VA Compensation & VA Pension Benefits
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers two disability income benefits for veterans who served on active duty.
The first of these benefits -- Compensation -- is designed to award a veteran a certain amount of monthly income to compensate for potential loss of income in the private sector due to a disability or injury or illness incurred while in the service. THOUGH THIS IS THE BENEFIT MOST VETERANS KNOW ABOUT, IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT WE ARE NOT FOCUSED ON HELPING OUR CLIENTS RECEIVE COMPENSATION. INSTEAD, WE HELP SENIORS OBTAIN THE LESSER KNOWN BENEFIT, WHICH IS VA PENSION.
The second benefit available -- Pension -- provides supplemental income to disabled or older veterans who have a low income. Pension is for wartime veterans who have disabilities that are not connected to their active duty service. If the veteran's income exceeds the Pension amount, then there is no award. However, income can be adjusted for future and recurring unreimbursed medical expenses, and this allows veterans with household incomes larger than the Pension amount to qualify for a monthly benefit. There is also an asset test to qualify for Pension.
VA Pension vs. VA Pension with Aid and Attendance:
VA "Aid and Attendance" is a commonly used term for the veterans' pension disability income benefit which pays out the most money. The official title of this benefit is "Pension” though. The reason for using "Aid and Attendance" to refer to Pension is that many veterans or their single surviving spouses can become eligible if they have a regular need for the aid and attendance of a caregiver or if they are housebound. Evidence of this need for care must be certified by the VA as a "rating." With a rating, certain veterans or their surviving spouses can qualify for Pension. Pension is also available to low income veteran households without a rating, but it is a lesser dollar amount.
How does a Veteran or Veteran's Surviving Spouse Qualify for Pension with Aid & Attendance?
First, the veteran had to have served on active duty at least 90 days with one of those days occurring during a period of war. Service in combat is not required, only that the veteran was in the service during wartime and second, was discharged honorably (usually). Below is a chart for the dates for wartime service needed to qualify:
Period of War
Beginning and Ending Dates
World War II
December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946
June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955
August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975;
Or, for veterans who served “in country”
before August 5, 1964-February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975
August 2, 1990 through a date to be set by law
or Presidential Proclamation.
Besides the active duty requirement above, there is a medical or long term care needs analysis that needs to be done: If the veteran is younger than age 65, he or she must be totally disabled to receive Pension. Medical evidence must be submitted for these types of applications. At age 65 and older there is no requirement for disability. The VA just assumes you are disabled if you are age 65 or older.
For a single surviving spouse applying for a Death Pension benefit, the deceased veteran did not have to meet any disability or age requirements nor does the surviving spouse need to meet any disability requirements, regardless of his or her age. But, the surviving spouse had to have been married to the veteran (they did not need to be living together) at the veteran's death and must be single at the time of application.
The VA will also provide additional income in the form of an allowance enhancement to the basic benefit if the veteran or thesurviving spouse has a regular medical need for assistance or supervision due to disability. If the nonveteran spouse of a living veteran has a regular medical need for assistance or supervision, under certain conditions, a benefit (not an allowance) may be available for the veteran that otherwise would not have been available. Allowances are granted for a regular need for "aid and attendance" or if the beneficiary is "housebound."
A medical need for assistance or supervision due to disability is in most cases crucial to getting the Pension benefit or not getting it. A medical rating or a medical need for disability care allows certain medical expenses and ancillary non-medical expenses to be annualized and subtracted from future annual income in order to meet the income test. With few exceptions, most veteran households could not get the Pension benefit without this special provision allowing the deduction of annualized medical and non-medical related expenses.
The high cost of medical and non-medical expenses associated with long term care such as the care needed at home or in a more formal setting, such as assisted living, are usually the trigger that allows medical deductions to qualify a veteran household for Pension.
What Are VA Aid & Attendance Pension's Other Eligibility Requirements?
Besides meeting the active duty and medical need requirements outlined above, there is also an asset test as well as an income test. This is where most people get stuck, as these rules are extremely confusing. Rather than attempting to explain all the rules here, we'd suggest you watch our educational video Navigating the Long Term Care Maze and/or make an appointment with us to discuss your particular case.
But assuming a Veteran or surviving spouse of a Veteran can successfully meet all the Veteran's Administration Aid & Attendance requirements, you'll probably be interested in knowing what is the actual benefit available?
Well, married Veterans could get $2,295 per month in 2021, Single Veterans could get $1,936 per month in 2021, and widows of Veterans could get $1,244 per month in 2021. What's more is that these benefits go up every year with cost of living increases. Now if these monthly benefit amounts weren't enough to pique your interest, you should know that this money can even be used to pay family caregivers! So, for example, maybe a daughter is already providing help for her widowed mother – and in this example, if mom's husband was a veteran – well then, it's possible that the VA will pay the daughter for her help, to the tune of $1,244 per month. This benefit can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of many years. This fact is usually a shock to our clients who are Veterans or surviving spouses of Veterans. By the way, if both a husband and wife are veterans, they could be entitled to $3,071 per month in Aid & Attendance Benefits in 2021!
We Can Help You Qualify for VA Aid & Attendance Pension and Plan for Long Term Care
Understanding whether you or your loved one qualifies for veterans benefits is extremely challenging and confusing. Our Los Angeles and Ventura Veteran's Aid & Attendance Pension Benefits lawyer at Kaiden Elder Law Group, PC has over 20 years of legal experience and can help make the process easier for you and your loved ones.
If you think you have "too much" income or think you have a high net worth which disqualifies you from receiving VA Pension Benefits, think again. Our Veterans Asset Protection Trusts can help you get qualified for VA pension benefits. These trusts are designed to meet the complicated VA rules, they help pay for things the government doesn't allow or offer and they also help ensure you are able to leave a legacy for loved ones.