How Veterans Can Establish Service Connection for the VA Disability Condition Claims

When applying for service-connected compensation, you must provide a nexus between your military service and your current, diagnosed condition. There are several ways to establish service connection for your condition. In some cases, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) presumes service connection for veterans who develop specific medical conditions during active duty service.

TYPES OF SERVICE CONNECTION

Service connection can be established in one of the following ways:

  • Direct service connection
  • Presumptive service connection
  • Aggravation
  • Secondary service connection
  • 1151 service connection

DIRECT SERVICE CONNECTION

Direct service connection involves a connection between a veteran’s military service and a veteran’s current, diagnosed condition.

To establish direct service connection, we can draw upon medical records, military service history, physicians’ statements, and opinions from experts.

PRESUMPTIVE SERVICE CONNECTION

The VA presumes certain conditions to be service-connected if a veteran meets certain criteria.

Presumptive service connection includes exposure to herbicide agents. This presumption applies to veterans who were exposed to herbicides during their time in service, such as those stationed in Vietnam, and have a certain medical condition as a result.

A veterans disability lawyer from Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD will review your service and medical records to determine if you are entitled to presumptive service connection.

AGGRAVATION

You can also establish service connection if your military service aggravated a preexisting condition.

For example, you may have injured your knee prior to service, but certain training exercises worsened the condition. You may be entitled to service connection based on aggravation if you can prove that your military service caused your knee condition to get worse. Additionally, if you have a service-connected back condition that aggravates a non-service-connected neck condition, you may be able to get service connection for your neck based on aggravation.

SECONDARY SERVICE CONNECTION

Secondary service connection can be established when a veteran’s condition is the result of another service-connected condition.

For example, a veteran might develop peripheral neuropathy as a result of their service-connected Type II diabetes. Then, peripheral neuropathy would warrant secondary service connection.

1151 SERVICE CONNECTION

If you received treatment for a medical condition in a VA hospital, and your treatment led you to develop a disabling medical condition, you may be entitled to service connection by filing an “1151 claim”.

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

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What Veterans Should Know About the Difference Between the Higher-Level Review Lane and the Supplemental Claim Lane

The difference between the Higher-Level Review lane and the Supplemental Claim lane is who reviews your appeal and whether you can submit new evidence.

THE HIGHER-LEVEL REVIEW LANE

In RAMP’s (the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program) Higher-Level Review Lane, you send your appeal for review by a more senior VA official than the person who initially reviewed your claim. The senior reviewer can overturn a decision, return a decision for a correction, or confirm the previous decision. This review is done based on the evidence of record.

THE SUPPLEMENTAL CLAIM LANE

In the Supplemental Claim lane, a rating specialist will review your appeal and any additional evidence you submit and determine whether to grant or deny your claim. Veterans who choose this lane will be able to include additional information with their appeal.

In this lane, VA has a “duty to assist” veterans in obtaining the evidence they need to support their claim.

ARE THERE ANY OTHER OPTIONS IN RAMP?

Not at this time. Once the new Appeals Reform system is fully implemented, there will be a third appeal lane- the Notice of Disagreement Lane (Board Lane).  This lane allows you to appeal your case directly to the Board. However, this lane is not available to RAMP participants until October 2018 at the earliest.

CAN I CHANGE LANES IF I CHOOSE THE WRONG ONE?

Yes, but not immediately. If you file your appeal in one lane but realize you chose the incorrect one, you must wait until you receive a decision in that lane before you can opt in to a different lane. For example, say you chose the Higher-Level Review lane but realize that the issue stemmed from a lack of evidence establishing service connection. You would need to wait until a decision is made on your appeal in the Higher-Level Review Lane before moving your appeal to the Supplemental Claim lane.

AM I ELIGIBLE TO JOIN RAMP?

When VA first rolled out RAMP at the end of 2017, it limited access to the program by only inviting a set number of veterans to participate in the program each month. Those who wanted to switch from the “Legacy” (current) system to RAMP had to wait to receive a letter inviting them to participate.

