Veterans!
Apply for VA Pension
and Increase Your Income


VA Pension is an often overlooked benefit. Many veterans could qualify for this benefit without being disabled.

Check out this benefit if you are a war veteran, at least 65 years old and have limited income. There is no need to be disabled to qualify.

I just went through the process of helping my dad apply for this pension. I'll share with you here what I learned during the process.


Eligibility

The requirements for this basic VA pension are fairly simple. First, and foremost, is the requirement that the veteran served on active duty during a period of war and was eventually discharged honorably, and is 65 years old or older. If the veteran is younger than 65, he/she needs to be totally disabled from a non-military situation. (Note: If disability occurred as a result of military service, the veteran is covered under the 'compensation' benefit.)

There is also an income and asset test for qualification, and in some cases a medical needs test is required.

Income Test

If the veteran's annual net income, including their spouse's income, is less than the maximum basic pension, the veteran qualifies for a pension. The amount of the pension would be the additional amount needed to bring their total annual income up to the maximum pension amount.

If their annual net income is more than the maximum basic VA pension, and they have long term care costs, such as, nursing home or assisted living, these medical expenses are generally able to lower the veteran's net income to make them qualify for the pension.

Income can be reduced by unreimbursed, regularly incurred, medical expenses. For example, the medical insurance premium for Medicare Part B that gets deducted from the monthly Social Security check fits that category. Only recurring medical expenses can be deducted from income.

It is possible to calculate a negative income when recurring medical expenses exceed the income. However, there is a maximum pension that is paid, so income can only be reduced to zero. In my dad's situation, there were enough medical expenses for this calculation to make his net income negative. The VA only used the largest recurring expense to show his income was totally zeroed out and said the rest of the expenses were overkill and not needed for eligibility.

Asset Test

The asset test is a subjective decision by the VA service representative. However, it generally is a maximum limit of $80,000 of assets. That number excludes the veteran's home on a reasonable sized lot, personal belongings, and one personal use automobile.

Amounts

The VA pension amounts fit into nine different categories. First, it is distinguished between the veteran and spouse, or the single veteran, or the surviving single spouse. Within each of these three categories there are three sub-categories. First, there is the basic pension, then the housebound allowance, and finally, the aid and attendance benefit.

The aid and attendance benefit is really a completely separate subject from this discussion. However, the aid and attendance pension benefit is an additional benefit available when the veteran needs assistance with dressing and undressing, eating, bathing, and toileting, or, if the veteran is bedridden or needs assistance to protect themselves in their daily living environment due to physical or mental illness, such as, memory loss.

Resources

There is a form to assist you in determining possible eligibility that can be found at "vetassist.org" - click on the eligibility button. Complete the questionaire to determine if it looks possible you might qualify.

The only way to get the real answer is to complete the application form VA 21-526 from the Department of Veteran's Affairs and submit it in person, or through the mail, for review. Often, if you call, you might be incorrectly told there is no benefit available to you.

If you feel you would qualify for the special aid and attendance benefit, I would suggest you get the book "How to Apply for Veteran's Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit." This book is available on "veteransaidbenefit.org". This book helps you through the process of completing the application and providing the needed documentation to support your claim. The book includes all the forms you will need. It is not a difficult process, but it is time-consuming.

This book will help you avoid lengthy delays and possible denials of the claim if all the necessary substantiation documents are not provided with the initial application.

A Final Tip

One tip I would have for you is to be sure you keep all the medical bills you have and all the Explanation of Benefits for prescription drug details, etc. You will find you could need them to apply for this VA pension.


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