Q. What is the Non-Service Connected VA Pension for veterans?
A. The Non-Service Connected VA Pension is a benefit paid to wartime veterans who have limited or no income and who are age 65 or older, or, if under age 65, who are permanently and totally disabled. Veterans who are more seriously disabled may qualify for Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits. These are benefits that are paid in addition to the basic pension rate. All benefits are Tax-Free.
Q. Who is Eligible?
A. Generally, you may be eligible if you meet ALL of the following:
- you were discharged from service under conditions other than dishonorable
- you served at least 90 days of active military service “1” day of which was during a war time period.
- your family Net Worth is below a yearly limit set by Congress.
- you are age 65 or older, or if under age 65, you are permanently and totally disabled, not due to your own willful misconduct.
Periods of War:
- World War I. April 6, 1917, through November 11, 1918, inclusive. If the veteran served with the United States military forces in Russia, the ending date is April 1, 1920. Service after November 11, 1918 and before July 2, 1921 is considered World War I service if the veteran served in the active military, naval, or air service after April 5, 1917 and before November 12, 1918.
- World War II. December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946, inclusive. If the veteran was in service on December 31, 1946, continuous service before July 26, 1947, is considered World War II service.
- Korean conflict. June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955, inclusive.
- Vietnam era. The period beginning on February 28, 1961, and ending on May 7, 1975, inclusive, in the case of a veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. The period beginning on August 5, 1964, and ending on May 7, 1975, inclusive, in all other cases.
- Persian Gulf War. August 2, 1990, through date to be prescribed by Presidential proclamation or law.
Q. What is the difference between DIC and Death Pension for a surviving spouse?
A. Death Pension is a needs based benefit paid to an unremarried surviving spouse, or an unmarried child of a deceased wartime veteran. There are exceptions.
Dependents Indemnity Compensation(DIC) is an entitlement benefit paid to eligible survivors (Spouse, unmarried child) of certain deceased service members and veterans. The DIC benefit is managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and is dispersed to surviving family members that meet specific criteria. For further details, please visit http://benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/types-dependency_and_indemnity.asp.
Death Pension is a needs based financial benefit payable to the unremarried surviving spouse or unmarried child of a deceased wartime veteran. As noted, eligibility for this benefit is based upon the financial need of the applicant. To learn more about the Death Pension please follow this link: http://www.benefits.va.gov/pension/spousepen.asp.
Q. How do I know if I’m eligible as a Surviving Spouse?
A. You may be eligible if you meet ALL of the following:
- You were married to the veteran at the time of death and for at least one year AND HAVE NOT RE-MARRIED.
- The deceased veteran was discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions
- The deceased veteran served at least 90 days of active military service “1” day of which was during a war time period.
- If the veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally he or she must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty
- You are the surviving spouse or unmarried child of the deceased veteran
- Your family net worth is below a yearly limit set by Congress.
Q. Are there age requirements, or restrictions for surviving spouse?
A. An unremarried spouse can be any age.
A child must be ANY of the following:
- under age 18
- in school and under age 23
- was incapable of self support before the age of 18.
Q. I am a surviving spouse, if I remarry, do I lose my benefits? If I later get divorced or my new spouse dies, do I get my VA benefits back?
A. Yes and yes, but some rules apply.
Regarding Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). a remarried surviving spouse whose subsequent marriage is annulled or declared void can reestablish eligibility as a surviving spouse. However, effective September 30, 1998, the law was changed to allow a surviving spouse to reestablish DIC eligibility after termination of remarriage. Therefore. after September 30, 1998, eligibility for DIC is established in any case in which the remarriage of the surviving spouse is terminated by death, divorce, or annulment. Also, remarriage of a surviving spouse after the age of 57 does not preclude continued payment of DIC.
Regarding Death (Survivor’s) Pension benefits, the law generally requires a surviving spouse’s entitlement to be terminated if the surviving spouse remarries, regardless of age, even if that remarriage is terminated by death or divorce. However, VA regulations establish limited exceptions that generally allow entitlement to Death Pension to be reestablisned if the marriage was:
- Annulled or declared void
- Terminated by death or divorce on or after January 1, 1971, and before November 1, 1990.
