Veterans Pensions

The VA Pension program is administered by the United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and is designed to assist low-income veterans financially.

The supplemental income provided to eligible beneficiaries can be used for monthly expenses to ensure these veterans can maintain independence while adjusting to civilian life. Veterans who served in the armed forces and are currently earning low or no incomes should consider applying to the program to assist them in providing for themselves and their family members.

The veterans pension benefits are not provided to all ex-service members. There are strict eligibility criteria for the program, including the length of service, history of service and current income and assets of the veteran’s household. If these eligibility guidelines are met by a veteran and he or she completes the application process, tax-free supplemental monthly income is provided throughout the year. To learn more about VA pension benefits, including the qualifications, benefit rates and how to apply for the program, review the information that follows.

VA Pension Eligibility Criteria

Veterans pension benefits are only awarded to veterans who can prove they meet the eligibility guidelines of the program. These requirements are mostly related to the service history of the applicant and the monthly income and earnings of the veteran’s household. To qualify for pension compensation through the VA, a veteran must have served in one of the armed forces on active duty for at least 90 days. At least one of the days during his or her active duty must have been served in a wartime setting. If this active duty was served after September 7, 1980, the applicant must have served at least 24 months or the full term of service, as ordered.

Veteran pension eligibility guidelines for service history also indicate that a veteran must have been discharged for reasons that were not dishonorable. If a veteran was discharged from the armed forces dishonorably, he or she may not qualify for pension benefits through the VA. Additionally, to receive VA pension, a veteran must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • 65 years of age or older and have low or no income
  • Completely and permanently disabled, either from a service-related or non-service related condition, injury or disease
  • A nursing home patient who is currently receiving nursing care
  • Currently qualified for and receiving Social Security Disability insurance benefits
  • Currently qualified for and receiving Supplemental Security income benefits

In addition to these service-related VA pension benefits criteria, the applicant’s household must also meet income and asset guidelines. Each year, Congress sets a low-income guideline for government programs, including the pension program. To qualify for these benefits, a veteran’s household must show an annual income that is equal to or lower than the limit set by Congress.

The applicant must also provide a summary of his or her net worth to determine if there is enough worth for the household to live on for a period of time before meeting program eligibility. This income calculation is also used to determine the monthly pension benefits provided to the veteran, if it is confirmed that he or she qualifies for the program.

Completing the VA Pension Application Process

After determining that a veteran meets the VA pension income limits and other eligibility criteria, he or she can begin the pension application process. This process can be completed online, by mail, in person at a local VA office or with the assistance of an accredited professional. Potential applicants must complete the Application for Pension (VA Form 21P-527EZ) and submit it using one of the acceptable application methods.

To apply for VA pension online, a veteran must log on to department website and create an account. He or she is required to provide extensive service, income and medical-related information throughout the online application process. To prepare, a potential online applicant should gather the following information before starting the process:

  • Military history
  • Financial information
  • Work history
  • VA file number or Social Security Number
  • Bank account information for direct deposit
  • Medical information, including disability records, if applicable

Upon completion of the online VA pension application, the applicant will receive a submission confirmation. He or she can check the status of the claim at any time online by logging into his or her account.

To apply for VA pension by mail, an applicant must download and print the application form, complete it and mail it to his or her closest VA facility. In addition to the application, the veteran should also provide any evidence as it relates to his or her case, such as bank account statements, paycheck stubs, medical documentation or military service-related records. A potential applicant can also bring the application and evidence items to his or her nearest VA facility to apply in person. A VA representative can assist him or her and determine if additional documentation is needed to complete the claim filing process.

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Veterans wondering how to apply for VA pension should keep in mind they can also enlist the assistance of accredited professionals to help with the process. However, veterans should only agree to work with the following types of professionals throughout the claims process:

  • Accredited attorneys
  • Claims agents
  • Veterans Service Officers (VSOs)

These veterans pension experts can review a potential applicant’s qualifications for the program and ensure he or she has turned in a completed application and valid evidence and documentation. These professionals cannot charge to assist with veteran benefit applications, but they may charge fees upon completion of the process. Veterans hiring accredited professionals to apply for VA pension benefits should review potential fees before starting the process. With the assistance of a professional, it is more likely that an applicant will thoroughly complete the claims process in a timely manner. However, it is not required that veterans use representatives to assist with the application process.

VA Pension Rates and Calculations

When it is determined that a veteran is eligible for VA pension, a representative must use specific details about the veteran’s current income and assets to calculate the benefit rate. The pension rate can vary for qualified program applicants because it is solely dependent on the beneficiary’s household situation and income. The department provides VA pension rate tables to assist potential applicants and beneficiaries who want to calculate their potential pension compensation rates.

An eligible applicant’s military pension rates are determined by taking the difference between his or her countable income and the current Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) set by the government. There are several MAPRs set by Congress that relate to specific situations, including the number of dependents in the household.

When determining veterans pension benefits, an applicant’s countable income includes:

  • Any earnings or income provided by any household member, including dependents.
  • Disability or retirement payments.
  • Dividend or interest payments received from annuities.
  • Net income from a personal business or farm.

Once countable income is established, the VA representative subtracts the income dollar-for-dollar from the MAPR that applies to the applicant’s situation. For example, a veteran and his or her spouse fall into an MAPR category with a benefit limit of $14,000. The household countable income is calculated at $10,000. Therefore, the VA pension amounts that the eligible veteran will receive is $4,000. This benefit amount is paid to the veteran in monthly installments throughout the year.

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