Veterans aid and assistance qualifications are divided into two main categories. Eligibility requirements for a living veteran who is applying for his or her pension are not exactly the same as eligibility requirements for surviving family members who are trying to apply for a survivors pension. However, the VA pension eligibility guidelines for both groups share some similar requirements. Both have veterans benefits minimum service requirements as well as veterans aid and assistance qualifications. Get more information about VA pension eligibility for veterans and survivors by reviewing the following sections:
- Veterans benefits minimum service requirements
- Veterans pension eligibility
- Survivors pension eligibility
- Aid and Attendance qualifications
Veterans Benefits Minimum Service Requirements
The veterans benefits minimum service requirements are straightforward, but they do have a few different dates for petitioners to keep in mind. The veterans benefits minimum service requirements simply state that the veteran must have been part of the armed forces for a long enough time to start collecting benefits. Veterans who entered active duty after September 7, 1980 must have served for at least 24 months or the full period for which they were ordered into active duty. In addition, at least one of those days must have been during a wartime period. The veterans benefits minimum service requirements for veterans who enrolled before that date just require 90 days of active duty service, with at least one day served during a wartime period. The wartime period dates are clearly defined, and most veterans should fit under one of the dates.
To determine eligibility for veterans pensions, veterans will look at the wartime period records for either World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam Era or the Gulf War. The most difficult one to determine is the Gulf War, since the end period is a date that has yet to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation. Veterans who served after the start of the Gulf War will need to speak with a superior officer. In most cases, a veteran will meet the VA pension eligibility requirements if he or she served in an active combat zone or served during a military conflict.
Veterans Pension Eligibility
Eligibility for veterans pension benefits is determined by several different criteria. First, the veteran must meet one of the following VA pension eligibility requirements:
- Be 65 years of age or older
- Have a permanent disability
- Be a patient in a nursing home or require full-time nursing care
- Receive Social Security Disability Insurance or receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
In addition to those basic VA pension eligibility requirements, the veteran must compare his or her yearly family income with a limit that is determined by Congress. If the veteran has a higher yearly family income than the limit set by Congress, he or she will be unable to get pension benefits. The VA pension eligibility limit can change from year to year, so it is something the veteran will have to check when he or she is getting ready to apply for a pension.
Survivors Pension Eligibility
The basic VA pension eligibility requirements are the same for survivor pension eligibility. Unlike eligibility for veterans pensions requirements, this pension applies to the veteran's surviving spouse, unmarried minor child or unmarried child who was put on permanent disability before he or she turned 18 years of age. A child who is younger than 23 years of age and attending any VA-approved school will also qualify. The survivor also has the same financial VA pension eligibility requirements as set by Congress.
Survivor VA pension eligibility requirements differ from veterans pension eligibility requirements when it comes to countable income, which must be lower than the maximum limit set by Congress. Basic financial information is considered, and this may include any earnings from working, profits from owning a business, Social Security or other retirement benefits, disability payments and any payments from interest and dividends. VA pension eligibility requirements do not count any funds that are paid to a surviving spouse or child from a federal, state or local assistance program such as SSI or food stamps.
Aid and Attendance Qualifications
Aid and Attendance qualifications pertain to another type of pension available to both veterans and survivors, known as the Aid and Attendance program. The basic VA pension eligibility requirements do not change for this program. The Aid and Attendance program provides an increase to the monthly pension if the veteran or survivor meets one of the following Aid and Attendance qualifications: requiring the aid of another person (such as a live-in caregiver or a family member), having a disability that keeps the candidate bedridden, being a patient in a nursing home or other live-in care center or having eyesight that is limited to 5/200 visual acuity or less. The Aid and Attendance qualifications also state that the veteran or survivor cannot also be receiving any other form of housebound benefits because of their disability or medical condition.