VA pensions are monthly monetary benefits paid to U.S. military veterans who served during wartime. There are also VA pension benefits for surviving spouses.
What is a surviving spouse
A surviving spouse is someone who was married to the veteran for at least a year when the veteran passed, and never remarried.
There is one exception to this requirement: the spouse of a deceased veteran remarried and divorced the second spouse (or the second spouse passed away) between January 1st, 1971, and November 1st,1990 and never married again.
The VA will recognize a marriage if the marriage was recognized by law where at least one of the parties lived when they were married, or when the spouse became eligible for benefits. The VA also recognizes
- same-sex marriages,
- common law marriages if the state where the spouse resides also recognizes common law marriages.
Surviving Spouse Age Requirements
When a veteran applies for a pension, he or she must be 65 years of age or older. A surviving spouse can be any age.
A U.S. military veteran is someone who served on Active Duty in the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, or Coast Guard, and who was released from service under conditions other than dishonorable. There are also some special groups that have been approved for veteran status.
A surviving spouse can apply for a pension if the veteran entered active duty on or before September 7, 1980, and served at least 90 days of active duty, with one day during an eligible period of war, or
- Entered active duty after September 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months of the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty, or
- The veteran was an officer and started on active duty after October 16, 1981, and hadn’t previously served on active duty for at least 24 months.
For a spouse to qualify for a pension, the veteran must have served during one of the following wartime periods:
- World War II (December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946)
- Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955)
- Vietnam War era (November 1, 1955, through May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period and August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975 for Veterans who served outside of the Republic of Vietnam.)
- Gulf War (August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)
A veteran who leaves the military is given a document that states the conditions under which they left the service. To receive a VA pension, the veteran must have received an other than dishonorable discharge, such as an honorable discharge, general discharge and other than honorable discharge.
A person is given a dishonorable discharge when they have committed serious crimes such as murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, and desertion. This type of discharge prevents you from receiving a pension and can make you ineligible for many other benefits and services such as health care and disability compensation. If you believe the type of military discharge you received was unfair or unjust, you can request a discharge upgrade.
The VA has two types of pensions, a basic pension for low-income veterans and spouses and an enhanced pension (also called Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits) for veterans and spouses who need long-term care or are housebound due to a permanent disability. When a pension is approved, it is paid every month for the lifetime of the recipient. Pensions do not need to be paid back.
A basic pension is calculated based on the spouse’s current income and the VA’s MAPR – maximum amount of pension payable to a veteran or spouse. In 2022, The maximum MAPR for a low-income spouse without dependents is $824.67 per month.
Aid and Attendance is an enhanced pension for veterans and spouses who need help with daily living activities. It is a reimbursement for home or facility care (adult day care, board and care, assisted living and skilled nursing care).
To qualify for the benefit, the surviving spouse must need help with personal care such as bathing, dressing, mobility, toileting and eating.
Bathing help includes any assistance with bathing, such as adjusting the water temperature or shower head, or even reminders to bathe.
Dressing is help with buttoning, zippering, putting clothes on or taking them off and reminders to change clothes.
Eating is assistance feeding someone or reminding someone to eat or eat healthy. It does not include meal preparation.
Toileting is any help with going to the bathroom or incontinence.
Mobility is helping someone move from place to place, such as up and down stairs or in and out of a vehicle.
The VA does not consider housekeeping, running errands, medication management or driving someone personal care.
The maximum Aid and Attendance benefit amount for a surviving spouse is $1,318 per month, tax free. To get the benefit you must be spending most or all of your income on care.
The VA also has very specific income and asset requirements.
Here is what some people have had to say about getting the benefit:
…my mom “now has the additional funds to pay for her assisted living expenses.” VC
“…very helpful for my 94-year-old Mother. She was able to get hep with assisted living expenses, after spending most of her savings.” RN
“…This allowed her to move into an assisted living facility that she loves.’ JS
Getting a claim approved for Aid and Attendance can be difficult due to the complexity of the paperwork and various qualifications, especially when it comes to finances. There are dozens of application pages, statements, and forms that may be needed for a claim. To find out if you meet the criteria for the VA Aid and Attendance benefit and to learn more about the claim process, contact one of our consultants today at 877-427-8065 or click here.
Other types of VA benefits for surviving spouses include health care (CHAMPVA), education and training, home loan programs, financial counseling, life insurance and burial.