Many veterans over the age of 65 may be eligible for a pension benefit even if they do not suffer from a service-connected disability. The veteran must have limited income and assets to qualify, although the income and assets limits are more generous than those allowed by Medicaid.
The threshold test for qualification is:
- The veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty, and at least one of those days must have been during a “period of war” (see below);
- The veteran must also have been discharged under conditions which were “other than dishonorable.”
- Finally, the veteran must be “permanently and total disabled”—note, however that the VA automatically defines anyone over 65 as “permanently and totally disabled.”
A veteran with no dependents may receive a pension benefit of up to $1,038 per month in 2013 (adjusted annually). To qualify, the veteran may not have more than a maximum amount of “income for VA purposes.” This number is calculated by taking the veteran’s total income and reducing it by certain unreimbursed medical expenses. For example, a veteran with $18,000 per year in Social Security income and $16,000 in qualifying unreimbursed medical expenses would only have an income of $2,000 per year for VA purposes, well below the maximum permitted to qualify.
To receive the “Aid & Attendance” benefit in addition to Pension, a veteran must also require “care or assistance on a regular basis” to protect the veteran from the dangers of a daily living environment. An elderly veteran who must reside in a skilled nursing facility (or even assisted living) will generally be able to meet this requirement. The maximum Pension plus Aid & Attendance benefit for a veteran with no dependents was $1,732 per month in 2013 (adjusted annually).
Pension plus Aid & Attendance is available for surviving spouses of qualifying veterans under certain circumstances. The maximum Death Pension benefit for a surviving spouse in 2013 was $1,113 per month (adjusted annually).
World War I: April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918
World War II: December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946
Korea: June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955
Vietnam: August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975
*2/28/1961, for vet who served “in country” before 8/4/1964
Persian Gulf: August 2, 1990 – Current
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