However, due to a low number of veterans actually opting in to the program, in April 2018, VA opened RAMP to all veterans with pending appeals (i.e., you submitted a VA Form 9, you filed a Notice of Disagreement, the Board remanded your appeal, or the Board certified your appeal but it has not yet been activated for a decision). That means you can join even if you did not receive a letter inviting you to opt in.

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

What Disabled Veterans Should Know About 30% PTSD RATING

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a distressing, shocking, or otherwise traumatic event. Unfortunately, many veterans experience PTSD stemming from their military service. The symptoms of PTSD can often be very debilitating and have a negative impact on an individual’s daily life.

HOW DOES VA RATE PTSD?

Once you are service-connected for PTSD, VA will assign a disability rating. In doing so, VA will consider the frequency, duration, and severity of your symptoms along with the resulting level of social and occupational impairment. In other words, your disability rating reflects how you are affected in both your personal life and your work life. Generally, the more severe your symptoms are, the higher your disability rating will be. To determine your disability rating for PTSD, VA uses the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders. This rating scale ranges from 0 percent to 100 percent with in-between ratings of 10, 30, 50, and 70 percent.

HOW DO I RECEIVE A 30% RATING?

Each rating under the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders has specific criteria that a veteran must meet in order to receive that evaluation. Here, the criteria are based on a number of symptoms as well as the varying severity of those symptoms. The criterion for a 30% PTSD rating under 38 C.F.R. 4.130, Diagnostic Code 9411, is as follows:

  • 30% – “Occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in work efficiency and intermittent periods of inability to perform occupational tasks (although generally functioning satisfactorily, with routine behavior, self-care, and conversation normal), due to such symptoms as: depressed mood, anxiety, suspiciousness, panic attacks (weekly or less often), chronic sleep impairment, mild memory loss (such as forgetting names, directions, recent events)”.

WHAT DOES THE 30% RATING CRITERIA MEAN?

The criteria for a 30% PTSD rating outlined above are meant to represent mild PTSD symptomology. In this case, “occasional decrease in work efficiency and intermittent periods of inability to perform occupational tasks” might mean that you are starting to periodically miss work due to your lack of motivation associated with PTSD. However, your PTSD does not fully prevent you from performing and succeeding in a work environment. Furthermore, you may experience symptoms such as depressed mood, anxiety, and panic attacks. This may cause you to occasionally isolate yourself. Nonetheless, you are still able to maintain your relationships with others. Overall, a 30% PTSD rating is assigned when a veteran demonstrates these symptoms presented in a mild manner, intermittently over time. However, it is important to note that a veteran does not need to endorse all of these symptoms to qualify for this rating. Even if a veteran only has a few of the specific PTSD symptoms listed, he or she can still receive a 30% rating.

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

What are the Requirements of Non-Service Connected Survivors Pension Benefit, aka “Non-Service Connected Death Pension”

Non-Service Connected Survivors Pension Benefit, aka “Non-Service Connected Death Pension”

The Non-Service Connected Survivors Pension benefit, which may also be referred to as Death Pension, is a tax-free monetary benefit payable to a low-income, un-remarried surviving spouse and/or unmarried child(ren) of a deceased Veteran with wartime service.

The following requirements apply for the survivor pension:

  1. Discharge Requirements for the deceased Veteran remain the same, and
  2. Service Requirements for the deceased Veteran remain the same, and
  3. The surviving spouse is the current spouse and is unmarried, and
  4. The surviving unmarried children of the deceased Veteran are either:
    1. under 18 years of age,
    2. became permanently “helpless” before 18 years of age
    3. between the ages of 18 and 23 and is in the process of pursuing a course of study at an approved institution such as college or vocational school.
  5. “Net Worth” Limitations remain the same.
  6. “Countable Income” Deductions remain the same.
  7. The MAPR rate limit for each child is $2,250.
  8. Extra benefit of aid and attendance and housebound status requirements remain the same.
  9. EVR reporting requirements remain the same.

 

The Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) or “Countable Income Limits” are different for Survivors Pension. The Effective Rates as of 12/01/2017 are:

 

Standard Medicare Deduction: Actual amount will be determined by SSA based on individual income.


Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) Category Amount
MAPR Without Dependent Child $8,830
To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed 5% of MAPR or $ 442
MAPR With One Dependent Child $11,557
To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed 5% of MAPR or $578
Housebound Without Dependents $10,792
Housebound With One Dependent $13,514
A&A Without Dependents $14,113
A&A Without Dependents (SAW Veteran’s Surviving Spouse) $14,685
A&A With One Dependent $16,837
A&A With One Dependent (SAW Veteran’s Surviving Spouse) $17,347
SBP/MIW Annuity Limitation $8,830
Add for Each Additional Child $2,250
MAPR FOR CHILD ALONE $2,250
Child Earned Income Exclusion effective 1/1/2000 $7,200
(38 CFR §3.272(j)(1)) effective 1/1/2001 $7,450
effective 1/1/2002 $7,700
effective 1/1/2003 $7,800
effective 1/1/2004 $7,950
effective 1/1/2005 $8,200
effective 1/1/2006 $8,450
effective 1/1/2007 $8,750
effective 1/1/2008 $8,950
effective 1/1/2009 $9,350
effective 1/1/2012 $9,750
effective 1/1/2013 $10,000
effective 1/1/2014 $10,150
effective 1/1/2015 $10,300
effective 1/1/2016 $10,350
effective 1/1/2017 $10,400
effective 1/1/2018 $10,650

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

Specially Adapted Housing and Special Home Adaptation Grants: Special VA Benefits for the Disabled Service Connected Vets

The VA offers 4 different grants for qualifying Veterans and Servicemembers to assist them with the building, remodeling, or purchasing an adapted home.   The four grants are:

  1. Specially adapted housing (SAH) grants, 
  2. Special housing adaptation (SHA) grants,
  3. Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) grants, and
  4. Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grants.

1. Specially adapted housing (SAH) grants help veterans with certain service-connected disabilities live independently in a barrier-free environment.  SAH grants can be used to:

  • Construct a specially adapted home on land to be acquired
  • Build a home on land already owned if it is suitable for specially adapted housing
  • Remodel an existing home if it can be made suitable for specially adapted housing
  • Apply the grant against the unpaid principal mortgage balance of an adapted home already acquired without the assistance of a VA grant.

A SAH grant, which allows up to $81,080 (2018), can be used a maximum of three times up to the allowable dollar amount.  Veterans with certain permanent service-connected conditions qualify for an SAH grant if their service-connected conditions:

  • Are permanently and totally disabling,
  • Preclude locomotion without the aid of braces, canes, or a wheelchair due to the loss, or loss of use of
    • both lower extremities,
    • one lower extremity together with residuals of organic disease or injury, which so affects the functions of balance or propulsion, or
    • one lower extremity, together with one upper extremity, which so affects the functions of balance or propulsion
  • Result in the loss, or loss of use, of both upper extremities at or above the elbow, or
  • Cause blindness in both eyes, having light perception only, combined with the loss or loss of use of one lower extremity.
  • Include certain severe burn injuries

Veterans who served on or after September 11, 2001, and become permanently disabled on or after that date may also be eligible for SAH benefits if they have the loss or loss of use of one or more lower extremities which so affects the functions of balance or propulsion as to preclude ambulating without the aid of braces, crutches, canes, or a wheelchair.

To apply for a SAH grant, fill out and submit VA Form 26-4555 Application in Acquiring Specially Adapted Housing or Special Home Adaptation Grant.

2. Special housing adaptation (SHA) grants help veterans with certain service-connected disabilities adapt or purchase a home to accommodate their disability.  SHA grants can be used in the following ways:

  • Adapt an existing home the veteran or a family member already owns in which the veteran resides
  • Adapt a home the veteran or family member intends to purchase in which the veteran will live
  • Help a veteran purchase a home already adapted in which the veteran will live

SHA provides for a grant amount up to $116,217 (2018).  A SHA grant may also be used a maximum of up to three times until the maximum grant amount has been utilized.  A SHA grant will be awarded where the veteran has a service-connected disability for one of the following:

  • Blindness in both eyes with 5/200 visual acuity or less
  • Anatomical loss or loss of use of both hands
  • Certain severe burn injuries
  • Certain severe respiratory injuries

To apply for a SHA grant, fill out and submit VA Form 26-4555 Application in Acquiring Specially Adapted Housing or Special Home Adaptation Grant.

