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VA Pension informaton

This amazing VA benefit is used by only about 7% of eligible veterans. This is due to 2 problems. First, many veterans do not know that this benefit is available to them. Second, many veterans have contacted the VA or a VA representative (like the DAV, VFW, etc.) and were told they do not qualify. This is not surprising. The VA will tell you if you qualify, but they will not tell you HOW to qualify.

VA Pension has 3 requirements before you can begin receiving the Pension, but it is possible for most anyone to become qualified with the right assistance if the military service record qualifications are met. In other words, if you served during a wartime period and have the correct type of discharge, we can help you accomplish the rest. That’s what we are here for. We have several videos and Webinars designed specifically for helping you understand and navigate this process.

What is the Benefit?

The “Wartime” Improved Pension is quite an old, yet little known program. In 1789, Congress passed the first legislation to pay benefits to former military service members. In 1818, it was “improved” to include survivors (i.e. widows and orphans), and today it is referred to as the Improved Pension. However, most individuals refer to the benefit as Wartime Pension and the add-on component as Aid and Attendance.

The benefit has three levels of payments that are paid directly to the veteran or the veteran’s surviving spouse, for life once eligibility is granted: Base Pension, Housebound status, and Aid and Attendance. Base Pension is available to anyone age 65 or older, or those who are under age 65 but are fully disabled. Housebound status is an additional amount available to those receiving Base Pension when they are unable due to their health conditions to leave their home on their own. Aid and Attendance is the final tier added to Base Pension when a veteran’s healthcare needs require assistance with at least 2 ADL’s (activities of daily living).

VA's ADL's

(Activities of Daily Living)
  • Eating
  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Toileting
  • Transferring
  • Needs supervision due to physical or cognitive decline

The money comes directly to your personal checking account and may be spent on any needs you have. This can be a life-saving benefit giving you the means to afford in-home care, to supplement income so that you can afford assisted living, or to ensure that you are able to care for your spouse if you were to pass away before he or she does.

How Much is the Benefit?

The benefit can be up to $2,266.25 monthly for a married veteran (or $27,195.00 per year). And, for a surviving spouse the benefit can be up to $1,465.00 monthly (or $17,586.00). Amounts vary based upon healthcare needs, but they can increase over time as your needs increase. Click here for a breakdown of veterans’ rates and surviving spousal rates.

DOWNLOAD:  VA Pension Benefits rates 2020

How Do I Qualify?

There are 3 basic requirements to receiving VA Pension. And, No, Pension is not the same as retirement pay. You may receive Pension in addition to retirement pay, but you may not receive Pension in conjunction with disability compensation. However, in many cases, Pension is a better and higher paying option than disability compensation. The three basic requirements are:

  • Your Military Service Record
  • Your Income and Healthcare Expenses
  • Your Asset Allocation

Military Service Record Requirements

There are 3 requirements for the Military Service Record eligibility.

  1. First, you must have served at least 90 days on active duty (or if serving after Sept. 7th, 1980, you must have served 24 months on active duty, or your full enlistment period if less than 24 months).
  2. Second, at least one day of that active duty service must have been in a Wartime Period (see chart to the right).
  3. Third, you must have received a discharge from active duty that is Honorable, or any type of discharge that is other than Dishonorable (which we would have to work with you and the VA to get amended or upgraded to Honorable).

The wartime periods are only the time period in which you servedThey do not require that you were in theater, in the combat zone, or even in that country. You could have served anywhere in the world including the continental United States, and you still qualify if you were serving during that wartime period.

  • Did you serve in one of the wartime periods for at least 1 day?
  • Did you have 90 days active duty (beyond training)?
  • Did you receive an Honorable discharge?

If so, then you qualify for the Wartime pension. The remaining part of the process is for your financial status to align with the VA requirements.

Pension Rate Chart

by Wartime Periods


Dec 7, 1941—Dec 31, 1946


Jun 27, 1950—Jan 31, 1955


Feb 28, 1961—May 7, 1975


Aug 5, 1964—May 7, 1975


Aug 2, 1990—Present

Now the Financials: The Tricky Part!

The VA uses a system of deducting medical expenses from your actual income and then that number is compared to an annual maximum to determine 1) if you qualify, and 2) how much you qualify for. In either case, almost no one would qualify without some help in some financial planning. Why? Because the rule is that you do not get the full amount unless you spend more than you earn on medical care.

The formula for calculating financial eligibility is:

INCOME (full household gross income)
 – UME’s (Unreimbursed Medical Expenses)
= IVAP (Income for VA Purposes)

The IVAP reduces the maximum benefit, dollar for dollar. Therefore, the only way to get the maximum benefit is to have more Unreimbursed Medical Expenses (UME’s) than income. There are tools that allow us to assist you in accomplishing this calculation, but as you can see it is complicated. It does happen for a few without assistance, but the rule assumes you understand the details and can plan out details that are quite technical. It is much more than a simple subtraction problem. This is why the VA rep told you, “You make too much to qualify.” They did the simple math, and you had too much income or too many assets. But you should not stop there. If you rearrange your financial situation, you can qualify. You simply need help to understand and implement your legal options.

We provide a service for assessing your financial situation and make a strategic plan with all of the recommendations required for you to qualify for the benefits you need for your long-term care.

Some Additional Rules

There are some overall net worth rules that have changed in recent years. The rules that impact most people are the Residential Real Estate Rule, and the Net Worth Limit. Both of these can be worked with. Often, if your situation is running afoul in these two areas, this is the reason that the VA rep told you that you do not qualify. All that means is that you need help in order to gain eligibility.

The VA Net Worth limit is currently $129,094 (2020). If you own assets totally more than $129,094, once again, you do not qualify. But there is help. With our assistance in planning, we can get you to the point where you will qualify. Net Worth can be reallocated in order to exclude and protect assets and access the VA benefits. Each situation is different. And we exercise great care in determining the best way to accomplish this for you, but there are solutions to your problems with the VA.

The home, when used as a residence, is excluded up to $595,000 in value in equity so long as the land size in 2 acres or less. This is a change introduced in Oct. 2018. It can be tricky getting the assessed value of the land beyond the 2 acres. Once that excess value is determined it does count toward net worth. And there may be other options as to how to get this value excluded.

These 2 areas of the Net Worth limit and exclusion of the residence limited only to 2 acres are the most common areas of concern.  Along with the changes in VA rules in 2018 there were a few new features to VA planning that you may need help with.

VA also implemented a Look-Back Period much like Medicaid, a Penalty Calculation, and Means of Providing Penalty Cures. We can guide you through all of these on your way to getting this Wartime Pension Benefit. Call us to schedule a consultation, or begin an asset evaluation, or go to our EVENTS Page to register for our next VA Pension Benefits Webinar.

One More Thing: thank you for your life of distinction and service. Service to Country and to the rest of you fellow citizens is a very Honorable action! You have my respect and appreciation for putting our nation and our lives ahead of your own when you swore your oath! From one Veteran to another, Thank You!