Understanding the Veterans Pension Benefit and the Aid and Attendance Allowance

For more detailed information about VA Pension click on the applicable subject below

  1. What is the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit?
  2. Who is Eligible for the Pension Benefit with Aid and Attendance?
  3. What are the Various Income Levels for Aid and Attendance Pension?
  4. How is Pension Income with Aid and Attendance Calculated?
  5. What are Pension Aid and Attendance and Housebound Ratings?
  6. How do Medical Expenses Fit in with Aid and Attendance Pension?
  7. How can Aid and Attendance Pension Pay Family Caregivers?
  8. How can Aid and Attendance Pension Pay Home Care Companies?
  9. How can Aid and Attendance Pension Pay for Independent Living?
  10. How can Aid and Attendance Pension Pay for Assisted Living?
  11. How can Aid and Attendance Pension Pay for Nursing Home Care?
  12. What other VA Benefits Come with Aid and Attendance Pension?
  13. How do Medicaid and Aid and Attendance Relate to Each Other?
  14. What is the Income Limit for Aid and Attendance Pension?
  15. What is the Asset / Net Worth Limit for Aid and Attendance Pension?
  16. What is the Penalty for Gifting Assets with Aid and Attendance?
  17. How can One Meet Net Worth for Aid and Attendance Pension?
  18. What is the Special Case of Recurring Long Term Care Medical Costs?
  19. What is the Application Process for Aid and Attendance Pension?
  20. How do you Apply for the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit?
  21. Where are Claims Forms for Veterans Aid and Attendance Found?
  22. When is Claims Help not Needed for the Aid and Attendance Benefit?
  23. When is Claims Help Needed for the Aid and Attendance Benefit?

Estimates are that about 20% of all people over 65 -- could qualify for Veterans Pension or Death Pension under the right conditions. That's how many war veterans or their surviving spouses or there are in this country. Unfortunately, few people know how to get this benefit and currently only about 480,000 individuals are actually receiving it. This represents only about 5% of all seniors over 65.

What is Pension and Aid & Attendance?

Disability Pension and Survivors (Death) Pension are Department of Veterans Affairs disability income programs available to veterans or to the single surviving spouses of deceased veterans. The veteran had to have served on active duty at least 90 days with one of those days during a period of war. Service in combat is not required, only that the veteran was in the service during wartime and was discharged honorably. Charts showing the available amount of income and the dates for wartime service are included below.

"Aid and attendance" and "housebound" are medical ratings. Being rated means VA recognizes that an individual needs the regular aid and attendance of another person or is considered housebound. When rated, VA will pay additional monetary allowances to those elgible for Pension or Survivors Pension.

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


There is a sister benefit to Pension called Disability Compensation. This is for veterans who are disabled because of injuries or illnesses incurred while on active duty. 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.

The Medical Needs Test and Medical Rating

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 Survivor 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 (they did not need to be living together) at the veteran's death and must be single at the time of application and any subsequent marriages had to have terminated prior to November 1, 1990.

VA will also provide additional income in the form of an allowance to the basic benefit if the veteran or the surviving spouse has a regular medical need for assistance or supervision due to disability. If the non-veteran spouse of a living veteran has a regular medical need for assistance or supervision, under certain conditions, a benefit (not an allowance) may be available for the veteran that otherwise would not have been available. Allowances are granted for the regular need for "aid and attendance" or if the beneficiary is "housebound."

A medical need for assistance or supervision due to disability is in most 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 (like assisted living or home care) and ancillary non-medical expenses to be annualized and subtracted from future annual income in order to meet the income test. With few exceptions, most veteran households could not get the Pension benefit without this special provision allowing the deduction of annualized medical and non-medical-related expenses. 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 usually the trigger that allows medical deductions to qualify a veteran household for Pension.

The Income Test

The household income of the veteran or the surviving spouse cannot exceed the Maximum Allowable Pension Rate (MAPR) for that category of application. As an example, using rates for 2019, a husband and spouse with no medical rating cannot have a combined income of more than $1,477 a month or $17,724 a year from all sources. As another example, a single surviving spouse with an "aid and attendance" medical rating cannot make more than $1,228 a month or $14,509 a year from all sources.

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 Asset Test

For the year 2019, the household net worth cannot exceed $129,094. This limit changes on December 1 of each year and increases to match the CPI inflation percentage increase for Social Security.

Net worth is the sum of household assets plus household income which has been reduced by out-of-pocket medical costs.

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

How is Pension Calculated?

Pension offers a number of different maximum benefit amounts based on whether the award is for a veteran with a spouse or dependent child, a single veteran or the single surviving spouse of a deceased veteran. For each of these three categories of benefits there are three levels of maximum annual income depending on whether there is no rating, there is a rating for "housebound" or there is a rating for "aid and attendance." There are also rates associated with additional dependent children. Typically, an older veteran household will only have dependent children if they have one or more totally dependent adult children living in the home. Or the older veteran may be married to a very young woman. If the household has such a situation, the additional dependent child rates are listed in Table 1 below.

Max Possible Benefit – ((Gross Income – Deductible Medical Expenses) + 5% deductible) = Actual Benefit

The calculation of each of these different categories of Pension income will allow for a benefit from zero dollars all the way up to the Maximum Allowable Pension Rate or MAPR for that category. Below are the most common categories along with the minimum and maximum monthly Pension income for that category. These rates cover the period from December 1, 2018 through November 30, 2019. Rates are generally adjusted each year for inflation.

Husband and spouse with no rating allowances -- $0 to $1,500 per month
Husband and spouse with housebound allowance -- $0 to $1,755 per month
Husband and spouse with aid and attendance allowance -- $0 to $2,266 per month
Single veteran with no rating allowances -- $0 to $1,146 per month
Single veteran with housebound allowance -- $0 to $1,400 per month
Single veteran with aid and attendance allowance -- $0 to $1,911 per month
Surviving single spouse of a veteran with no rating allowances -- $0 to $768 per month
Surviving single spouse of a veteran with housebound allowance -- $0 to $1,006 per month
Surviving single spouse of a veteran with aid and attendance allowance -- $0 to $1,228/m

 

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

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

For a Living Veteran

 

Yearly

Monthly

Without Spouse or Child

 

$13,752

$1,127

Medical Deduction

 

$687

$57

With One Dependent

 

$18,008

$1,500

Medical Deduction

 

$900

$75

Housebound Without Dependents

 

$16,805

$1,400

Housebound With One Dependent

 

$21,063

$1,755

Aid and Attendance Without Dependents

 

$22,939

$1,911

Aid and Attendance With One Dependent

 

$27,195

$2,266

Add for Each Additional Child

 

$2,351

$195

 

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

For a Surviving Spouse

 

Yearly

Monthly

Without Dependent Child

 

$9,224

$768

Medical Deduction

 

$461

$38

With One Dependent Child

 

$12,072

$1,006

Medical Deduction

 

$603

$50

Housebound Without Dependents

 

$11,273

$939

Housebound With One Dependent

 

$14,116

$1,176

Aid and Attendance Without Dependents

 

$14,742

$1,228

Aid and Attendance With One Dependent

 

$17,586

$1,465

Add for Each Additional Child

 

$2,351

 

MAPR FOR CHILD ALONE

 

$2,351