Veterans Benefits: Financial Help for Veterans and Their Survivors
If you're caring for a veteran, it's good to know that numerous veterans benefits programs from the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) can provide financial support to a veteran, his or her spouse, and survivors. Even if he hasn't claimed veterans benefits before, his age, physical condition, or low income may now qualify him for financial help. By assisting him in the application process, you may be able to help improve his quality of life or benefit his survivors.
How to determine if a veteran qualifies for financial benefits
"Service-connected disabilities" can first show up when a veteran ages. Many of the financial veterans benefits available from the V.A. are payable only if a veteran has what's called a service-connected disability. "Disability" means a physical, mental, or emotional condition that limits or prevents a veteran from performing some normal, everyday activities; "service-connected" means that the condition was caused while the veteran was in the military. But the veteran need not have actually become disabled while in the military.
For many veterans, a condition that began decades before in the military only becomes disabling as they age. If so, a veteran may qualify for service-connected disability benefits whenever the condition actually becomes disabling.
Compensation may be approved even if a disability is small or only appeared recently. Someone who served in the military may have a disability that has recently begun to limit his ability to perform normal daily activities. If the problem was caused by something that happened when he was in the military, the condition is service-connected.
If so, he may be eligible for a monthly disability compensation payment. When he applies, the V.A. will give his disabling condition a rating, starting at 10 percent or higher and moving up in 10-percent increments:
- The lowest rating (10 percent disability) pays $117 per month.
- The highest rating (100 percent disabled) pays $2,527 a month.
- If the veteran is housebound or needs regular in-home care (called "aid and attendance"), the monthly amount can be higher.
- If an older veteran has a 30-percent rating or higher, his spouse is eligible for additional monthly benefits.
- Older, low-income wartime veterans may qualify for a V.A. pension. A veteran aged 65 or older may be eligible for a monthly V.A. pension if all of the following apply:
- He has a low income.
- He had 90 days or more of active military service.
- At least one day of his active service was during a "period of war" (World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War), though the veteran need not have been in combat.
The amount of the pension varies depending on need but can be as much as $930 per month for an individual or $1,220 per month for a couple. If the veteran is permanently housebound, his individual monthly benefits could be as high as $1,137 per month. If the veteran needs regular in-home assistance, he can get a pension of up to $1,555 per month (plus more for a spouse).
The V.A. may supply loans or grants to buy or refinance a home or to modify a home or car. The V.A. offers veterans benefits in the form of several types of loans and loan guarantees to help veterans buy or refinance a home or condominium. For some veterans with service-connected disabilities, the V.A. also gives Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grants to pay for modifications to a home to adapt it to help compensate for their disability. These grants may also be available to modify the home of a family member with whom the veteran lives. A similar grant is available for some veterans to modify a car.