Veterans Non-Service-Connected Pension Eligibility

A VA Pension — also known as a non-service-connected (NSC) pension — is a monthly payment given to some wartime veterans or their survivors. You may qualify if you meet all of these conditions:

It’s a good idea to speak with somebody knowledgeable about VA Pensions who can help you apply for benefits (also called “filing a claim”), especially if you aren’t sure you’ll qualify. After you apply, the VA will decide if you qualify and let you know. If you are denied benefits, you can appeal the VA’s decision.

How the VA Counts Your Income When You Apply

When you apply for a VA Pension, the VA looks at the income you and your dependents have to decide if it is low enough for you to qualify. The income they count includes earnings, disability and retirement payments, unemployment insurance benefits, interest and dividend payments, and net income from farming, business, and rental property. How much of the income they count depends on how you get it. Whether the VA decides your child’s income is available for your use depends on your situation.

The VA doesn’t count certain types of income. The things the VA doesn’t count are called exclusions and deductions. Here are some examples of things that the VA doesn’t count as income:

  • Benefits from public assistance programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • A portion of your unreimbursed medical expenses, which are medical services or products you had to pay for and for which you will not be reimbursed by Medicare or private medical insurance
  • Other expenses, such as education, or burial and other final expenses

The actual amount of income that the VA does count, after taking into account all exclusions and deductions, is known as countable family income.

VA Pension and work

VA Pensions are based on need. If you or your dependents work, your countable family income may go up, which may lower the amount of your pension.

If you are a veteran under age 65 who qualifies for a VA Pension based on total and permanent disability, you cannot make more than a certain amount of money (known as substantial gainful employment) and still qualify for a VA Pension.

However, you can have a job where you don’t earn much money and keep getting a VA Pension. The amount you earn at your job is deducted from your monthly pension benefits.

How the VA Counts Your Net Worth When You Apply

For the VA, your net worth is the net value of your assets and your dependents’ assets. Assets include things like bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, some annuities and trust funds, and any property that’s not your residence. There is no set limit on how much net worth you or your dependents can have, but your net worth cannot be what the VA considers excessive.

Whether your net worth is excessive depends on your individual case. The VA looks at all of your assets and might decide they are high enough for you to live off of them for a reasonable period of time, because an NSC pension is only meant for people who really need it.

The VA doesn’t count everything you own as assets. For example, the home you live in is not counted. The things the VA doesn’t count are called exclusions and deductions.

Reapplying

If you don’t initially qualify for VA Pension benefits, you may reapply if you have unreimbursed medical expenses during the 12-month period after the VA gets your initial claim. You can also reapply if your income changes for other reasons.

Non-Service-Connected Survivors (Death) Pension

Survivors pension, sometimes called a death pension, is a needs-based benefit paid to family members of deceased wartime veterans. It may be paid to a surviving spouse who has not remarried or to an unmarried child, who meets certain age or disability requirements.

You may qualify if all of these are true:

  • The deceased veteran was discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions
  • The deceased veteran served at least 90 days of active military service and at least one day was during a wartime period
    • If the deceased veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally they must have served at least 24 months, or the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty, and at least one day was during a wartime period (there are some exceptions to this rule)
  • You are the un-remarried surviving spouse (any age) or unmarried child (under 18 or, if in a VA-approved school, under 23)
  • If you are the child of the deceased veteran and over 18, you may still qualify if you are unable to support yourself because of a disability that happened before you turned 18
  • Your income for VA purposes is below the yearly MAPR limit set by law
  • Your net worth is not excessive.

Generally, the VA’s calculations of income, net worth, and benefits amounts for un-remarried surviving spouses or unmarried children are done the same way as they are for veterans who are getting a pension.