While the Veteran's Administration (VA) offers numerous veterans benefits programs, there is one little known program that can greatly improve the lives of elderly veterans and their surviving spouses in need of medical assistance and care that do not require the veteran to have a service-related disability. Our dedicated staff and network of professionals provide counseling to veterans on their rights to these and other public benefits.
VA Pension Program
Perhaps the most underutilized veteran's program is the VA's Pension Program. Unfortunately, you will see no billboards or hear any radio advertisements informing veterans or their spouses that they may be entitled to receive this important benefit. The Pension Program benefits can be used by a veteran and/or their surviving spouse to help finance the costs incurred for in-home medical care, assisted living facility costs, and nursing home costs.
The eligibility requirements for the Pension Program are dramatically different than other VA programs. As a result, many veterans believe that they are not eligible for the Pension Program or simply do not fully understand the eligibility requirements.
The Pension Program has three tiers of veterans benefits, including the "Basic Pension" benefit, the "Housebound" benefit, and the "Aid and Attendance" benefit. Each tier has its own eligibility requirements and benefits limits.
All three benefits require the veteran to have served at least 90 days, with the service period occurring during one or more of the following wartimes:
- World War II: December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946
- Korean War: June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955
- Vietnam War: August 5, 1964 — May 7, 1975; however, February 28, 1961 —May 7, 1975, for a veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period
- Gulf War: August 2, 1990 through a future date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation
If the veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally the veteran must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty (there are exceptions to this rule).
The veteran does not need to have a service-related disability, does not need to have retired from the military, and does not have to have been in combat.
The Basic Pension benefit requires the veteran to be 65 or older OR the veteran is permanently and totally disabled, not due to his/her own willful misconduct.
The Housebound benefit requires the veteran:
- To have a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND, due to such disability, he/she is permanently and substantially confined to his/her immediate premises, OR,
- To have a single permanent disability evaluated as 100-percent disabling AND, another disability, or disabilities, evaluated as 60 percent or more disabling.
The Aid and Attendance benefit requires the veteran:
- To need 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 himself/herself from the hazards of his/her daily environment, OR,
- To be bedridden, in that his/her disability or disabilities requires that he/she remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment, OR,
- To be a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity, OR,
- To be 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.
All three benefits require the veteran and/or veteran's spouse to have "countable income" less than the allowable pension amount (according to the applicable tier) to be eligible for all or a portion of the pension. "Countable Income" is the amount of income a veteran and/or their spouse receives each year, after deducting all un-reimbursed, recurring health care expenses. This includes assisted living costs, home health care, insurance and Medicare premiums, on-going pharmacy costs and more. If you have a dependent, their health care costs can also be used to reduce your countable income (however, the spousal income then must also be added into the equation).
The VA does not provide a set figure for determining whether a veteran and/or veteran's spouse meet the VA's "net worth" test. However, the net worth test boils down to a determination by the VA that your net worth is such that it will probably not support you through the remainder of your life. The VA does not include primary residence or vehicles when determining net worth.
The Basic Pension benefit provides the lowest monthly benefit, while the Aid and Attendance pension benefit offers the highest monthly benefit. An eligible unmarried veteran can receive up to $1,788 per month, while an eligible married veteran can receive up to $2,120 per month. The surviving spouse of an eligible veteran can receive a “Death Pension” payment of up to $1,149 per month.
Contact Our Southeast Michigan VA Benefits Professionals to Discuss Your Eligibility to Receive More Benefits – Sooner
The dedicated staff of Estate Planning & Elder Law Services provides counseling concerning the VA Pension Program, including counseling on opportunities to qualify sooner and how to receive larger veterans benefits. If you have been denied Pension Program or other VA benefits, our network of professionals can assist you with your appeal rights.
Contact us for a complimentary consultation by completing our online information form or calling (888) PLAN-050. With offices in Northville and Brighton, we work with veterans and their families throughout Southeast Michigan, including Livingston, Washtenaw, Oakland and Wayne Counties.