An observation we find ourselves making all too often at Geyer Law is that Veteran’s Benefits are among the most misunderstood and underutilized resources. Our firm’s focus is with the Veteran’s Benefits Administration, one of three areas within the Department of Veterans Affairs

Within that administration, there are two types of benefits:

  • disability/compensation benefits for medical conditions related to the veteran’s service in the military
  • pension benefits for disabilities unrelated to the veteran’s service in the military. These benefits are in the form of cash paid monthly to the veteran or surviving spouse, and the money can be used for any purpose.

There are two basic eligibility requirements that apply to both types of benefits, as explained in the Indiana State Bar Associations’s Laws of Aging:

  • Active duty – the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active service with at least one day of service during a wartime period.
  • Honorable discharge

(For the pension benefits only, the claimant must have limited income and assets available.)

There are two levels of pension benefits available, depending on the claimant’s level of disability: Service Pension and Special Monthly Pension. Both are available to both the veteran and his or her surviving spouse and dependents. There is also a Death Pension.

Basic Service Pension: 

  • Individual must have a total and permanent disability, not caused by willful misconduct.
  • Individual is 65 years old or has been determined to be disabled by the Social Security Administration

Special Monthly Pension: 

  • Housebound Allowance– claimant must meet the Basic Service Pension criteria and be unable to leave the house for employment purposes without assistance.
  • Aid & Attendance Allowance – the claimant must meet the Basic Service Pension criteria, plus require assistance to perform at least two activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, feeding, toileting, taking medication, etc. Or, the claimant must require residence in a protective environment (such as assisted living facility due to the risk of falling).

Similar to Medicaid planning, there are tools available to help individuals protect assets and qualify for these needs-based benefits. As experienced elder law attorneys with the proper VA benefits training, we are able to create comprehensive, individualized plans designed to maximize eligibility for VA benefits.