Veterans Benefits are perhaps the most misunderstood and underutilized resources available to millions of veterans and their families. While it is commonly known that certain benefits are available for the brave men and women who served in our armed forces, many veterans (and their families) are unaware that they could be eligible for a wide range of benefits through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs even if they did not directly retire from the military or suffer injuries in the line of duty.
VA Improved Pension (Live) and Survivor’s Pension (Death)
One such benefit, the nonservice-connected pension, is a needs-based benefit available to wartime veterans and their surviving spouses. The pension for veterans is called the “Improved Pension” (or sometimes the “Live Pension”), and the pension for surviving spouses is generally called the “Death Pension,” and is paid tax-free to the claimant.
These nonservice-related pension benefits are not well publicized. Only approximately 10% of the eligible claimants are receiving the Improved Pension and Death Pension benefits.
Many people refer to these pension benefits as “VA Aid and Attendance” (A&A). However, Aid & Attendance refers to an additional benefit a veteran or surviving spouse may receive once they are eligible for the Improved Pension.
Eligibility for VA Improved Pension and Death Pension
For eligibility, the veteran must:
- Be age 65 or older, or permanently and totally disabled; AND
- Have served 90 or more consecutive days of active duty that began or ended during a wartime period; OR
- Have served a total of 90 or more days of active duty during one or more wartime periods, OR
- Have served any amount of time during a wartime period if the Veteran was discharged or released for a service-connected disability; AND
- Have been discharged from the service under conditions other than dishonorable.
Note: Gulf War Veterans must additionally meet a minimum active duty service requirement, generally two continuous years that includes one day during a wartime period.
Eligibility for a surviving spouse would also require that he or she:
- Had been married to the veteran at the time of the veteran’s death;
- Had been married to the veteran for at least 12 months, unless the couple had a child; AND
- Cannot have remarried.
Note: The wartime service requirement is also met if the Veteran had at least one day of active duty wartime service and was receiving or was entitled to receive disability compensation at the time of death.
VA Pension Levels
The highest monthly tax-free pension benefit amounts a veteran or surviving spouse may receive can range from $1,209 to $2,984, depending upon whether the claimant is the veteran, and if he or she is married, or if the claimant is the surviving spouse. The three pension levels are Basic Pension, Pension with Housebound and Pensions with Aid and Attendance.
|Basic Pension||Lowest monthly pension amount||No medical or disability requirements|
|Pension with Housebound||Next highest pension amount||Claimant is considered housebound—substantially confined to the house or immediate premises
|Pension with Aid & Attendance||Highest monthly pension amount||
Because the Improved Pension and Death Pension are needs based, claimants must not exceed income and asset limits to be eligible. The Law Office of Gretchen J. Kenney offers veterans and their families planning services for becoming eligible for the VA Pension benefits.
Unfortunately, many eligible claimants are initially denied these benefits when a claim is filed because the claims process can be complicated and they are not aware of the many traps and tricks that can keep them from receiving the full VA Pension amount.
If you or your family member is a veteran facing long-term care expenses, you should call the Law Office of Gretchen J. Kenney at 650-931-2505 to arrange a consultation to discuss how you may obtain these tax-free VA Pension benefits.
The Law Office of Gretchen J. Kenney assists clients with Elder Law, including Long-Term Care Planning for Medi-Cal and Veterans’ Pension (Aid & Attendance) Benefits, Estate Planning, Probate, Trust Administration, and Conservatorships in the San Francisco Bay Area.