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Non-Service Related VA Pension Benefits
UNCLE SAM LENDS A HAND Non-Service Related VA Pension Benefits Qualified veterans, their surviving spouses or dependent children may be eligible for monetary support from the Veterans Administration (VA) to assist with the high cost of health care. These VA payments may enable veterans to purchase necessary health care to remain at home longer. For institutionalized persons who are paying privately for health care, VA benefits can supplement the resident's income. For those receiving nursing home Medicaid, VA benefits can mean an additional $50 per month to spend on personal needs. To be eligible for non-service connected VA pensions, a veteran must have served 90 days or more of active service at least one day of which was during a period of war. He or she must be permanently and totally disabled and be experiencing “financial need” because of low income and limited assets. To qualify, the veteran cannot have had a dishonorable discharge or have caused his or her own disability by “willful misconduct.” There are three different pension programs, depending on the date, that the Veteran first applied for pension. The “improved” program, instituted in 1979, is the only program available to new applicants. Pension programs are disability based and needs based. “War Time” Service Requirements For a veteran or qualified family member to be eligible for pension, the veteran must have served during war time. Federal regulations define each period of war: WW I April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918 (April 1, 1920 for those who served in Russia) WW II December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946 Korea June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955 Vietnam August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975 Persian Gulf August 2, 1990 – a date to be determined by Presidential Proclamation or Law. Disability Requirements To qualify for pension, a veteran must be “permanently and totally disabled,” meaning “any impairment of the mind or body which is sufficient to render it impossible for the average person to follow a substantially gainful occupation.” The VA has a schedule of specific injuries that constitute permanent and total disability, but will consider other factors including a veteran's age. Veterans age 65 and older are presumed to be permanently and totally disabled for the purpose of determining eligibility for pension. Evidence of disability, such as a statement from a private physician should be included with the application. If this evidence is sufficient for rating purposes, further medical evaluation may be unnecessary. Severely disabled veterans may be entitled to special monthly pension (SMP). The SMP benefits can significantly increase the veteran's monthly pension for those who are “house bound” (e.g., unable to leave home without assistance, walk unaided, feed himself or herself and keep clean; or blind, bedridden or incontinent) or in need of “aide and attendance” (requiring another person in order to perform activities of daily living). In addition to monthly income, those eligible for SMP may also qualify to have prescriptions filled through the VA and receive VA hospital and outpatient care. Disabled veterans or their surviving spouses who are receiving Medicaid covered nursing home care, may receive a pension of $90 per month which may be kept for personal needs rather than the $40 monthly spending allowance otherwise permitted by Medicaid. Financial Need Requirement To qualify for pension, a veteran's countable annual income cannot exceed the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (see attached Exhibit A). Annual income includes income of the veteran and the veteran's spouse and dependent children from all sources not specifically excluded by VA rules. Unreimbursed medical expenses paid within the 12 month annualization period may be deducted from the annual income. Anticipated expenses (such as nursing home or recurring medical expenses) can be excluded prospectively to the year ahead. Lump sum benefits or payments such as inheritances are included in income calculations. The VA also considers net worth when determining entitlement to pension. The VA will deny or discontinue benefits if the assets of the veteran and his spouse are such that it is reasonable that some part be used for the veteran's maintenance. Filing a Claim for Benefits One can initiate a pension claim by notifying the VA in writing that the claimant seeks all benefits to which he or she may be entitled, specifically pension, and asking for an application form. The applicant must supply the Social Security Number of the veteran, mailing address, date of entry and separation from service, marriage certificate and/or birth certificate for claimed dependent, history of disabilities, employment history, net worth and income information. A formal or informal claim can be made. A VA Service representative at the regional office of the Veteran Administration requests and obtains the necessary information to evaluate claims as a first level or review. Contact our local Veterans Service Office at (330) 643-2833. Veteran benefits can greatly enhance the lives of qualified veterans and their families. Other public benefits may also be available to disabled individuals to help them meet their medical needs. For more information, please visit these websites: Veterans Benefit Administration at www.vba.va.gov U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at www.va.gov IMPROVED DISABILITY PENSION RATE TABLE Veteran Alone and With Dependents Date of Cost of Living Increase 12-01-2003 Increase Factor: 2.1 Standard Medicare Deduction: $66.60 Maximum Annual Pension Rates (MAPR) Category and Amount Without Spouse or Child $9,894.00 (To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed 5% of MAPR or $494.00) With One Dependent $12,959.00 (To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed 5% of MAPR or $647.00) Housebound without Dependents $12,092.00 Housebound with one Dependent $15,156.00 Aid & Attendance without Dependents $16,509.00 Aid & Attendance with one Dependent $19,570.00 Two Veterans Married to Each Other $12,959.00 Add for Early War Veteran to any category above $2,244.00 Add for Each Additional Child to any category above $1,688.00 Child Earned Income Exclusion (38CFR §3.272(j)(1)) Effective 01-01-2000 $7,200.00 Effective 01-01-2001 $7,450.00 Effective 01-01-2002 $7,700.00 Effective 01-02-2003 $7,800.00 Effective 01-01-2004 $7,950.00
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