What you should know about applying for Department of Veterans Affairs pension benefits

Eligibility Team
Researcher & Writer
December 15, 2017

The basics

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) oversees a pension program that provides a monthly benefit payment to qualifying wartime veterans who demonstrate financial need, and their survivors. 

This pension is a needs-based benefit for wartime veterans with limited or no income who are at least 65 years old or veterans who have a permanent and total non-service connected disability.

In addition, veterans who qualify for a basic pension but who are also housebound, or who require the aid and attendance of another person to perform daily living activities may also qualify for a pension at an increased rate.  This is known as a Special Monthly Pension.

VA pension eligibility requirements

A veteran may be eligible for a pension if he or she meets the following requirements:

  • Discharged for service under other than dishonorable conditions.
  • Served 90 days or more of active military, naval or air service with at least one day dur a period of war. NOTE: Veterans who entered active duty after September 7, 1980, must also have served at least 24 months of active duty service. If the total length of service is less than 24 months, the Veteran must have completed his/her entire tour of active duty.
  • The veteran’s countable income is below the maximum annual pension rate and he or she meets net worth limitations.
  • Is age 65 or older, or is shown to have a permanent and total non-service connected disability, or is a patient in a nursing home, or is receiving Social Security disability benefits.

Qualifying for Aid and Attendance and Housebound pensions

Special Monthly Pensions, known as Aid and Attendance and Housebound pensions, are an increased amount over and above the basic pension a veteran can receive.  

You may be eligible for the increased Aid and Attendance amount if you meet the following requirements:

  • You are eligible for the basic pension benefits, and you meet one or more of the following conditions:
  • You require the assistance of another person to perform daily living activities such as feeding, bathing, dressing, using toilet facilities, adjusting prosthetic devices and protecting yourself from the hazards of your daily environment. 
  • You need assistance because you are bedridden because your disabilities require that you remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment
  • You are a patient in a nursing home due to a mental or physical incapacity
  • You have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.

The Housebound pension is an increased monthly pension amount paid to a Veteran or surviving spouse who is substantially confined to his or her home because of permanent disability. You may be eligible for this pension if:

  • You are eligible for the basic pension benefits, and you meet one or more of the following conditions:
  • You have a single permanent disability evaluated as 100% disabling, and due to a disability or disabilities, you are permanently or substantially confined to your immediate household premises.
  • You have a single permanent disability evaluated as 100% disabling, and due to a disability or disabilities, independently evaluated as 60% or more disabling.

How to file for a VA pension

You will need to gather several pieces of information and complete the appropriate forms depending on the type of pension for which you want to apply.

The VA will require the following:

  • Proof of income and net worth information.  This will include bank statements, paystubs and other related personal financial documents.
  • Private medical treatment records and where to find treatment records that might be held at a federal facility, such as a VA medical center.
  • A completed pension program application:

Approvals of pension applications will vary in the length of time to reach a decision based on the complexity of the application and the evidence presented to the VA.

You may be able to speed the process by seeking assistance from a reputable and qualified source.  A person must first be accredited by the VA to assist a claimant in filing their application.  Typically the VA accredits three types of individuals for this purpose:

  • Representatives of VA-recognized Veterans service organizations o Independent claims agents
  • Private Attorneys
  • A searchable list of accredited representatives, agents, and attorneys is available at the VA Office of the General Counsel website.

An accredited attorney or claims agent may generally charge claimants a fee only after an agency of original jurisdiction (e.g., a VA regional office) has issued a decision on a claim, a notice of disagreement has been filed, and the attorney or agent has filed a power of attorney and a fee agreement with VA. An exception applies when an accredited attorney or claims agent receives a fee or salary from a disinterested third partyA third party is considered disinterested only if the entity or individual would not benefit financially from the successful outcome of the claim.

For more information

For More Information on VA pensions, call the VA at 800-827-1000, or visit the VA website.

Eligibility Team
Written by
Eligibility Team
We are a team of experts dedicated to finding the right government programs for you. Our mission is simple: help people quickly and easily understand which programs they might be eligible for—all in one place. Our team is dedicated to researching and providing you with the most relevant information. We compile only the most trusted information from government sources into one place so you can find the facts you need and skip what you don’t.
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