Ask SO: What is a VA pension?

Q: What is a VA Pension?

A: Pension is a VA benefit based on financial need and the veteran’s qualifying service. Pension is a benefit paid to wartime veterans with limited income, who are permanently and totally disabled or age 65 or older. There is also a VA Death Pension for surviving spouses of wartime veterans.

Who is eligible?

  • A veteran who was discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions, and
  • A veteran who served 90 days or more of active duty with at least one day during a period of wartime, and
  • A veteran whose countable family income is below a yearly limit set by law, and (for live pension only)
  • A veteran who is permanently and totally disabled or who is age 65 or older.

Note: Anyone who enlisted after September 7, 1980, generally must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty. Service from August 2, 1990, to present is considered to be a period of war (Gulf War).

Each year Congress sets the income limits for VA Pension programs. These income limits are at three levels: Regular, Housebound and Aid & Attendance. The level of pension is determined by medical evidence from a doctor or medical provider.

In order for VA to pay pension, the household income must fall below the limit for the needed level. Pension income limits are very low and net worth is an issue. Net worth in excess of $80,000 may disqualify a veteran or surviving spouse, but let VA make that decision.

Medical expenses that exceed 5 percent of the income limit can be counted toward reducing income below the limit set by Congress. Medical expenses are what has been actually paid "out of pocket" for medical insurance premiums, doctor visit co-pays, prescription drug coverage and the like, not the amount billed or what is still owed.

VA may take a year or more to decide a case. When they pay, they will pay back to the date of claim. Please do not wait to begin your claim with VA until you have all your questions answered. Talk with an accredited service officer right away. Visit to find an American Legion accredited service officer in your area.

Do you have a question about the claims process or veterans benefits in general for Department of Missouri Service Officer Tracy Davis? Send it to

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