Accordingly, you can again receive pension benefits based upon your former spouse’s wartime service if the new marriage was annulled or declared void or you fall within the divorce and death exception window, January 1, 1971 through October 31, 1990.
Q. What are Aid & Attendance and Housebound benefits?
A. Aid and Attendance (A&A)is a benefit paid in addition to the monthly pension. This benefit may not be paid without eligibility to pension. A veteran may be eligible for A & A when:
- The claimant(veteran or surviving spouse)requires the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting themselves from the hazards of their daily environment OR,
- The claimant is bedridden, in that their disability requires that they remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment OR,
- The claimant is residing in a nursing home, assisted living,group home, adult day care, or similar facility due to physical or mental incapacity OR,
- The claimant is blind, or so nearly blind as to have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less, in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.
Housebound is paid in addition to monthly pension. Like A&A, Housebound benefits may not be paid without eligibility to pension. A claimant my be eligible for Housebound benefits when:
- The veteran has a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND, due to such disability, they are permanently and substantially confined to their immediate premises, OR,
- The veteran has a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND, another disability , or disabilities, evaluated as 60 per cent or more disabling.
Q. What is countable income for veterans pension eligibility purposes?
A. Your countable income, for VA purposes, is how much you earn, including your Social Security benefits, investment and retirement payments, and any income your dependents receive. Some expenses, such as non-reimbursable medical expenses not covered by your insurance provider, may reduce your countable income. Caregiver expenses provided in your home or assisted living may also be considered an allowable deduction to reduce your countable income.
Q. What about net worth?
A. Net worth means the net value of the assets of the veteran and dependents. It includes such assets as bank accounts, CD’s, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and any real estate other than the personal residence and a reasonable lot area. The Net Worth limit to qualify for a Veterans Pension as of December 1, 2018 is $127,061 a year. The VA has recently changed the way Net Worth is determined. Each case is decided individually
Q. Are there any exclusions to income or deductions that may be made to reduce countable income?
A. Yes, there are exclusions. The following are examples of what may be excluded:
- Public assistance such as Supplemental Security Income is not considered income.
- Many other specific sources of income are not considered income; however, all income should be reported. The VA will exclude any income that the law allows.
- A portion of unreimbursed medical expenses paid by the claimant after the VA receives the claimant’s pension claim may be deducted. (These are expenses you have paid for medical services or products for which you will not be reimbursed by Medicare or private medical insurance.)
- Certain other expenses, such as a veteran’s education expenses, and in some cases, a portion of the educational expenses of a child over 18 are deductible.
- Final expenses of the veteran’s last illness and burial paid by the surviving spouse or eligible children.
- Neither the veteran nor the surviving spouse may receive both Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits at the same time.
What’s the 3 year look-back period for asset transfer?
A. If you transfer assets for less than fair market value during the 3 years before filing the claim, and those assets would have pushed your net worth above the limit for a VA pension, you may be subject to a penalty period of up to 5 years. You won’t be eligible for pension benefits during the penalty period.
This new policy took effect on October 18, 2018. Any claim filed after October 18, 2018 is subject to the new regulation.
Q. If the veteran is already receiving benefits for a service connected disability, can the veteran receive a non-service connected pension too?
A. You cannot receive service connected compensation and a non-service connected pension at the same time. However, if you apply for pension and are awarded the benefit, the DVA will pay whichever benefit is the greater amount.
Q. Who can be a caregiver?
A. If a claimant is rated by the VA as qualifying for Aid and Attendance, caregivers may be family members, other than a spouse, and do NOT have to be licensed. In order to have the family member/caregiver services count as an “Allowable Medical Expense”, the family member MUST be paid for their services. The DVA will require written documentation that services are performed and compensation made. This can be a copy of checks or receipts for caregiver services. Outside Care Agencies may also be used as caregiver.
Q. Will the cost of residency in an Assisted Living Community, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing or Group Home be counted as an “Allowable Medical Expense”?
A. Generally, the cost of living in these communities will be counted as an “Allowable Medical Expense” IF they are providing some level of medical service, such as medication supervision, help with bathing, grooming, toileting, ambulation, etc.
