Navigating the VA claims and benefits processes can be daunting - but have no fear, Still Serving Veterans is here. Our dedicated counselors have worked for the VA in the past and are well versed in everything VA. One topic that comes up often is Non-Service Connected Pension and Survivor's Pension with Aid & Attendance. What is it? Who qualifies? How do I apply?
Laura, one of our Benefits Specialists and a Vietnam Era Air Force Veteran, wanted to help inform everyone on these benefits and has compiled an extensive informational article on all the important things to know when applying for a VA Non-Service Connected Pension or Survivor's Pension with Aid & Attendance complete with links to additional information and to forms you will need.
And remember, we want you to be educated but you don't have to go it alone. Call us at (256) 883-7035 or contact us here and we would be more than happy to assist you in filing.
Explanation of VA Pension Claims
Non-Service Connected Pension, (NSCP), for Veterans, and Survivor’s Pension, aka “Death Pension”, (DP), for their widows is a “NEEDS” based benefit not to be confused with a Service Connected Disability claim, (SCD), which is based on an injury or disease that “was incurred on, or caused by active military service”.
The Aid and Attendance allowance is granted when VA Form 21-2680 is filled out by a doctor who verifies the Veteran or widow needs the help of another person to perform their daily activities. Examples: cooking, taking medications, dressing, walking, etc.
To be eligible for Non-Service Connected Pension or Death Pension, Veterans or their widows must meet certain income and net worth limits, are disabled, and the Veteran served on active duty during a “declared” wartime period.
Note on Aid & Attendance
VA form 21-2680: Block 27 on 21-2680 asks: “DOES THE CLAIMANT HAVE THE ABILITY TO MANAGE HIS/HER OWN FINANCIAL AFFAIRS? (If "No," provide explanation)”
If the answer is “No” the VA will send back a “Proposal” to rate the Veteran or surviving spouse incompetent. This proposal is usually included in the VA letter awarding the pension, and because the Veteran/widow is unable to handle their finances the VA will start the process of appointing a fiduciary/conservator or give the Veteran/widow the opportunity to prove his/her competency.
The VA does not recognize outside Power of Attorneys (POA) and although POAs do help with the appointment of the fiduciary, the VA’s process must be accomplished. Until a fiduciary is appointed, the VA will withhold the retroactive payment, which covers the months that the VA Pension Center took to process and award the claim, but the monthly benefit will begin.
Income Limits for 2015
Monthly income limits for a single Veteran with no dependents, who also qualifies for the extra allowance of Aid and Attendance is $1,789 a month. Without the Aid and Attendance additional allowance, the monthly income limit is $1,072.
Monthly income limits for married Veterans with Aid and Attendance is $2,120. Without Aid and Attendance, the monthly income limit is $1,072.
Monthly income limits for a surviving spouse (must NOT be remarried) to receive Death Pension is $1,150 with Aid and Attendance, no dependents. Without Aid and Attendance the monthly income limit for a widow is $719—very low.
NOTE: Monthly Income are “Gross” amounts.
Medicare deductions need to be added to Net amount of Social Security deposited in bank account to get Gross amount, but will be deducted again under Medical Expenses section of the VA Pension application.
Asset & Net Worth Limits for 2015
The value of the Veteran’s or widow’s private residence, and vehicles are exempt. The amounts (if Veteran is married) for joint checking, savings, CDs, mutual funds, IRAs etc. and any other business or private property that the Veteran/widow own (minus any liens) is considered in the $80,000 limit for Net Worth/Assets.
Q: What if the Veteran’s or widow’s income is over the VA limit?
The only way to reduce a veteran’s/widow’s income is to deduct certain medical expenses.
Initially, VA Only Considers Permanent & Recurring Medical Expenses
On Initial application the VA will only consider Medical Expenses that are permanent and recurring. The VA is calculating and forecasting the Veteran’s/widow’s pension payments for the next year, so expenses like pharmacy prescriptions and doctor co-pays, that fluctuate, cannot be considered.
Examples of Permanent and recurring medical expenses:
- Medicare deductions or any type of medical insurance premiums.
- Sitters or in home healthcare agencies. If the sitter is a family member there must be proof of payments (cancelled check) on a monthly basis. (A spouse cannot be a sitter)
- Assisted Living and Nursing Homes expenses
If the Veteran or widow is not receiving the maximum amount of pension, (which are the same as the monthly limits for each category), they may submit a Medical Expense Report to claim other out of pocket medical expenses for the past year, including doctor and prescription co-pays, over the counter medications, medical supplies etc. and may receive a percentage of those costs reimbursed by the VA every year.
Other Information to Consider
A Non-service connected pension can be extremely helpful for Veterans or their widows when dealing with out of pocket expenses related to health problems, but it is a maintenance type of benefit. The VA Pension Center must be notified immediately if there are any changes in either income or medical expenses. Sometimes these changes increase the amount of pension, (if not already at maximum rate), but if expenses decrease, (e.g. Veteran leaves assisted living facility), it may create a DEBT to the VA. SSV can help you apply for a waiver of debt if this happens.
Please let us know if you have other questions or would like to make an appointment with us to start the process. Again, you can call us at (256) 883-7035 or contact us here to get started.