The Veteran’s Administration offers three programs geared at helping wartime veterans with limited or no income. The VA Pension for Veterans helps those who are 65 or older, or under age 65 and totally and permanently disabled, or in a nursing home, or receiving Social Security Disability benefits. Veterans who are more seriously injured may also qualify for additional benefits under the Aid and Attendance or Household Benefits programs. In many cases, these benefits are also available to the widows or widowers of deceased veterans.
Am I Eligible?
While there are some exceptions, the VA Pension for Veteran’s considers the following criteria to determine eligibility:
- You were discharged from the service (veterans who were dishonorably discharged are not eligible);
- Your income (as determined by the VA) is below the maximum annual pension rate set by Congress;
- You are age 65 or older; or you are under age 65 and fully and permanently disabled; or you are in a nursing home; or you are receiving Social Security Disability benefits.
- Your disability may not have been the result of willful misconduct;
- If you entered active duty on September 7, 1980 or prior to that date, then you must have served at least 90 days, including 1 day during a war time period (as defined by Congress);
- If you entered active duty after 9/7/1980, you must have served the full term for which you were called or ordered. At least 1 day must have been during a war time period.
The applicant’s net worth must be disclosed and is also considered on a case by case basis. There is not a set value applied to the assets you may own and still be eligible for the Pension program; however you may be denied benefits if the VA believes your assets are “excessive.”
The Aid and Attendance and Household Benefit Programs
These two benefit programs are aimed at helping veterans who are more severely injured. You may apply for one of the two programs, depending on your specific situation. Income limits for these benefits are different from the limits set under the basic benefits. You must qualify first under the VA Pension for Veterans before you will be considered eligible for these enhanced benefits. These benefits are paid in addition to the VA Pension benefits.
- Aid and Attendance (A&A) benefits may be available if the Veteran requires the aid of another person to perform daily tasks such as dressing or adjusting prosthetic devices. This also covers veterans who are bedridden or a patient in a nursing home due to physical or mental disability. Veterans with specifically defined loss of sight or limited visual field in both eyes may also be eligible.
- Housebound benefits are generally available to those who are homebound due to a condition that is 100% disabling or veterans who suffer from more than one disability, the more serious of which must be 100% disabling.
How Do I Apply?
There are three options to apply for these benefits:
- You may apply online at http://vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/main.asp.
- You may download and complete VA Form 21-526 – Veteran’s Application for Compensation and/or Pension. The Form and supporting documentation may then be mailed to your regional VA office.
- You may have a representative from an accredited Veterans Service Organization for assistance in applying for benefits.
Brinkley Walser Stoner currently has two attorneys who have been certified to counsel and advise clients on Veteran’s Benefits planning issues. We are happy to discuss how we can help you through the application process. We also can assist with related issues, as appropriate, such as Social Security Disability, Estate Planning, Wills, Trusts, Guardianships, and more. Contact us today to discuss your situation.