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As our population ages, the need for home healthcare, assisted living, or nursing home care becomes more and more of a reality and accompanying this reality are some extremely high costs.

Included in our aging population are hundreds of thousands of our nation’s brave men and women who served our country in the armed forces as well as their spouses. Many of these men and women need some type of care, whether it is in the home or out of the home, and a major issue becomes funding. Often times these individuals receive less care than they really need purely as a result of the cost. What they don’t know is that there may be some relief.

The Veterans Administration administers the Improved Pension Benefit. If you are eligible, which many veterans and their surviving spouses are, you could receive up to $24,652.00 of tax free income per year if you are a veteran or up to $13,362.00 if you are a surviving spouse.


There are three main requirements a veteran must meet in order to receive this pension. They are (1) the service requirement, (2) the disability requirement, and (3) the income and asset requirement.

The service requirement is met if the veteran served at least 90 days on active duty, one day of which was during a time of war, and were not discharged dishonorably. A common misconception with this requirement is that it requires actual combat service. This is not the case. Whether you were fighting on the ground in Europe during World War II or serving state-side, if you served 90 days of active duty, you still meet this requirement.

The second requirement is that the veteran be either age 65 or older, permanently and totally disabled, a patient in a nursing home receiving skilled care, a Social Security Disability Income recipient, or a Social Security Income recipient.

Finally, the veteran must meet certain income and net worth requirements. When determining whether or not you meet the income requirements, veteran must look at his or her gross income, including their spouse’s income if they are married, and subtract from that all unreimbursed medical expenses. This is income for VA purposes and if you meet the asset requirements and your income for VA purposes is negative, you may qualify for the maximum amount of this basic pension.

Veteran’s Spouse  

In order for the surviving spouse to qualify for this pension, the deceased veteran must have met the service requirement above and the surviving spouse must meet the same net worth and income requirements.  There is, however, no age or disability requirement to qualify for the basic pension.  

Increased Pension:  Aid and Attendance or Housebound 

The discussion above focuses on the basic Improved Pension benefit.  If a veteran or a veteran’s surviving spouse meets the requirements for the basic pension and they can demonstrate that they need the aid and attendance of another person to protect them from the dangers of their daily environment or they can show that they are substantially confined to their residence because of a permanent disability, they will be eligible for the maximum amount of pension benefits available under the Improved Pension program.   

Final Thoughts 

The Income and Asset requirements are tricky requirements and this is where the help of a skilled advisor will come in handy.  At first glance, many veterans or surviving spouses may think they have too much money to qualify, but with a proper analysis of your income, medical expenses, and net worth, there are usually ways to plan your estate in such a way that you will qualify for this benefit.  This analysis is not something you want to undertake on your own.  It would be a good idea to hire an Elder Law Attorney who is accredited by the Veteran’s Administration.  

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