Understanding the Veterans Pension Benefit with Aid and Attendance Allowance

The Veterans Pension Benefit with Aid and Attendance Allowance is a little known and little used benefit. It provides a monthly payment to qualifying military veterans or their survivors to help them pay for assisted living care, home health care, or related care or medical services.
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Are you receiving all of the veterans’ benefits you’re eligible for?

There’s a good chance you aren’t.

The Veterans Pension Benefit with Aid and Attendance Allowance is a little known and little used benefit

If a veteran (or surviving spouse) needs assistance with daily activities such as bathing, eating, general mobility, and more, this benefit can provide:

  • Up to about $2,200 a month to veterans and their spouse
  • Up to about $1,900 a month to veterans without a dependant
  • Up to about $1,200 a month to a surviving spouse

The funds can be used for in-home care, assisted living, and nursing home care.

Only about 543,000 individuals currently receive the Veteran’s Pension Benefit/Aid and Attendance Allowance. That means less than 5% of those who may be eligible for the benefit are taking advantage.

Who is Eligible for the Veteran’s Pension Benefit?

The Veterans Pension program is a monthly payment to qualifying veterans who meet certain service criteria, age or disability requirements, and who have income and net worth within certain limits.

Servicemembers cannot receive both the Pension Benefit and VA Service-connected Disability Compensation at the same time. So veterans who are also eligible for disability compensation will need to run the numbers to determine which benefit is more valuable for their situation.

The Veterans Pension Benefit is available to active duty veterans who meet the following requirements: 

  • Military Service Requirements –
    • Those who joined active duty before September 8, 1980 – Served at least 90 days, with at least one of those days occurring during a period of war.
    • Those who joined active duty after September 7, 1980 – Served at least 24 months, 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. 
  • At least 65 years-old OR if younger than 65, have a permanent and total disability. Those who are patient in a nursing home for long-term care because of a disability, or are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income may also be eligible.

You should be able to prove your service during a time of war via your DD Form 214 or other military service records.

Here are the periods of war, as determined by the VA:

Period or WarBeginning and Ending Dates
World War IIDecember 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946
Korean ConflictJune 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955
Vietnam EraAugust 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975; for veterans who served “in country” before August 5, 1964, February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975
Gulf WarAugust 2, 1990 through a date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation

Who is Eligible for the Aid & Attendance Benefit?

Note: The Aid and Attendance benefit is a subset of the Veterans Pension benefit. “Aid and attendance” is a medical rating used by the VA. This means the VA acknowledges the veteran or surviving spouse needs the regular aid and attendance of another person.

In addition to meeting age and service requirements, in order to receive the Veteran’s Pension Benefit with Aid and Attendance Allowance, a veteran must demonstrate both financial and medical need.

This is determined based on an income and asset test, as well as 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 veteran’s household income cannot exceed the Maximum Allowable Pension Rate (MAPR) for that application category. There are several categories of pension incomes, so determining eligibility can be complicated.

In addition, under certain circumstances, a veteran’s income can exceed the MAPR, provided there are enough non-reimbursable medical expenses or educational expenses to reduce the household income below the threshold.

Finally, on October 18, 2018, the VA changed the way they assess net worth to make the pension entitlement rules clearer. Net worth includes your and your spouse’s assets and annual income. When you apply for Veterans Pension benefits, you’ll need to report all of these assets and income. For example, if you had $121,000 in assets and $14,000 in annual income, then your net worth would be $135,000. This is more than the net worth limit of $130,773. So you wouldn’t be eligible for Veterans Pension benefits.

Countable income for a veteran or surviving spouse includes:

  • Wages
  • Pension payments
  • Social security
  • Retirement distributions

Non-reimbursable medical expenses can include:

  • Health insurance premiums
  • Prescription medications
  • Necessary medical equipment (wheelchairs, walkers, hearing aids, etc.)

Example 1: A veteran and spouse apply for the Veteran’s Pension Benefit. They do not have a medical rating, and their combined income cannot exceed $1,500 a month or $18,008 a year from all sources. However, their income can be reduced by non-reimbursed medical expenses to fall under the $1,500/mo threshold. Some examples of qualifying non-reimbursed medical expenses include medical insurance such as Medicare Part B ($144.60 a month in 2020) and certain medical expenses associated with assisted living care or home care costs. 

Example 2: Let’s assume the same veteran and spouse have difficulty performing daily activities and are applying for the Veteran’s Pension Benefit with Aid and Attendance Allowance. Their combined income cannot exceed $2,266 a month or $27,195 a year. 

In both cases, the couple can deduct qualified medical expenses above 5% of their MAPR.

As you can see, the rules for income requirements can be quite complicated, but it can pay to investigate your eligibility.

