Most veterans know about service-connected disability benefits available through the VA – benefits payable to veterans with a condition or injury caused by, a result of, or aggravated by their time in service. But many are unaware of benefits that are available for disabling conditions that are not necessarily related to their military service. These non service-connected pension benefits, sometimes called the VA pension or veterans pension program, provide a vital source of support for veterans.
If you’re a veteran suffering from a disability or other condition that isn’t tied to military service, you may be eligible for this pension. Let an experienced disability benefits attorney help. At Disability Law Group, we work closely with veterans to get them the compensation they need. We’re ready to get started on your case today.
What Are The Eligibility Requirements For The VA Pension?
Monthly payments are available to wartime veterans who meet certain age, disability, income, and net worth criteria. To qualify for this program, the veteran must not have received a dishonorable discharge. In addition, the veteran must:
- Not exceed family income and net worth limits set by law
- Have served during an eligible wartime period
- Be at least 65 years old or have a permanent and total disability
We will examine each of these in turn below.
Income And Net Worth Limits
The veterans pension program is only available to those with limited (or no) income and assets. The first thing the VA will look at is your countable income. A veteran’s countable income includes, but is not limited to, these common benefits and resources:
- How much income the veteran earns
- How much income the veteran’s dependents (e.g. spouse and children) earn
- Social Security benefits
- Investment income
- Retirement benefits
The VA may exclude some income from this calculation. For instance, payments for non-reimbursable medical expenses could reduce your total countable income.
The next thing the VA will examine is your Maximum Allowable Pension Rate, or MAPR, which is the most amount of pension that can be paid to the veteran. The MAPR is set by Congress and is adjusted each year based on cost-of-living increases. It takes into account:
- How many dependents you have
- Whether you’re married to a veteran who qualifies for the pension
- Whether you’re eligible for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits
The difference between your countable income and MAPR will determine the amount of your pension. That means if your countable income exceeds the MAPR, you won’t qualify.
Finally, you cannot exceed the net worth limits set by Congress. Your net worth includes all personal property you and your spouse own, less any debt you owe.
Eligible Wartime Period
This term can be misleading. A veteran need not have been sent to war or seen active combat. Rather, he or she needs to only prove that the service took place during a period of war. The VA has a list of qualifying war periods, with beginning and end dates:
- Mexican Border period: May 9, 1916, to April 5, 1917
- World War I: April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918
- World War II: December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946
- Korean conflict: June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955
- Vietnam War era: February 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975 (for Veterans who served in Vietnam) and August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975 (for Veterans who served outside of Vietnam)
- Gulf War: August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set
You must also have served for a minimum amount of time to qualify, and these time requirements can be complicated. For example, if you started on active duty before September 8, 1980, you must have completed at least 90 days of active duty with at least 1 day during a wartime period. If you entered active duty after September 7, 1980, you must also have served at least 24 months. However, if the total length of service is under 24 months, the veteran needs to have completed his or her entire tour of active duty.
Age 65 Or Permanent And Total Disability
If the veteran is age 65 or older, and meets the other requirements, he or she doesn’t have to prove they have a permanent and total disability. But those under age 65 will need to meet this criteria. The VA will consider whether the injury or illness is so severe that the veteran is unable to work. That means determining whether the disability or other condition is likely to improve with treatment. Another thing the VA will look at is the permanency of the veteran’s condition, especially if he or she is younger.
Keep in mind – the veteran’s disability, injury, or illness does not need to be related to military service to qualify for these non-service connected pension benefits. Any disabling condition(s) the veteran has will be considered when evaluating eligibility, not just those incurred from active duty or resulting from service.
Can I Receive Service-Connected Compensation At The Same Time?
Depending on the circumstances, a veteran can qualify for both service-connected benefits and the non service-connected pension. But, the VA will pay whichever results in a higher amount of compensation as you cannot collect both of these at the same time even if you are eligible.
How Do I Apply?
Veterans can apply for these VA benefits by filing a VA form with the Pension Management Center that has jurisdiction over their case. They can also apply online. To report income and prove financial need, the veteran must submit an Eligibility Verification Report or EVR. It’s best to have an attorney review your eligibility requirements and make sure your application is complete and accurate.
How Can Disability Law Group Help Me with Non Service-Connected Pension Benefits?
We help veterans understand the various financial support programs that match their particular circumstances and needs to help ensure that they are receiving every benefit due. That’s because our goal is to help you get the maximum benefits available under law. Not only can we help guide you with the application process, but we can also appeal VA decisions that wrongfully denied your compensation. With Disability Law Group, you have a trusted ally that will walk with you each step of the way. Give us a call today to schedule your consultation.