3. Temporary Residence Adaptation grants

May be available to SAH/SHA eligible veterans and Servicemembers who are or will be temporarily residing in a home owned by a family member.  This assistance, up to $35,593 (2018) for veterans eligible for a SAH grant or $6,355 (2018) for veterans eligible for the SHA grant, may be used to adapt the family member’s home to meet the veteran’s or Servicemember’s special needs at that time.

4. Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grants

The VA Home Improvement and Structural Alteration (HISA) grant program helps veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system and requires home improvements for the continuation of medical treatment or for basic access to the home and essential bathroom and sanitary facilities for veterans with certain disabilities.  Unlike most other benefits shown on this page, HISA grants are available for both service-connected and nonservice-connected veterans (with different maximum amounts).

  • Veterans with service-connected disabilities the home improvement benefit is $6,800 (2018)
  • Veterans with non-service-connected disabilities the home home improvement benefit is $2,000 (2018)

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

Clothing Allowance: Special VA Benefits for the Disabled Service Connected Vets

Clothing allowance is an annual lump-sum payment made when a Veteran’s service-connected disability causes the use of certain prosthetic or orthopedic appliances (including a wheelchair) that tend to wear or tear clothing, or when the Veteran’s service-connected skin condition requires the use of medication that stains the clothing. Eligible Veterans can receive a one-time or yearly allowance for reimbursement.

You may receive a clothing allowance as a Veteran who uses either of the following:

  • Prosthetic or orthopedic appliance, such as a wheelchair or crutches, because of a service-connected disability (Note: soft and flexible devices, such as an elastic stocking, are not included)
  • Medication prescribed by a physician for a service-connected skin condition that causes permanent stains or otherwise damages outer garments

Additional clothing allowances may be provided if more than one prosthetic or orthopedic appliance, or medication described above, is used and/or affects more than one type of clothing garment.

Note: An ancillary benefit is an additional benefit that is related to, or derived from entitlement to certain service-connected benefits.

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

What Veterans Must Know About Submitting a Claim for Non-Service Connected Pension

To submit a claim for the wartime or non-service connected pension, you will need:

  1. The proper VA application Form
    1. If the Veteran believes that he or she may qualify for both service connected disability compensation and/or a non-service connected pension, the Veteran should apply for both benefits.  They should apply for compensation by submitting VA Form 21-526EZ Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits.  The fillable form can be obtained by going to: https://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-526EZ-ARE.pdf
    2. If the Veteran believes that he or she is only eligible for non-service connected pension, then the Veteran should apply using VA Form 21-527EZ Application for pension. This fillable form can be obtained by going to: http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-527EZ-ARE.pdf
  2. All income and net worth information and supporting documents.
  3. Medical Evidence of the Claim: To support your claim, submit all medical treatment records and documents from private Practitioners, private facilities, testing centers and VA medical centers. For each source of medical information, complete VA Form 21-4142, Authorization to Disclose Information to the Department of Veteran Affairs, http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-4142-ARE.pdf. VA medical centers do not need a VA Form 21-4142.
  4. Extra Benefit applications
    1. Application for Aid and Attendance or housebound benefits will require:
      1. If the Veteran resides at home, complete VA Form 21-2680, Examination for Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance,   http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-2680-ARE.pdf or
      2. If the Veteran is in a Nursing Home, complete VA Form 21-0779 Request for Nursing Home Information in Connection with Claim for Aid and Attendance, http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-0779-ARE.pdf
    2. Claim application for a dependent child in school between 18 and 23 with the pension requires completing VA Form 21-674, Request for Approval of School Attendance http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-674-ARE.pdf
    3. Claim application for helpless (disabled) child benefits, will require you to declare the child a dependent, using VA Form 21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents, http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-686c-ARE.pdf and submission of all relevant medical treatment records for the child’s disabilities using VA Form 21-4138, Statement in Support of Claim, http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-4138-ARE.pdf.

