Veterans Pension Eligibility

A veteran applicant must meet specific VA pension eligibility guidelines to receive financial compensation through the program.

The pension compensation program is administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It provides financial assistance to eligible veterans who have served in the armed forces and are currently living with low, limited or no incomes. The eligibility guidelines set by the program involve a veteran’s service history, net worth, countable income and other factors.

Veterans should first review the VA pension income limits for the program before attempting to obtain benefits. The additional eligibility criteria should also be reviewed and understood before a veteran assumes he or she will qualify for benefits. Applicants with disabilities should also keep in mind there is a non service connected pension eligibility requirement for disabilities. Therefore, if an applicant has a disability that is not directly correlated to his or her time serving, it may still be regarded as meeting an eligibility guideline. To find out more about VA pension requirements and eligibility requirements, including income limits, read through the following information.

VA Pension Eligibility Guidelines for Service History

There are several VA pension eligibility requirements that relate to the service history of a veteran. Program applicants must meet these service history requirements and provide documentation or records on their service in the armed forces that can prove this eligibility. To be eligible for VA pension, a veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty in any branch of the United States armed forces. At least one of the days served must have been during a wartime period, including the:

  • Mexican Border Period: May 9, 1916 through April 5, 1917, in Mexico, its adjacent water or its borders.
  • World War I: April 6, 1917 through November 11, 1918.
  • World War II: December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946.
  • Korean War/Conflict: June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955.
  • Vietnam War/Era: February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975 in the Republic of Vietnam, or August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975 in other locations.
  • Gulf War: August 2, 1990 to a future unknown date, which will be set by Presidential Proclamation or by law.

To meet VA pension requirements for service history, a veteran who was on active duty after September 7, 1980 must have served for at least 24 months or the full period that he or she was required to serve. One day of this active duty must have been served during a wartime period. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Veterans who feel they may meet the service history requirements but are unsure are encouraged to apply for pension benefits. Service history and military records are reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine eligibility for compensation.

Additional Non Service Connected Pension Eligibility Guidelines

There are additional VA pension eligibility requirements that must be met by veterans who apply to the program. These requirements are in addition to the service-related requirements discussed above. These additional requirements relate to a veteran’s health, mobility, living situation and age. To qualify for pension benefits, a veteran must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Be 65 years of age or older and earn no income or a low or limited monthly income.
  • Be completely and permanently disabled.
  • Be a current patient in a nursing home who needs skilled nursing care.
  • Currently be enrolled to receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.
  • Currently be receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits.

Potential eligible VA pension applicants who are in nursing homes or disabled do not need to prove a link between service and the injuries, conditions or diseases they are living with. However, medical records may be requested by the VA to confirm the condition of the veteran before eligibility is met for program benefits.

VA Pension Income Limits

Before it is concluded that VA pension requirements are met by an applicant, income limits and net worth must be examined. The veteran pension program is designed to assist veterans who have served during wartime and are now earning low, limited or no incomes. Therefore, earnings are requested by the VA to ensure the veteran applicants are truly in need of this financial compensation.

Related Article: Aid and Attendance and Housebound

To determine that the VA pension income limits are met by an applicant, the VA asks for veterans to provide information on all countable income their households earn. This includes any earnings that come into the household from eligible dependents, such as older children, spouses or live-in parents. Countable income may include:

  • Disability payments.
  • Retirement payments.
  • Net income from farming.
  • Earnings from a business or other self-employment.
  • Payments from annuities, including interest and dividends.

The countable income that is used by the VA to determine eligibility may be reduced by certain qualifying expenses, such as medical expenses. However, to be eligible for a deduction, these medical expenses must exceed five percent of the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR).

Current pension VA income limits are set by the government and may fluctuate, based on the current financial climate. These rates are different for eligible veterans, depending on their household situations, if they have disabilities or not and the number of dependents they live with. Some of these annual pension income limits are as follows:

  • Single veteran: $13,166 or less.
  • Veteran living with one dependent: $17,241 or less.
  • Single veteran who is housebound: $16,089 or less.
  • Veteran who is housebound with one dependent: $20,166 or less.

These VA pension eligibility income limits were recently increased by two percent in 2017. Social Security income guidelines are established in the same manner as pension income eligibility guidelines and these program requirements usually change together.

VA Pension Requirements for Net Worth

In addition to the VA pension income limits for program eligibility, veteran applicants must also provide information on their net worth. If a veteran shows a net worth that is too high, he or she may be ineligible for pension benefits. Since the program only provides tax-free supplemental income to veterans who are in need, those with high net worth are considered ineligible for these funds.

If it is determined that an applicant has enough net worth that he or she could live comfortably for a reasonable period of time, the application may be denied. Once the veteran lowers his or her net worth over time, he or she may complete the process to apply for pension benefits again and potentially meet the program’s qualifications.

When calculating net worth for VA pension program eligibility, the department examines the applicant’s assets, including:

  • Bank account balances.
  • Stocks.
  • Bonds.
  • Annuities.
  • Mutual funds.
  • Additional properties owned, other than the primary residence.

Currently, an applicant’s net worth cannot be above $123,600 to qualify for pension payments. Veterans must report all net worth to the VA at the time of application. When determining VA pension eligibility, representatives investigate these assets thoroughly.

Related Article: Eligibility for VA Health Care Benefits

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