Thursday, October 15, 2009

VA Pension Benefits - The Other Free Money

When someone tells me that they are offering me free money, I usually ask them what Nigerian bank are they the manager of. The truth is that there is some tax free money out there offered by the Veteran's Administration for those that qualify.

I hear all the time from entitled veterans that they are not receiving any benefits from the VA because they don't believe they are entitled.

To qualify for a VA Pension the applicant must:

(1) Have served in the active military for at least 90 days, one day of which must have been during a wartime*. It is not necessary that the applicant have been in a war zone. A widow of a veteran may be an applicant so long as (s)he is the surviving spouse of someone that met the service requirement above.

(2) Have received a discharge other than dishonorable.

(3) Have limited income and assets available**.

(4) Have a permanent and total disability (not caused by willful misconduct) at the time of application*** or be over the age of 65.

(5) Have submitted a signed application to the Veteran's Administration.

* A wartime is:

        World War I
        World War II -    Dec. 7, 1941 - Dec. 31, 1946
        Korean War -     June 27, 1950 - Jan. 31, 1955
        Vietnam War -    Aug. 5, 1964 - May 7, 1975 OR
                                  Feb. 28, 1961 - May 7, 1975 (if in Vietnam)
        Gulf War -          August 2, 1990 - Present

** The VA Pension Programs provide an amount of money to bring an applicant up to the VA maximum (discussed below). An applicant may decrease their countable income by showing that they have unreimbursed medical expenses (such as care/facility costs, medications, etc.)

** The VA Pension Programs require that and applicant not have excess resources. Currently the number to determine excess resources is $80,000, however the VA currently does not apply a penalty to transfers of assets to third parties.

*** In determining whether an applicant has a total and permanent disability, the VA considers whether the applicant is blind, living in a nursing home, if the claimant is unable to dress/undress, keep themselves clean and presentable, attend to the wants of nature, or if the applicant has a physical or mental incapacity that requires assistance on a regular basis to protect the applicant from daily environmental hazards.  If the applicant needs assistance with any portion of any of the above, they likely meet this requirement.

NOTE: A DISABILITY RATING IS NOT REQUIRED FROM PEOPLE AGED 65 OR OLDER.  People 65 or older a presumed to be disabled, however the VA does require a physician's statement regarding the applicant's condition.

The specific program that the Veteran or Widow might qualify is dependant up on the disability, needs, and abilities of the applicant.  Typically, application is made for Aid & Attendance Benefits.

Improved Pension Benefit:

        Veteran with no dependants:       $985/mo
        Veteran with one dependant:       $1,291/mo
        Widow(er) with no dependants:   $661/mo

Housebound Pension Benefit:

        Veteran with no dependants:        $1,204/mo
        Veteran with one dependant:        $1,510/mo
        Widow(er) with no dependants:    $808/mo

Aid & Attendance Pension Benefit:

        Veteran with no dependants:         $1,644/mo
        Veteran with one dependant:         $1,949/mo
        Widow(er) with no dependants:     $1,056/mo


38 USCS Section 1521
38 USCS Section 1522
38 USCS Section 1502

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