VA pension is a benefit paid to veterans who served during a period of war and who have limited or no income, and is 65 years or older or totally disabled not due to their service. It's estimated that approximately 3/4 of all veterans are eligible for the pension benefit. For example, the Persian Gulf War period is still in effect and has been since August 2, 1990, so any veteran that served during this period could be eligible for the Pension benefit as long as the other criteria are met.

The basic eligibility criteria for the Pension benefit is;
  • 90 days of service, one of which was during a period of war. (if you entered active duty after September 7, 1980, you must generally have 24 consecutive months of service under 38 C.F.R. §3.12a)
  • An other than dishonorable discharge
  • Your countable income is below the yearly limit set for by congress ( for 2014 it's $12,652.00 for a single veteran)
  • You're 65 years or older, or you're totally disabled not do to your service (and not do to any willful or persistent misconduct.)
Countable income includes any earnings such as retirement and disability payments, earnings from a dependent child (there is a 'Child earned income exclusion' under 38 C.F.R. §3.272(j)(1)), interest and dividend income, and income from an employer, business, or from farming. Net worth, such as bank accounts, estate values, stocks, bonds, and mutual funds are not counted against the veteran's countable income as long it's not excessive. VA makes this determination on a case by case basis. There are exclusions to countable income, which aren't counted in determining eligibility for the Pension benefit. Such exclusions include donations from public or private relief, welfare, or charitable organizations, the value of maintenance furnished by a relative, friend, or a charitable
organization, amounts in joint accounts in banks and similar institutions acquired by reason of death of the other joint owner, and profits from sales of properties, and medical expenses (must exceed at least 5% of the annual pension rate).

Once VA determines you're totally disabled or 65 or older, they calculate the pension by totaling all of your countable income, then subtracting any exclusions. The remaining amount of income is subtracted from the annual Pension amount, which is determined by the number of dependents you have, if any, and whether or not you're entitled to the Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefit (see down below). The amount arrived at after this is then divided by 12 and rounded down to the nearest dollar amount, which is then your monthly pension.

If you're 65 or older and have limited or no income (and of course meet the other criteria), you automatically qualify for the pension benefit. If you're under 65 and totally disabled, VA will determine the individual evaluations of all of your disabilities just as they do with service-connected disabilities based on the rating schedule. If your evaluations combine to the schedular evaluation of 100%, you will be awarded the Pension benefit. If your disabilities do not combine to the 100% evaluation, but you have one disability evaluated at 60% or more, or have multiple disabilities with one being evaluated at 40% and the others combined with it bringing your total combined evaluation up to at least 70%, VA will then determine whether those disabilities render you unemployable. If they do, VA will award the Pension benefit. VA is really liberal in applying the IU criteria to Pension applicants because the Pension benefit is a needs based program.

Aid and attendance is a benefit paid in addition to the pension. The eligibility criteria are;
  • when the veteran requires the aid of another person to perform daily functions or;
  • the veteran is bedridden, or;
  • the veteran is a patient in a nursing home, or;
  • the veteran is blind, or so nearly blind (corrective vision of 5/200 or less).
Housebound benefit is also paid in addition to the monthly Pension when the following criteria are present;
  • the veteran has a single permanent disability evaluated at 100% and due to that disability the veteran is confined substantially to their residence, or
  • the veteran has a single permanent disability evaluated at 100% and another disability, or disabilities that are evaluated or combined to an additional 60%.
If you believe you're eligible for the Pension benefit, contact me for an assessment of your situation.
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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs claims assistance for veterans worldwide Accredited. VA claims Agent pursuant 38 C.F.R. §14.629