VA Pensions for Low-Income Veterans

Posted by Debi Teter

veterans-pensionsLow-income wartime Veterans may qualify for pension if they meet certain service, income and net worth limits set by law; are age 65 or older, permanently and totally disabled, a patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care, receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, or receiving Supplemental Security Income. Generally, a Veteran must have at least 90 days of active duty service, with at least one day during a VA recognized wartime period. The 90-day active service requirement does not apply to Veterans discharged from the military due to a service-connected disability. (Veterans may have to meet longer minimum periods of active duty if they entered active duty on or after Sept. 8, 1980; or if they were officers who entered active duty on or after Oct. 16, 1981.) The Veteran’s discharge must have been under conditions other than dishonorable and the disability must be for reasons other than the Veteran’s own willful misconduct.

Payments are made to bring the Veteran’s total income, including other retirement or Social Security income, to a level set by Congress. Unreimbursed medical expenses may reduce countable income for VA purposes.

Protected Pension:┬áPension beneficiaries, who were receiving a VA pension on December 31, 1978, and do not wish to elect the Improved Pension, will continue to receive the pension rate received on that date. This rate generally continues as long as the beneficiary’s income remains within established limits, or net worth does not bar payment, and the beneficiary does not lose any dependents.

Beneficiaries must continue to meet basic eligibility factors, such as permanent and total disability for Veterans. VA must adjust rates for other reasons, such as a Veteran’s hospitalization in a VA facility.

Veterans Pension: Congress establishes the maximum annual Veterans Pension rates. Payments are reduced by the amount of countable income of the Veteran, spouse, and dependent children. Currently, under federal statute, the VA recognizes all marriages performed in the state of residence when that state considers the marriage legal. Marriages not considered legal in the state of residence may not be recognized when counting income. When a Veteran without a spouse or a child is furnished nursing home or domiciliary care by VA, the pension is reduced to an amount not to exceed $90 per month after three calendar months of care. The reduction may be delayed if nursing-home care is being continued to provide the Veteran with rehabilitation services.

Aid and Attendance and Housebound Benefits (Special Monthly Pension): Veterans and surviving spouses who are eligible for VA pensions are eligible for higher maximum pension rates if they qualify for aid and attendance or housebound benefits. An eligible individual may qualify if he or she requires the regular aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, or is bedridden, a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity, blind, or permanently and substantially confined to his/her immediate premises because of a disability.

Veterans and surviving spouses who are ineligible for basic pension based on annual income may still be eligible for VA Pension if they are eligible for aid and attendance or housebound benefits because a higher income limit applies. In addition, unreimbursed medical expenses for nursing home or home-health care may be used to reduce countable annual income, which may result in a higher pension benefit.

Claimants may apply for aid and attendance or housebound benefits by completing VA Form 21-2680 (available through www.va.gov). Claimants may also write to the nearest VA regional office and include copies of any evidence, preferably a report from an attending physician or a nursing home, validating the need for aid and attendance or housebound care. The report should be in sufficient detail to determine whether there is disease or injury producing physical or mental impairment, loss of coordination, or conditions affecting the ability to dress and undress, to feed oneself, to attend to sanitary needs, and to keep oneself ordinarily clean and presentable. In addition, VA may need to determine whether the claimant is confined to the home or immediate premises.

VA also pays a special $90 monthly rate to pension-eligible Veterans or surviving spouses with no dependents who receive Medicaid-covered nursing home care. These funds are available for the beneficiary’s personal use and may not be used to offset the cost of his or her care.

 

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