Asset Test

As of 2021, a veteran applying for the Aid and Attendance Allowance cannot own cash assets of more than $130,773. This limit is updated each year on December 1st with a COLA increase matching the CPI used for Social Security.

Counting Assets: 

In the case of this benefit, assets include:

  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Stocks, bonds, and mutual funds
  • Vacation homes

The following are exempt from the asset test:

  • Primary residence
  • Automobiles for personal use
  • Personal belongings

Rearranging Assets to Qualify:

If your assets add up to more than the $130,773 threshold, it’s still possible to qualify for the Veteran’s Pension Benefit.

Your best bet is to work with a financial planner or VA benefit planner to help rearrange those assets so that they’re not counted towards your assets.

Enlisting professional help in this field is important as there can be legal ramifications when assets are transferred or rearranged. Professionals will be aware of the complications and limits that come along with gifting assets, interfering with Medicaid benefits, and more.

For example, when it comes to gifting assets, the VA recently implemented a 36-month “look-back” rule. This means if a veteran has transferred or gifted property, cash, or other assets within the next three years and those gifts cause you to fall below the $130,773 asset threshold, your application will likely be denied.

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 is 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 underutilized Veteran’s Benefits Programs 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 affords a great deal of flexibility when determining eligibility.

If you know a veteran in need of assistance, direct them to their local regional Veteran’s Benefits Office. They may be missing out on programs they qualify for. After all, they served, they sacrificed, and they have earned these benefits. For more information about the Veteran’s Pension Benefit program, visit your local or regional VA center, or visit the VA website.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. Darlene Ruff says

    I no this lady who is drawing veterans aid and pension benefist and save every check and now has 7000 in the bank and has filled for home health care to help her around the house so she don’t have to pay anybody. Is she aloud to do this?

  2. marilyn harrell says

    I am a 67yr old female survivor of a army VietNam honorably discharged veteran. I have read so many links and it’s so confusing…I am completely alone in this world…I have 2 questions? 1) I receive $788/month SS Retirement only…and no (none) mentionable Assets…Does I qualify for Death Pension? 2) Do I qualify for anyother benefit such as Housebound? My understanding is that No Medical Test required and that over 65 is considered “automatically” disabled?? Is this true? I am so looking forward to your response…Sincerely, M Harrell

    • Ryan Guina says

      Marilyn, Thank you for contacting me, and I’m sorry to hear about your loss. Most VA benefits have strict requirements, so I don’t want to mislead you and by saying you are eligible for benefits if I’m not 100% certain. The Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit (also known as the Veterans Pension) can be a complicated application process. The best way is to inquire or apply through the VA.

      Here is the official eligibility page for the VA pension. I would start by looking at this benefit and contacting the VA to see if you are eligible for any benefits. There is a contact number on the page.

      You could also contact a Veterans Benefits Claims Assistant with a Veterans Service Organization such as the DAV, VFW, etc. I hope this points you in the right direction.

  3. Becky says

    I would like to know since my ex husband gets homebound I take care of him he has a lot more health problems can he get more money for that .

  4. P Johnson says

    My 90 year old mother is in assisted living. She qualified for Aid & Attendance approximately 4 years ago and has been receiving it monthly since that time. She has no assets other than the Air Force pension of $715 per month and Social Security. She has had no need to file a tax return for a number of years.

    If she were to receive a gift of appreciated stock for $20,000 in 2015 and then sell the stock for a $10,000 long term gain…would this disqualify her from receiving the A&A going forward? This money would help pay some of her medical and assisted living costs.

    • Ryan Guina says

      P Johnson, I’m not sure how this would affect her benefit. You would need to contact the VA and sit down with them to determine what affect, if any, it would have. There are also some veterans benefits counselors who can help you run the numbers. A good place to start is the DAV, VFW, American Legion, etc. I hope this points you in the right direction. Best of luck!

  5. Marilee Manning says

    What can we do to get help with a 84 yr old ex navy vet who served during Vietnam. War. He has no home no car cannot work and only ss to help
    Are there assisted living or nursing home benefits available to him?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Marilee, Thank you for contacting me. He may be eligible for the Veterans Aid and Pension benefit. This is designed to help provide financial or living assistance to elderly veterans who have no other means. The application process can be complicated, so it’s recommended to obtain assistance during the application process. There are many Veterans Service Organizations who offer free benefits claims assistance to veterans. Here are a few recommendations. Thanks for reaching out, and I hope this veterans receives the assistance he needs!

  6. 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?

    • Ryan Guina says

      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.

  7. 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

  8. Christy says

    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!!

  9. 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!!!

  10. 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

    • Ryan Guina says

      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.

  11. JORGE says

    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.

    • Ryan Guina says

      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.

  12. Carole Autrey says

    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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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.

  15. 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

    • Ryan says

      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.

  16. Lou Smith says

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

  17. Lou Smith says

    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.

    • Ryan says

      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!

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