For a brief overview of the pension, go to the VA Fact Sheet on Live Pension: http://benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/factsheets/limitedincome/livepension.pdf.

Or, the VA Fact Sheet on Survivors Pension: http://www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/factsheets/survivors/Survivorspension.pdf

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For More Information on Veterans Disability Compensation Benefits! Visit: DisableVeteran.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

What is the Eligibility Verification Report for Non-Service Connected Pension

Pension recipients are required to file annual reports detailing their income status. The reports are called Eligibility Verification Reports (EVRs).

If the VA has requested an “EVR report” it must be completed, returned, and received by the VA within 60 days. Failure to return the EVR within the 60 days will result in the VA will suspending the pension benefit and denying the claim for the upcoming year.

It is important not to leave any blanks on the report. Instead of leaving a blank, enter either zero “0” or, the word “none” or, “N/A” on all answers that do not apply. If you leave a blank on the EVR report the VA will reject the report and suspend all benefits.

Another issue with the “EVR report” is with Social Security benefit reporting.   The SSI, (Supplemental Security Income), benefit is not considered “countable income”.   SSDI, (Social Security Disability Income), and Social Security Old Age Pension must be reported accurately to the VA. Any discrepancy in reporting SSDI or SS Old Age Pension can cause VA pension over payments and negative adjustments to the your pension benefit.

The Veteran’s EVR documented Social Security or Social Disability income amount must match the amount documented by Social Security. It is easy for Veterans to have a reporting error. Veterans mistakenly report the actual amount of their Social Security check instead of reporting their full Social Security benefit which includes the Medicare monthly deductibles for Part B Premium at $104.90 and other premiums, if the Veteran selected Premiums for Parts C and D.   Premium amounts for Part C and D vary by the plan. To avoid reporting errors, the Veteran and Spouse should refer to their annual report from the Social Security Administration and document the information correctly onto the EVR report.

If the Social Security Administration report is not available, the Veteran and/or Spouse can call and request the report from Social Security.   Social Security can be contacted at 1-800-772-1213. Social Security representatives are available between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you have hearing problems you can call 1-800-325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

How VA Evaluates Income for Non-Service Connected Pension

Countable Income for Non-Service Connected Pension

To determine the income limit requirement for eligibility, the VA will require the Veteran to report all “countable income” for the Veteran’s household.

Countable income” refers to all household income:

  • the Veteran’s,
  • Veteran’s spouse (if living with the Veteran), and
  • Dependents.

The Veteran’s “countable income” must be below the maximum annual pension rate, MAPR, and the Veteran’s “net worth” must not provide adequate maintenance of the Veteran.

The need for pension is determined by “countable income” minus allowable deductions. The calculated reduced income is then subtracted from MAPR limit and the result is the annualized pension divided by 12 months.

As an example:

  • The MAPR for a Veteran who needs aid and attendance with no dependents is $21,531 income per year.
  • The Veteran’s countable income is $32,000 per year.
  • After subtracting the allowable deductions, the countable income of the Veteran is reduced to $15,000/year.
  • The MAPR of $21,531 minus $15,000 of countable income equals $6,531 per year of VA Pension.
  • The $6,531 yearly VA Pension is divided by 12 months to determine the monthly amount.
  • The Veteran receives a VA pension for $544.25 monthly for this example.

Allowable Deductions from Countable Income for VA Pension

The Veterans “countable income” is reduced by specific expenses. However, often Veterans believe that they are not eligible for pension because they make too much or are denied because they do not know the complete list of income exclusions and deductible expenses that would reduce their “countable income”.

The complete list of income exclusions is provided in 3.272 of title 38, Code of Federal Regulations. This knowledge is important because most Veterans mistakenly think that the only income deduction is unreimbursed medical expenses over 5% of the Veteran’s household income. When in fact there are many deductions and when the Veteran uses all of the deductions that apply to their situation, the outcome is greater.

