s Benefits – That’s what they are for!

This is just one of many Veteran’s Benefits Programs that is underutilized because it is complicated to qualify for and it is not well known. However, don’t let the complicated qualifications discourage you from applying. This is one program that has a lot of flexibility when determining eligibility.

If you know a veteran who is in need of assistance, direct them to their local regional Veteran’s Benefits Office. There may just be a program they qualify for. They sacrificed, and they have earned these benefits.

For more information about this program, visit your local or regional VA center, or visit the VA website.

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Date published: August 11, 2008. Last updated: November 29, 2011.

Article by

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google.

Comments

  1. I am trying to get information on how my mother can receive Veteran’s Benefit Pension. My Father is deceased and my mother lives alone and has someone to stay with her during the day. She can not drive, due to back problems. My father served in World War II for four years honorably discharged. My mother is 86 years old receives my father’s Social Security, about nine hundred dollars a month. She has a small savings account. How much money could she have and still receive a Widow’s Pension? How to I go about helping her to apply for this benefit. She is home bound and no computer or skills needed to apply.

    • Lou, Thanks for contacting out site on behalf of your mother. Your best option should be to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs Montgomery Regional Office, located in Montgomery AL.

      Here is the contact information:

      Department of Veterans Affairs Montgomery Regional Office
      345 Perry Hill Rd.
      Montgomery, AL 36109
      Phone: 800-827-1000

      You can also visit their website for more information.

      They can guide you through the application process and determine if your mother will be eligible for these benefits. Best of luck, and thanks for your family’s sacrifices!

    • If you live in Kentucky I can help.

  2. I will appreciate any information and help. My Mother lives in Lexington, Alabama, that is in Lauderdale County. I live in Hartselle, Alabama.

  3. JUDY ODOM says:

    can a person age 62, downsized from their job and forced to start drawing their ss be eligible for VA benefits if they were in service during the Vietnam War . we were told that they could draw this in addition to their social security benefits, also are there any other benefits they may be eligible for such as burial, etc? thanks for your help in advance

    • Hello Judy, there are many benefits available, but the majority are on a case by case basis, so I wouldn’t be able to provide you with specific details regarding your situation. My recommendation is to contact your local VA benefits office for more information. They can help you look at your situation and determine if there are any benefits for which you are eligible.

      Yes, there is also a Free Burial Benefit for US Military Veterans.

      Thanks for your service, and best of luck.

  4. Tammy Battle says:

    My name is Tammy Battle and I’m the disable Vet who received an honorable discharge. I served from 1987-1993 and got on a medical dischare, I was wondering do I qualify for Veterans Pension Benefit.

  5. Jennifer LaBran says:

    Good afternoon, My husband died Apr 08, with service connected disabilities, he was award with 60% and I now receive his pension. The problem is, my job Human Resouces Command has relocated to Ft Knox Ky, I could not relocate with them, due to my mother illness. I want to know since my income status has changed drastically, who would I contact to find out if I qualify to this aid?

  6. brenda ham says:

    All Iam trying to find out is if Pres Obamas wage freeze excemptions cover cost of living increases for disabled veterans? Are we getting an increase next year? Iam the vet.

  7. My father was a POW of World War II. Mom was also a Veteran of WWII as a Navy Wave. When mom was not able to care for herself I went to the VA as she had always told me. Not one word was mentioned about the Aid and Attendance pension. My father-in-law is a Veteran of the Korean conflict and you can bet we will get the Aid and Attendance pension for him and his wife when the time is right.

  8. My father is deceased and my mother at the age of 87 years old by October, lives alone and needs someone to stay with her during the day. My father served in World War II under the US Army the New Philippine Scouts from August 06, 1946 to March 21 1949 with honorable discharge. My mother has a small income. Does my mother is eligible to apply for a Veteran’s Death Pension? How can I help her to apply for her benefits.

    • Hello, Jorge. The Veterans Pension Benefit is a complicated benefit. Because of this, I always recommend people speak with a VA benefits provider to get the mot up to date information. Many individuals also hire people who specialize in helping veterans and surviving spouses obtain approval for the Veterans Pension Benefit. Some of these specialists charge a fee but almost all of them will be willing to do a quick phone call to help you determine the likelihood of approval.

      Best of luck.

