Sandra Day O'Connor Memorial

Money and Debt

VA Pensions

The Veterans Administration offers a VA pension for war veterans. The VA pension is only available to wartime veterans who have financial need because of low incomes. They may also have a disability that is not service-related.

Who is entitled to a VA pension?

If the person is a veteran or the survivor of a veteran who served in wartime during certain conflicts and have financial need, they may be entitled to a tax-free VA pension. To qualify, the following two things must be true:

  1. They did not receive a dishonorable discharge, and
  2. Their annual family income and net worth are not over the limits set by Congress.

In addition to the two basic requirements, at least one of the following must be true:

  • The veteran started active-duty service before September 8, 1980, and they served at least 90 days on active duty with at least one day during wartime, or
  • They started on active duty as an enlisted person after September 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months or for the full time period you were required to serve, with at least one day during wartime, or
  • They were an officer who started active duty after October 16, 1981, and they had not previously served on active duty for at least 24 months.

Beyond those two lists, there is yet a third list of requirements:

  • They must be at least 65 years old, or
  • Have a permanent and total disability, or
  • Are a long-term nursing home patient because of a disability, or
  • Are getting Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income.

What are the eligible wartime periods?

The eligible wartime periods are:

  • World War II (December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946)
  • Korean conflict (June 27. 1950 to January 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam War era (February 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975) for those who served within the Republic of Vietnam in that time. August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975, for veterans who served in that time period outside of the Republic of Vietnam.
  • Gulf War (August 2, 1990 through a future date that has not been determined.)

How are VA pension rates calculated?

The VA looks at how much both the veteran and their spouse earn. Income amounts include Social Security Benefits, investment income, and any pensions or retirement income. Some expenses (non-reimbursable medical expenses) can reduce an income. The maximum allowable income depends on whether they are married and the earnings of their spouse, as well as the number of dependents they have. The VA also considers their net worth.

If the VA finds them to be qualified, it will calculate an MAPR amount (maximum amount of pension payable.) If they are married to another qualified veteran, or if the disabilities qualify them for Housebound or attendance benefits, or if they have other dependents, the MAPR will increase. Check here for current MAPR amounts.

The VA uses a three year look back period to make sure veterans are not transferring income and assets to family members, hoping to decrease their income and net worth in order to claim a VA pension. That means the VA looks at all monetary transfers in the 3 years prior to the application.

Additional Resources

Who is a Veteran?

Dividing Military Pensions in Divorce

Types of Military Discharge and What they Mean for Veterans

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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