What is the difference between VA disability compensation and the VA Non-Service-Connected Pension?
VA disability compensation is a monthly payment for disabilities connected to your time in service. Financial need is irrelevant. The VA Pension, on the other hand, is a needs based benefit for wartime veterans and your “countable” family income must fall below the yearly limit set by law. Unlike compensation, all of the veteran’s disabilities are considered for Pension, even disabilities which do not relate to military service.
Generally to receive a VA Pension, the veteran must have at least 90 days of active duty, including one day during a period of war. If the active duty occurred after September 7, 1980, you must have served at least 24 months or the full period that you were ordered to active duty with at least one day during a period of war (with some exceptions). You must be discharged from service under conditions other than dishonorable. You must also:
- Have limited income and net worth, AND
- Be permanently and totally disabled.
How does the VA count income for purposes of calculating the Non-Service-Connected Pension?
The VA Pension is a needs based program. Even if a veteran meets all of the other above requirements, the claim for pension will be denied if the veteran’s countable income exceeds the limits set by Congress. Veterans whose income does not exceed the limit, will have their Pension amount reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount of their countable income. For example, the current annual income limit as set by Congress for a single veteran with no dependents is $12,868. If the veteran’s countable income is $3,000 per year, then he would be eligible for $9,868 in pension per year. The income limit is increased for veterans who are housebound or in need of aid and attendance.
Countable income consists of the annual income of the veteran, the veteran’s spouse, and the veteran’s children. Payments from any source will be counted as income, unless specifically excluded by law. The following are excluded from income for VA Pension purposes:
- Gifts from charitable organizations
- Public welfare payments
- Supplemental Social Security Income
- Proceeds from fire insurance policies or other casualty loss
- Profit from the sale of real or personal property other than in the course of business
- Unreimbursed medical expenses
Net worth is also taken into consideration when applying for a Pension. As a general rule of thumb, the VA will usually not deny a veteran’s claim for pension benefits if his overall net worth is less than $80,000.00. Net worth is the market value of the veteran’s personal property and real estate, not including the veteran’s primary residence. For more information on income limits and exceptions, please contact The Law Offices of Edward M. Farmer.
How does the VA determine that you are permanently and totally disabled?
Veterans claiming entitlement to pension benefits must be permanently and totally disabled from non-service-connected conditions or a combination of non-service-connected and service-connected conditions.
Also, for Pension purposes, a veteran will be considered to be permanently and totally disabled if the veteran is any of the following:
- Suffering permanently from any disability which makes it impossible to maintain employment
- Suffering permanently from a disability which qualifies for a 100 percent rating
- Age 65 or older with limited or no income
- A patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care
- Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance
- Receiving Supplemental Security Income