Another mistake that Veterans make is reporting income that is excluded from income reporting on the pension application.       Not knowing the rules or what information to supply can cause a VA denial!

All income received from the following exclusions are not considered countable income by the VA. Veterans should make sure that when applying for pension, all deductions are applied and only income not excluded is counted. The list includes 22 income sources that are excluded from reporting and are found in Title 38 CFR 3.272:

  1. Welfare,
  2. Maintenance in an institution or facility due to age or impaired health,
  3. VA pension benefits ( Payments under Chapter 15 of Title 38 and including accrued pension benefits payable under 38 U.S.C. 5121),
  4. Reimbursement for casualty loss,
  5. Profit from the sale of property,
  6. Joint accounts,
  7. Unreimbursed medical expenses that are 5% of the MARP,
  8. Veteran’s final expenses,
  9. Educational expenses for Veteran or Spouse,
  10. Domestic Volunteer Service Act Programs,
  11. Distribution of funds under 38. U.S.C 1718,
  12. DOD survivor benefit annuity,
  13. Agent Orange settlement payments,
  14. Restitution to individuals of Japanese ancestry,
  15. Cash surrender value of life insurance,
  16. Income received by American Indian beneficiaries from trust or restricted lands,
  17. Payments from the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act,
  18. Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act,
  19. Monetary allowance under 38 U.S.C. chapter 18, Victims of Crime Act,
  20. Healthcare premiums to include Medicare, (make sure to include all insurance premiums paid for all 4 Parts of Medicare-A,B,C,D and Supplemental plans),
  21. Medicare prescription drug discount card and transitional assistance program, and
  22. Lump-sum life insurance proceeds on a veteran.

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency

What Veterans Must Know About VA Pension

VA “shall pay to each veteran of a period of war who meets the service requirements of this section . . . and who is permanently and totally disabled from non-service-connected disability not the result of the veteran’s willful misconduct, pension at the rate prescribed by [statute].”   38 U.S.C. § 1521(a).  The maximum annual rates for improved pension must be reduced by the amount of the veteran’s countable annual income.  38 U.S.C. § 1521; 38 C.F.R. § 3.23(b); Springer v. West, 11 Vet. App. 38, 40 (1998).  “Payments of any kind from any source shall be counted as income during the 12-month annualization period in which received unless specifically excluded under [section] 3.272.”  38 C.F.R. § 3.271(a); 38 U.S.C. § 1503; see Martin v. Brown, 7 Vet. App. 196, 199 (1994) (stating “statute and VA regulations provide that ‘annual income,’ as defined by statute and applicable regulation, includes payments of any kind from any source, unless explicitly exempted by statute or regulation”); but see 38 C.F.R. § 3.272 (enumerating categories to “be excluded from countable income for the purpose of determining entitlement to improved pension”).

Certain countable income is specifically excluded from this rule and as a result, a veteran’s pension will not be reduced.  38 C.F.R. § 3.272.  Social Security Administration (SSA) old age and survivor’s insurance and disability insurance payments are considered income and must, therefore, be included.  38 C.F.R. §§ 3.262; 3.271(g); Burch v. Brown, 6 Vet. App. 512, 513 (1994).  Benefits under noncontributory programs, such as old age assistance, aid to dependent children, and supplemental security income are treated as charitable donations.  See 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.262(d), (f).  Unreimbursed medical expenses paid within the 12-month annualization period are excluded from income to the extent that they are in excess of 5% of the maximum annual pension rate.  38 C.F.R. § 3.272(g)(1)(iii).  Whether a claimant is entitled to VA pension benefits is a question of fact.

Pursuant to 38 U.S.C. § 1505, pension benefits administered by the Secretary shall not be paid to or for an individual who has been imprisoned in a Federal, State, or local penal institution as a result of conviction of a felony or misdemeanor for any part of the period beginning 61 days after such individual’s imprisonment begins and ending when such individual’s imprisonment ends.  38 U.S.C. § 1505(a); 38 C.F.R. § 3.666; see also Latham v. Brown, 4 Vet. App. 265 (1993).

