A low-income veteran may be eligible for a pension from the V.A. if the veteran meets all four of the following conditions:
Discharged under conditions other than dishonorable
Served at least 90 days of active military service, at least one day of which was during a period of war; those who entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally must have served at least 24 months, or the full period for which the veteran was called to active duty
Has "countable" family income below a yearly limit set by law
Is 65 or older, or permanently and totally disabled (the disability need not be connected to the veteran's military service)
To qualify for a pension, a veteran must have low income. In deciding eligibility, the V.A. looks at what it calls "countable income." First, the V.A. totals up any income received by the veteran and his or her dependents, including earnings, disability and retirement payments, interest and dividends, and net income from other work or business interests. Then the V.A. reduces that amount by subtracting public assistance benefits such as Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, or county general assistance. The remainder is considered countable income.
Also, if a veteran has unreimbursed medical expenses after applying for a pension, the V.A. may subtract those amounts from countable income for eligibility purposes. (Unreimbursed expenses are amounts paid for medical care for which the veteran is not reimbursed by Medicare or other any other medical insurance.)
No excessive assets
There is no set limit on the assets -- bank accounts, stocks, bonds, other investments, and property other than the veteran's residence -- a veteran may have and still qualify for a pension. Instead, the rule is that the veteran's net worth cannot be "excessive." Whether a veteran's net worth is excessive is judged individually, but it basically means an amount sufficient for the veteran to live off for a substantial period of time. The value of a home the veteran lives in is not considered in this assessment of the veteran's assets.
The amount of a veteran's pension is calculated by deducting countable income from the basic annual pension limit, which varies depending on the number of dependents. To see examples of how a pension amount is calculated, go to the V.A. website's Veterans Pension Calculation page.
Additional Aid & Attendance or Housebound benefits may be available to those veterans who qualify for a pension and who are no longer able to care for themselves, or who are housebound due to a disability.
Low-income pension and service-connected disability pension
A veteran cannot receive both a low-income pension and service-connected disability compensation. For veterans who are eligible for both of these pensions, the V.A. will pay the higher amount.
Applying for low-income veteran's pension
There are several ways to get information about, and to apply for, a veteran's pension. A veteran can apply online through the V.A.'s website. Or a veteran can contact a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) from a recognized veterans service organization. To locate a VSO, call (800) 827-1000. Information is also available on the V.A. website page Veterans Pension Program.