Q. Can I receive this benefit if I am living in my own home or a retirement community?
A. As long as there is substantiated need as determined by your physician Form 21-2680 and you are using the services of a Caregiver. The Retirement or Independent Living Facility must meet certain requirements.
Q. If Medicaid is paying for my care, can I still receive the VA benefit?
A. Yes, however, the benefit amount is $90.00 a month.
Q. How long does the process take?
A. Once the necessary documentation is compiled and submitted to the DVA, it generally takes 4-6 months to receive approval, sometimes longer. However, the claimant will receive the benefit retroactive to the first of the month following submission to the DVA. Benefits are received monthly by direct deposit just like Social Security. The VA has established the “Fully Developed Claims” program which can greatly shorten the processing time. “Fully Developed Claim” means everything the VA needs to process the claim comes to the VA at one time, in one claim. Read more about the VA’s Fully Developed Claim.
Q. Does the claimant have to reapply every year?
A. Only upon request from the VA. An Eligibility Verification Report may be mailed to the claimant. This is a recap of the information submitted for the year ended and is used to determine the benefit for the upcoming year. If the amount the claimant pays for medical expenses changes, or they are no longer paying for care, you must contact the DVA immediately. If you don’t report changes, the DVA may pay you too much and you would have to pay back the money.
Q. What do I need to do to apply?
A. On the Home Page of our website, www.vetangels.org, answer the Eligibility Questions and Submit. We will reach out to the “Contact Person” listed .
Q. How can I get a certified copy of the military separation papers or DD214?
A. Certified copies of a veteran’s military separation papers or DD214 may be requested online at www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/ or by completing Form 180 and mailing to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO.
Q. What is the Fiduciary Program?
A. The purpose of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Fiduciary Program is to protect Veterans and beneficiaries who are unable to manage their VA benefits through the appointment and oversight of a fiduciary.
If you have been determined unable to manage your VA benefits, the VA will conduct a field examination to appoint a fiduciary to assist you.
The VA Field Examination
A VA field examination will be scheduled for the purpose of appointing a fiduciary to assist you in managing your VA benefits. During the field examination, please have the following information available for review by the field examiner:
- Photo identification.
- The source and amount of all monthly bills, recurring expenses (annual, bi-annual, quarterly, etc.), and income.
- A list of all assets, to include bank accounts, owned property, stocks, bonds, life insurance, burial plans, etc.
- A list of all current medications.
- Name, phone number, and address of your primary care doctor.
- Name, phone number, and address of your next of kin.
During the selection process, the VA will first seek to qualify the individual you desire to serve as your fiduciary.
The fiduciary selection is based on an assessment of the qualifications of the proposed fiduciary. When seeking a fiduciary the following individuals may be considered:
- A spouse or family member
- Court-appointed fiduciaries
- Another interested party, or
- A professional fiduciary
What Are My Rights?
The determination that you are unable to manage your VA benefits does not affect your non-VA finances, or your right to vote or contract.
You have the right to appeal VA’s decision finding that you are unable to manage your VA benefits. You also have the right to appeal VA’s selection of the fiduciary. If you disagree with the VA on either of these matters you may:
- appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) by telling us you disagree with our decision and want the Board to review it, or
- give us evidence we do not already have that may lead us to change our decision.
For more information on filing an appeal, please see the sections titled, “What is an Appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals?” and “How Can I Appeal the Decision?”
You may also request to have your ability to manage your VA benefits be re-evaluated, or to have a new fiduciary appointed, at any time. If you wish a re-evaluation, please submit your request in writing with any supporting medical evidence to the Regional Office of jurisdiction.
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act prohibits you from purchasing, possessing, receiving or transporting a firearm or ammunition if you have “been adjudicated as a mental defective or been committed to a mental institution.” In compliance with this act, VA reports the names of incompetent beneficiaries to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), which then adds the names to a database called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Gun dealers must check NICS for the name of a potential buyer before selling him/her a firearm. You may be fined and/or imprisoned if you knowingly violate this law. You may apply to VA for relief of firearms prohibitions imposed by the law by submitting your request to the VA. The VA will determine whether such relief is warranted.