The VA Improved Pension was established to assist veterans, their spouses, widows and widowers. It was designed to assure a level of income above the minimum subsistence level, allowing veterans and their survivors to live out their lives in dignity and afford basic necessities.
How to Know Who Qualifies
The VA does not make it clear who qualifies for the Improved Pension. Applicants are told that it is based on income, but it is actually needs based. Once the applicant deducts their qualified nonreimbursed medical expenses and assisted living care from their income, many will qualify that might not have without those deductions. There is no time limit to apply for the pension, but determining if you meet the criteria to qualify can be a complex process.
The Basic Criteria for Qualifying are:
- Veteran must have served at least 1 day during a war period
- Veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty
- Veteran received a better than dishonorable discharge
- Claimant is over the age of 65 or permanently or totally disabled
- Claimant is a surviving spouse of a qualified veteran and did not remarry
- Claimant needs assistance with daily living requirements
- Claimant’s monthly medical expenses exceed their monthly income
Pension Amounts for Those Who Qualify
The VA pension can significantly improve the quality of life for veterans and their surviving spouses. The pension amount will depend on the medical needs and level of assistance needed, and is based on the Cost of Living Adjustment Index. Current maximum pension amounts are listed below:
Single Qualified Veteran:
Basic Improved Pension Up to $1,038 per month
Pension with Housebound Up to $1,269 per month
Pension with A&A Up to $1,732 per month
Qualified veteran with Spouse:
Basic Improved Pension Up to $1,360 per month
Pension with Housebound Up to $1,590 per month
Pension with A&A Up to $2,054 per month
Surviving Spouse (Death Pension)
Basic Improved Pension Up to $696 per month
Pension with Housebound Up to $851 per month
Pension with A&A Up to $1,113 per month
Why Haven’t I Heard of This Before?
A study commissioned by VA in 2001 estimated that, over the next 14 years, only about 30% of eligible veterans would apply for Pension. This is likely due to the fact that most veterans simply don't know about it. In fact, about a third of all seniors in this country, age 65 and older, could become eligible for pension under the right circumstances. That's how many elderly war veterans or their surviving spouses there are.
At Idaho Estate Planning we understand how to maximize the benefit or avoid a denial. We can also provide guidance for meeting the asset test. We provide the best strategies for reallocating assets through trusts or income conversions to allow for the best possible accommodation of assets for beneficiaries thus avoiding or reducing: taxes; family disputes; and, Medicaid penalties.
We are VA Accredited and we know how to help you get the benefits you earned through your greatly appreciated service to our country. To secure your peace of mind as well as your family's future, get started now. Remember, good planning is no accident.