Financial survival in today’s society is more challenging than ever. The struggles are even more pronounced for my clients who are veterans or spouses of veterans. My veteran clients and their families sacrificed at least part of their happiness to allow each of us to pursue our happiness.
There are many government programs that can benefit veterans. Unfortunately, prior mismanagement of some of those programs has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many veterans, leading them to simply disregard the possibility of help because of actual and perceived roadblocks in “the system.”
The most prevalent benefit that can significantly help veterans and their spouses is the program commonly known as the VA pension. The VA pension is literally a pension for many veterans who are disabled or at least 65 years old who served during certain wartimes.
There are four fundamental requirements for the VA pension. First, the veteran must have served at least one day during a period of certain wartimes, even if not in combat. The veteran’s service must have been for at least 90 days, and the veteran must have been discharged other than dishonorably.
Second, there must be some disability. Notably, the disability need not be the result of or be affiliated with the military service whatsoever. And, the law provides that simply being age 65 or older is considered a sufficient disability.
Third, there is an income requirement. The applicable income is measured as the entire income attributable to the veteran’s household, but a great deal of the income is not considered by the VA when analyzing the application. For example, Social Security or other governmental income is typically excluded from consideration, even though it must be reported to the VA as a part of the application. In my experience, a great number of our region’s veterans are sufficiently impoverished to satisfy the income requirement.
Finally, there is an asset test. The law sets forth no absolute net worth that would make a veteran ineligible for the VA pension. However, a general rule of thumb is that veterans with a net worth of less than $80,000 stand the best chance of being approved. In preparing to apply for VA pension, an applicant can gift assets prior to application. Unlike Medicaid, there is no “lookback” period for the disposition of assets. In other words, a veteran or surviving spouse of a veteran could give assets to a family member to decrease the applicant’s net worth and then apply for the VA pension the next day.
The application process is somewhat lengthy and includes several forms. However, each county has a Veterans’ Service Office to assist, and local attorneys and others can also help complete the forms. Upon approval, the VA pension provides a monthly amount payable to the veteran or the veteran’s surviving spouse. The amounts vary from as little as $100 per month to more than $2,000 per month, based upon the magnitude of each of the four requirements identified above.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.