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Veterans Law

VA Non-Service-Connected Pension

October 31, 2020

What is VA Non-Service-Connected Pension?

VA Pension, or Veterans Non-Service-Connected Disability Pension, is a needs-based program for wartime veterans who are ages 65 or older or have a permanent and total non-service-connected disability, and who have limited income and net worth.  VA Pension is distributed as a tax-free benefit.

Eligibility Requirements for VA Pension

Veterans may be eligible for non-service-connected disability pension if they meet the following criteria:

  • You were discharged from service under other than honorable conditions; and
  • You served 90 days of active duty with at least one day during wartime; and
  • Your countable income is below the maximum annual pension rate (MAPR); and
  • You meet net worth limitations; and
  • You meet one of the following criteria: (1) you are 65 or older; (2) you have a permanent and total non-service-connected condition; (3) you are a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity; or (4) you are receiving Social Security disability benefits.

Importantly, veterans who entered active duty after September 7, 1980 must serve at least 24 months of active-duty service to qualify.  If the length of service is less than 24 months, the veteran must have completed their entire tour of active duty.

Wartime Periods

According to VA, eligible wartime periods for pension purposes include the following:

  • Mexican Border Period (May 6, 1916 – April 5, 1917)
  • World War I (April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918)
  • World War II (December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946)
  • Korean conflict (June 17, 1950 – January 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam era (February 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975 for veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period, otherwise August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975)
  • Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – through a date to be set by law or Presidential proclamation, currently 2021)

Payment Rates for VA Pension

Monthly payment amounts for VA pension will be based on the difference between the veteran’s countable income and the MAPR, a limit on pension rates set by Congress.

Countable Income

A veteran’s countable income is how much they earn, including their Social Security disability benefits, investment and retirement payments, and any income their dependents receive.  Some expenses, such as non-reimbursable medical expenses (i.e., medical expenses not covered by the veteran’s insurance provider), may reduce the veteran’s countable income if such expenses make up more than 5 percent of their income.

MAPR Amount

A veteran’s MAPR amount is the maximum amount of pension payable.  The MAPR amount is based on the number of dependents (e.g., spouse, children) the veteran has, if they are married to another veteran who qualifies for VA pension, and if their disabilities qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance (A&A) benefits.  MAPRs are adjusted each year for cost-of-living increases.  Veterans can find their current MAPR amount using VA’s Pension Rate Table.

VA’s Pension Rate Table

As of 2020, veterans may receive the following MAPR amounts depending on their number of dependents and their level of disability:

If you have no dependents and…MAPR amount
You don’t qualify for Housebound or A&A benefits$13,752
You qualify for Housebound benefits$16,805
You qualify for A&A benefits$22,939

 

If you have one dependent and…MAPR amount
You don’t qualify for Housebound or A&A benefits$18,008
You qualify for Housebound benefits$21,063
You qualify for A&A benefits$27,195

 

Importantly, if veterans have more than one dependent, they should add $2,351 to their MAPR amount for each additional dependent.

If you’re 2 veterans who are married to each other and…MAPR amount
Neither of you qualifies for Housebound or A&A benefits$18,008
One of you qualifies for Housebound benefits$21,063
Both of you qualify for Housebound benefits$24,114
One of you qualifies for A&A benefits$27,195
One of you qualifies for Housebound benefits and one of you qualifies for A&A benefits$30,241
Both of you qualify for A&A benefits$36,387

Example of Determining MAPR Amount

VA provides the following example to demonstrate how VA pension is calculated based on MAPR and countable income:

  • You are a qualified veteran with a dependent, non-veteran spouse, and no children.
  • You also qualify for A&A benefits based on your conditions.
  • You and your spouse have a combined yearly income of $10,000.
  • MAPR amount = $27,195 (see table above)
  • Yearly income = $10,000
  • VA pension = $17,195 for the year (or $1,432 paid each month)

What is the Net Worth Limit to Qualify for VA Pension?

VA has recently changed the way it assesses net worth to make the pension entitlement rules more understandable and comprehensive.  Net worth is the total of a veteran’s or a veteran’s beneficiary’s assets and annual income.  Net worth also includes the net worth of the veteran’s spouse.  Veterans should report all of their net worth when applying for VA pension.

As of December 1, 2019, the net worth limit to qualify for VA pension is $129,094.  Importantly, the net worth limit increases each year depending on the cost-of-living-adjustment.

How to Apply for VA Pension

Veterans can apply for VA pension using VA Form 21P-527EZ, Application for Pension.  They will need to provide information about their military history, financial information, financial information of their dependents, work history, direct deposit information (optional), and medical information.  Once the application is filled out, veterans can send it to the Pension Management Center (PMC) for their state.  To find the PMC contact information for each state, click here.