Veterans’ Pension Benefits For The Surviving Spouse

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Good news….Veterans! If you served during wartime, even if you were not injured while on active duty, and even if you did not serve overseas or participate in direct combat, you may be eligible to receive a special VA pension benefit.  If you 65 years old or older or are permanently and totally disabled you can claim between $600 to $1,949 per month, based upon your need.  This is also true of a surviving spouse of a wartime veteran, even if the veteran never claimed them.

This pension is usually called a “Death Pension,” or an “Aid and Attendance” pension.  Basically, it is a needs based monthly pension to help the surviving spouse of a veteran manage ongoing monthly expenses.  Paying these expenses with Veterans Administration benefits becomes critical especially if there is a need for long-term care assistance because the spouse can no longer care for himself or herself.

The veteran must have served 90 days of active duty, with at least one day of service, during wartime, which includes:

  • World War II:  December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946
  • Korean War:  June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam Conflict:  August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975
  • In-Country Vietnam:  February 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975 if served in the country of Vietnam
  • Persian Gulf War:  August 2, 1990 – Present

The surviving spouse must be able to demonstrate limited financial means in terms of income and assets.  The spouse’s income can be reduced for the purposes of eligibility by out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as in-home care, assisted living expenses, doctors’ fees, prescriptions and insurance premiums, and much more.  This is a key point in elder care planning issues.  As we learned yesterday, the former or surviving spouse can claim either their own social security benefit or half of that of their former spouse (all of it if he is deceased).  If the spouse is also a wartime veteran, there may be both the Aid and Attendance pension and the Social Security benefit that can benefit the spouse.  However, for Medicaid and pension purposes some of this can be calculated after out of pocket medical expenses, given the surviving spouse additional income that can be used for paying non-medical bills.

The surviving spouse will need to demonstrate the need for assistance in daily living activities – usually this is done with a physician or a long-term care facility’s certification.  Almost all debilitating diseases qualify a person directly including: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, arthritis, and dementia.

If you think you may qualify for this benefit, get advice immediately from an attorney who can guide you through the VA maze.  Remember that legally, no one can charge you a fee to assist you in filling out your benefits applications. We can help direct you to several local VA accredited attorneys that can help with claims filing and adjudication – our office’s estate planning, trust drafting and elder care practices work directly with VA accredited attorneys to help guide you through the process and ensure that you or your loved ones receive the greatest amount of benefits to which they are entitled.

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Article by The Law Offices of M. Jude Egan
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