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What is the Veterans Aid & Attendance Pension Benefit?

Pension is a monthly, tax-free monetary payment to veterans who served during a period of war. It is also available for their single surviving spouses and/or dependent children. Pension is means tested with an income and an asset test.

Generally, cash income payments from Pension in 2020 range from $768 a month to $2,266 a month depending on the type of claim and the medical rating involved. Many people don't even know of the existence of this benefit. VA does not advertise any of its benefits very well and as such many eligible people never apply.

It is unfortunate Pension has been misnamed "aid and attendance." "Aid and attendance" and "housebound" are medical ratings and allow for additional monetary allowances provided with Pension if the recipient of Pension needs the regular aid and attendance of another person or is considered housebound.

The misnomer creates confusion because aid and attendance allowances are also available for service-connected disabilities – Disability Compensation – and to a spouse of a service connected disabled veteran. Also, an aid and attendance allowance is available to a surviving spouse of a veteran if the surviving spouse is receiving DIC (Dependency and Indemnity Compensation). There are about 16 different monetary levels of aid and attendance or housebound allowances available with non-service-connected and service-connected disability programs for veterans or their surviving spouses.

There is a sister benefit to Pension called Compensation. This is for veterans who are disabled because of injuries or illnesses incurred while on active duty. Compensation is generally the more desirable benefit for a number of reasons we will not go into in this section. A veteran household cannot receive Pension and Compensation at the same time. A decision must be made as to which benefit is better and the veteran must choose only that benefit.

Eligibility Requirements for Pension

Eligibility requirements for Veterans Pension (for a living veteran) require previous active duty service for at least 90 days, with at least one of those days during a period of war AND an honorable discharge or a discharge classified as other than dishonorable. Service in combat is not required. For veterans of the Gulf War, the service requirement is 24 months or completion of the requirement for active duty service, whichever comes first. Eligibility for Survivors Pension for surviving spouses or dependent children of a deceased veteran requires the same wartime service for the deceased veteran.

Period of War

Beginning and Ending Dates

World War II

December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946

Korean Conflict

June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955

Vietnam Era

August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975; for veterans who served "in country" before August 5, 1964, February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975

Gulf War

August 2, 1990 through a date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation

If the veteran is younger than age 65, he or she must be totally disabled to receive Pension. Medical evidence must be submitted for these types of applications. At age 65 and older there is no requirement for disability. For a single surviving spouse applying for a Survivors Pension benefit, the deceased veteran did not have to meet any disability or age requirements nor does the surviving spouse need to meet any disability requirements, regardless of his or her age.

The surviving spouse had to have been married to the veteran at the veteran's death and must be single at the time of application and cannot have remarried after November 1, 1990. Under certain circumstances the veteran and spouse could have been legally separated even though still married.

A medical need for assistance or supervision due to disability is in many cases crucial to getting the Pension benefit or not getting it. A medical rating or a medical need for this disability care allows certain medical expenses and ancillary non-medical expenses to be annualized and subtracted from future annual income in order to meet the income test.

Many veteran households could not get the Pension benefit without this special provision allowing the deduction of annualized medical and non-medical-related expenses.

Ratings for "Aid and Attendance" or "Housebound."

Either of these medical ratings results in additional allowances on top of the basic benefit. For Pension, a medical rating with the accompanying additional allowance is not available if Pension is granted due to the medical costs generated by the non-veteran spouse of a living veteran. If the non-veteran spouse of a living veteran has a regular medical need for assistance or supervision, then under certain conditions, a basic benefit for couples may be available through the veteran even though the veteran may be healthy.

The high cost of medical and non-medical expenses associated with long term care such as home care, assisted living or nursing home care are often the trigger that allows medical deductions to qualify a veteran household for Pension. That is why only 4.7% of all eligible individuals are actually receiving Pension. Most potential applicants don't know about this special provision allowing them to meet the income test or they are currently not in need of long-term medical care.

The Income Limit for Pension

The household income of the veteran or the surviving spouse cannot exceed the Maximum Allowable Pension Rate (MAPR) for that category of application. We list 9 of the most common categories of pension income amounts in the section on how pension income is calculated.

The household income can be reduced to meet the income test under certain special conditions. Households earning $2,000 to $6,000 a month or more might still qualify even though their income does not meet the income test.

The Net Worth Limit for Pension

The net worth limit for Veterans Pension or Survivor Pension entitlement is $129,094 for effective dates of payment starting December 1, 2019 through November 30, 2020. This limit is increased by the same percentage as the COLA in Social Security benefits each year on December 1 of that year and will parallel Medicaid's Community Spousal Resource Allowance (CSRA). The divisor for calculating the penalty period to be used for 2020 is $2,266 a month. We will discuss the penalty for gifting assets in another section on the website.

Definition of Net Worth

Effective October 18, 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), changed the net worth criteria for Pension claims. Net Worth on or after October 18, 2018 is the sum of a claimant's:

  • assets
  • income for VA purposes (IVAP), including the income of a spouse and dependent children under certain circumstances

We discuss IVAP in another section on the website. Go to the table of contents on this page. Please note when IVAP is a negative number, it is to be considered zero dollars. As a result, assets cannot be further reduced by negative income. Net worth can only be reduced to the extent that there is no income to add to the assets and thus if IVAP is zero, the net worth is the value of the assets alone. Also, the IVAP calculation is based on an initial application for Pension. This means that only reasonably predictable medical expenses can be subtracted from household gross income such as recurring insurance premiums, the recurring cost of paying caregivers or care services and possibility the recurring cost of renting medical devices.

Income for net worth purposes includes the income of the claimant and spouse or the income of a single surviving spouse.

A personal residence, a reasonable amount of land on which it sits – up to 2 acres –, personal property and automobiles for personal use are exempted from the asset test.

Please refer to the table of contents in the top right column of this page for more topics on Pension with Aid and Attendance.


Pension -- Maximum Annual Pension Rates (MAPR) 2019-20

These amounts increased by 1.6% on 12 / 01 / 2019

For a Living Veteran




Without Spouse or Child




Medical Deduction




With One Dependent




Medical Deduction




Housebound Without Dependents




Housebound With One Dependent




Aid and Attendance Without Dependents




Aid and Attendance With One Dependent




Add for Each Additional Child





Survivors Pension -- Maximum Annual Pension Rates (MAPR) 2019-20

For a Surviving Spouse




Without Dependent Child




Medical Deduction




With One Dependent Child




Medical Deduction




Housebound Without Dependents




Housebound With One Dependent




Aid and Attendance Without Dependents




Aid and Attendance With One Dependent




Add for Each Additional Child