  9. Brenda L. says:

    Dear Ryan,
    I found your webite when I was looking into possible pension benefits for my mother. She is 84 years old and her husband served in the Korean War. She lives on a small social security check in a small home that she owns and recently fell and broke her hip. She is very independent and healed well from her surgery and returned home. She lives on such a limited income and has to make payments on her hospital bills. I mentioned this to my friend and she says her mom gets $500.00 a month in addition to social security because her husband was a veteran. My mom lives in La Mirada, which is in Los Angeles County. I live in San Diego. Could I contact someone down here or do I have to contact someone in LA County and who do I contact?

    Thank You

    • Brenda, I recommend contacting the closest VA office and asking them the best person to contact — some counties have their own reps for these programs, and some of these programs are handled at a regional level. The VA reps will most likely help you with your application, but you may find it helpful to seek the assistance of a trained lawyer or someone who specializes in the VA Pension program. This can be a complicated program to apply for, as there are often quite a few requirements. Best of luck.

  10. Ledy Quell says:

    My father fought in WWII, he was the Airplane and Engine Mechanic on (747). He was with the 493 Heavy Bomb Group in England. He did all the repair work on wings, fuselage, stabilizers, fight control surfaces, pronellor4 and landing gear on B-17s and also did unit replacement. He assisted in the periodic check up of engines and in their maintenance and removal if necessary. My question is that my dad has as long as I have know him suffer from hearing and back/knees problem. In the valley where we lived there was not VA hospitals close by. He believed that taking aspirins will relieve the pain. I have submitted three times in the past 15years for benefits for my father at the VA. The last letter I got was that it was being checked into and that was 3 years ago. My father is 88 years old. I have to care for him now and take him to the VA for care. One of the responds I receive was that I had to find another WWII vet to verify his job position in the service. All the people he knew are gone with the Lord now. What else can I do to get him benefits? Please help!!!

  11. my husband has parkinsons disease,can i get aid to take care of him

  12. My husband is 56 years old, he served in the Navy toward the end of the vietnam era! He currently receives a VA pension! My question is why does the government make it so that the spouses of the veterans can only make so much in 1 year before they reduce his monthly pension!!! With myself and our son as a dependant on his check we dont even make through the whole month on his check ! I think it is unfair!! Not only for the spouses but for the veterans too! p.s I am 28 years old so being this young and not being able to work is really frustrating!!

  13. Laura Winston says:

    I would love to hear your answer on this since I have been going crazy with my reprobate of a brother.

    Five years ago we quit claimed our mother’s house to remove it from her living trust since she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 85 years old, and we were told to start Medicaid planning since she could live ten or more years with her brain declining rapidly and that she could NEVER return to her house. Three years later we applied for Aid and Attendance benefit and she qualified since she didn’t own the house any longer and her income was exhausted by care bills. She died at the end of last year; and as soon as she died, my brother started raising a fuss and said he HAD to reinstate the house (worth $500,000) in the trust since the quit claim deed was invalid–not true either. His intention was to then pull out an old amendment our mother had drafted during her earlier periods of undiagnosed dementia, stating the he alone should receive the house from the trust.

    This is self-dealing and all those other misdeeds, but isn’t this OBVIOUS VA fraud? We qualified our mother for the A&A pension and took over $50,000 till her death based on her NOT owning that house. How in the world can it be reinstated for my brother’s CONVENIENCE and self gain? This would also be intent to defraud the IRS, I would imagine, since the basis of the house would then go from ZERO to over $500,000, the value on the date of our mother’s death.

    Please confirm so I have ammunition to stop this travesty. My husband is a West Pointer; I would NEVER be party to any kind of fraud against the VA. I am incensed. And how should I stop this or report this? The OIG?

    Thank you so much,

    Laura

  14. Mike Krawczak says:

    I am trying to get veteran,s benefits for my Aunt who is 89 and her husband served in World War 2. I have been going back and forth with the VA and finally after 1 year they told me she was denied! She only gets $900.00 a month from SS and 400.00 a month from a small pension.
    She is paying $2350.00 a month for her senior living expenses and they told me. When she moved in she would be elegible.
    Is there any way around this problem?

    • Mike, This is a complex benefit that considers income, as well as all assets, and many other factors. There are many lawyers and non-profits that specialize in helping people apply for this benefit. I strongly recommend seeking knowledgeable assistance with your claim. You can start with a Veteran’s Service Organization (many offer free claims assistance). If that doesn’t work, then I suggest hiring a lawyer. It will be money well spent if you find a good lawyer.

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