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Understanding the Veterans Pension Benefit

The National Care Planning Council estimates that less than 5% of eligible veterans and their surviving spouses are currently receiving the Veterans Pension or Death Pension benefit.   This means that there are over 11 million seniors who may qualify, but have not yet accessed these programs. 

The Pension and Death Pension are disability income programs designed to help veterans or spouses of deceased veterans with the rising cost of health care services.  In order to qualify the veteran had to serve on active duty during a period of war.  They must have been enlisted for at least 90 days, with one or more days served during a period of war.  Combat service is not required, but the veteran did have to be enlisted during wartime and have an honorable discharge.  If the veteran meets this criteria, they must undergo an income and asset test, and possibly a medical needs test to determine eligibility.  A veteran who is younger than 65 must submit medical evidence showing they are totally disabled.  For veterans or surviving spouses over the age of 65 there is no specific requirement for disability. 

There are several factors taken into consideration for the income and asset test.  At present there are nine different maximum benefit amounts that are calculated based on marital status, income, assets, and health care expenditures.  Qualifying veterans or spouses are provided with a monthly benefit that ranges from $211 to over $1,842. 

There is a related benefit, Compensation, for veterans who were disabled because of injuries incurred while on active duty.  A veteran cannot receive both Compensation and Pension at the same time, and in those cases a decision will be made as to which program would be most beneficial for the veteran to receive. 

It is not only important that veterans and their spouses realize that this benefit exists, but also that they receive the help needed with filing their claim.  If claims are incomplete or do not include the necessary documentation needed this could cause claims to be denied or the application process to be seriously delayed.