In addition to federal benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), disabled veterans who have served our country during wartime are also entitled to a pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Contrary to popular belief, a veteran does not have to have a service-connected disability in order to qualify for a VA pension. In fact, any veteran who is either permanently and totally disabled according to the VA, or is receiving Social Security disability benefits, or is residing in a nursing home, or is over 65 can qualify for a pension if she was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and served for at least one day during wartime. (Veterans who served prior to September 7, 1980, must also have 90 days of active military service; those who served after that date generally must have served 24 months or a full period of active duty service.)
On top of these threshold requirements, a veteran must have limited income and assets in order to qualify for a pension. The income requirement varies depending on the type of pension a veteran is applying for and the number of dependents he has, and ranges from $12,256 to $24,239 per year. Fortunately, a veteran can offset her income by deducting medical expenses incurred during the year once they have passed a certain limit. The asset requirement is not fixed, but planners generally suggest that a younger veteran not have more than $80,000 in his name prior to applying for a pension.
There are three types of pensions: a basic pension, Aid and Attendance, and Housebound. A veteran qualifies for a basic pension if she meets the requirements described above. If the veteran requires assistance from another person in order to perform activities of daily living, or is confined to a nursing home, or is bedridden or has severely impaired vision, he may qualify for Aid and Attendance, which provides a larger financial benefit. A veteran can receive a Housebound pension if she has a condition that is considered 100 percent disabling and is confined to her residence, or if she has a 100 percent disabling condition and a second condition that is at least 60 percent disabling.
VA pensions are not just for older veterans. The most recent period of wartime service began with the first Gulf War in 1990 and has not ended, meaning that a veteran who has served anytime during the last 22 years may qualify for benefits.
There is a lot of information about VA pensions out there, and, unfortunately, much of it is generated by annuity agents and other financial planners who may not be looking out for a veteran's best interests. Your special needs planner, on the other hand, is an unbiased advocate who can explain the pros and cons of a VA pension and walk you through the application process.
To read more about VA pensions on the Department of Veterans Affairs Web site, click here.Article Last Modified: 05/03/2012
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