VA Non-Service Connected Pension or Wartime Pension

Many people confuse VA Pension with VA disability compensation. The two are different.

  • VA pension is based on wartime service, having a non-service connected disability and the Veteran must be of low income.
  • VA disability compensation is based on a service connected disability rating for the Veteran. The focus of this article is to provide the facts on the VA Pension since recently there has been misleading TV and internet advertisements promoting Veteran’s and Spouses to apply for the Pension.

Over the years the VA improved pension has been known as a Non-service connected Pension, a VA low-income Pension, live VA pension and most recently on TV and the internet advertised as a VA Wartime Pension for Veterans or Surviving Widows of Wartime Veterans.   The current improved pension became effective January 1, 1979 and was preceded by Section 306 Pension and Old-Law Pension Program.   All three non-service connected programs are disability and needs based. Today, the only available program for applicants is the improved pension program or non-service connected pension.

Eligibility for Non-Service Connected Pension

The improved pension program is for Veterans who served during wartime and meet specific requirements. It is for the requirement reason that TV advertisements refer to this pension as a wartime pension. The following program qualifying requirements must apply for the Veteran to receive this pension:

The Veteran must have an have a discharge “under other than dishonorable conditions” also known as a “honorable discharge”,

  1. actively served a minimum of one day during wartime,
  2. meet specific service time requirements,
    1. 90 days or more of active duty
    2. Veterans with active duty enlistment after September 7, 1980 must serve at least 24 months of active duty or complete the full period for which they were called to active duty.
  3. be of limited income (determined by the Maximum Annual Pension Rate or MARP) and net-worth, which are discussed later in this article and
  4. the Veteran must have one or more of the following :
    1. age 65 or older, or
    2. have a permanent and total non-service connected disability that will continue throughout the Veteran’s lifetime and prevents the Veteran from sustaining employment, or
    3. be a reside in a nursing home for long-term care , or
    4. be a recipient of Social Security disability benefits.

Maximum Annual Pension Rate for VA NSC Pension

Date of Cost-of-Living Increase: 12-01-2017
Increase Factor:  2.0%
Standard Medicare Deduction: Actual amount will be determined by SSA based on individual income.

Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) Category

Amount

If you are a veteran… Your yearly income must be less than…
Without Spouse or Child $13,166
To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed 5% of MAPR,  or,  $ 659
With One Dependent $17,241
To be deducted, medical expenses must exceed 5% of MAPR,  or,  $ 863
Housebound Without Dependents $16,089
Housebound With One Dependent $20,166
A&A Without Dependents $21,962
A&A With One Dependent $26,036
Two Vets Married to Each Other $17,241
Two Vets Married to Each Other One H/B $20,166
Two Vets Married to Each Other Both H/B $23,087
Two Vets Married to Each Other One A/A $26,036
Two Vets Married to Each Other One A/A One H/B $28,953
Two Vets Married to Each Other Both A/A $34,837
Add for Early War Veteran (Mexican Border Period or WW1) to any category above $2,991
Add for Each Additional Child to any category above $2,250
Child Earned Income Exclusion effective: 01-01-2000 $7,200
(38 CFR §3.272 (j)(1))
This link takes you to the full regulation;
scroll down to get the specific citation.
01-01-2001 $7,450
01-01-2002 $7,700
01-01-2003 $7,800
01-01-2004 $7,950
01-01-2005 $8,200
01-01-2006 $8,450
01-01-2007 $8,750
01-01-2008 $8,950
01-01-2009 $9,350
01-01-2012 $9,750
01-01-2013 $10,000
01-01-2014 $10,150
01-01-2015 $10,300
01-01-2016 $10,350
01-01-2017 $10,400
01-01-2018 $10,650

*Child dependents are: (1) under the age of 18, (2) between the ages of 18 and 23 who are attending college, or (3) declared a “helpless child” due to an infirmity before the age of 18. Veterans with additional dependent children should add $2,205 to the MAPR limit for each child.

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

For Cases & Decisions that Could Save Your VA Service-Connected Claims! Visit: VAClaims.org ~ A Non-Profit Non Governmental Agency