By Marty Fogarty, Heartland Law Firm
If you’re not familiar with the VA Pension program, you’re not alone. Even most veterans don’t know it exists. But if you served in the Persian Gulf War, Vietnam War, Korean War or World War II—or if your spouse did—you may be eligible to collect up to $2,127 per month.
Called the “VA Improved Pension,” the program was created to help ailing, low-income veterans and their spouses, widows and widowers. It provides a tax-free monthly benefit to vets with smaller incomes and large medical expenses. And it’s not tied to service-related injuries.
Are You Eligible?
In order to qualify, veterans must have served at least one day during a war period, served at least 90 days of active duty, and received a better than dishonorable discharge.
Claimants must be over age 65 or permanently or totally disabled. They must need help with some of their daily living requirements, and their monthly medical expenses must exceed their monthly income. Surviving spouses of veterans who didn’t remarry are eligible, too.
The Department of Veterans Affairs encourages potential applicants to work with attorneys who assist families through the application process.
Understanding the Benefits
There are three levels of benefits. These depend on medical needs and the level of assistance needed. They are:
A Basic Improved Pension
- Pension with Housebound Benefit– provides an additional monetary benefit for shut-ins.
- Pension with Aid and Attendance Benefit – provides an additional monetary benefit for those who need help with everyday personal activities, are bedridden, or are receiving care in a nursing home.
For 2017, the monthly Basic Improved Pension benefit is $721 for a widow, $1,077 for a single veteran, and $1,408 for a veteran and spouse. The monthly Housebound benefit is $881 for a widow, $1,314 for a single veteran, and $1794 for a veteran and spouse. And the monthly Aid and Attendance benefit is $1,153 for a widow, $1,794 for a single veteran, and $2,127 for a veteran and spouse.
How to Apply
This is not a do-it-yourself / learn-on-the-job activity! Work with an Attorney who knows the process and can determine how the VA pension will affect a person’s Medicare/Medicaid benefits, income tax, etc., so that the Veteran and family get the certainty of an increased income with no bad surprises.
There is no fee for completing an application. Working with an attorney gives you an advisor who has a Fiduciary Duty to you. This is the highest level of care a professional can have toward their client. Higher than financial advisors and higher than CPA’s. A good attorney will show you their process up front and take you under their wing – setting your expectations at each step of the process.
Is It Worth Your While?
The VA Pension benefit has been around for 65 years, but few veterans—not to mention VA employees—know this valuable benefit exists.
Your cost to determine if you qualify takes a few minutes of your time. Just think: veterans receiving VA Pension benefits are collecting up to $25,524 this year alone!
Marty Fogarty is a holistic elder care attorney dedicated to helping seniors and their families prepare for life’s transitions. He is the founder of the Heartland Law Firm (www.HeartlandLawFirm.com) in Glenview, Illinois and also the founder of ElderSmart, a 501(c)(3) organization in Glenview, Illinois that provides elder care planning solutions, information and resources (www.Eldersmart.net).