What Veterans Must Know About VA Life Insurance Programs

Over the years the VA has offered a number of different life insurance plans.  Some of these plans are still open for enrollment while others are closed to new enrollees.

For details of the VA Life Insurance Program refer to VetsFirst Knowledge Book VA Life Insurance,.

As a general rule if you have questions regarding VA life insurance you should visit the VA’s insurance website at www.insurance.va.gov or call VA’s Insurance Center toll-free at 1-800-669-8477.  Specialists are usually available between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., Eastern Time, to discuss premium payments, insurance dividends, address changes, policy loans, naming beneficiaries and reporting the death of the insured.

When contacting the VA regarding an insurance matter if the insurance policy number is not known, use whatever information is available, such as the veteran’s VA file number, date of birth, Social Security number, military serial number or military service branch and dates of service to:

Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office and Insurance Center

Box 42954

Philadelphia, PA 19101

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

Advertisements

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 is Special VA Benefits for the Disabled Service Connected Vets: Automobiles, Conveyances, and Adaptive Equipment

Special VA Benefits for the Disabled Service Connected Vets: Automobiles, Conveyances, and Adaptive Equipment

Automobile Allowance

Servicemembers and Veterans may be eligible for a one-time payment of not more than $21,058.69 (10/1/2018) toward the purchase of an automobile or other conveyance if you have certain service-connected disabilities. The grant is paid directly to the seller of the automobile and the Servicemember or Veteran may only receive the automobile grant once in his/her lifetime.

Certain Servicemembers and Veterans may also be eligible for adaptive equipment. Adaptive equipment includes, but is not limited to, power steering, power brakes, power windows, power seats, and special equipment necessary to assist the eligible person into and out of the vehicle.

VA may provide financial assistance in purchasing adaptive equipment more than once. This benefit is payable to either the seller or the Veteran or Servicemember.

Important: You must have prior VA approval before purchasing an automobile or adaptive equipment.

Eligibility Requirements (Automobile Grant)

  • You must be either a Servicemember who is still on active duty or a Veteran, AND
  • You must have one of the following disabilities that are either rated as service-connected or treated as if service-connected under 38 U.S.C 1151 or, for a Servicemember, the result of disease incurred or injury contracted in or aggravated by active duty:
    • Loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both feet, OR
    • Loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both hands, OR
    • Permanent impairment of vision in both eyes to a certain degree, OR
    • Severe burn injury, OR
    • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Evidence Requirements (Automobile Grant)

To support a claim for automobile allowance, the evidence must show that you are service-connected or are treated as if service-connected under 38 U.S.C 1151 or, for a Servicemember, the result of disease incurred or injury contracted in or aggravated by active duty, for a disability resulting in:

  • The loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both feet, OR
  • The loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both hands,OR
  • Permanent impairment of vision in both eyes, resulting in
    1. Central Visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with glasses, OR
    2. Central Visual acuity that is greater than 20/200, if there is a visual field defect in which your peripheral field has contracted to such an extent that the widest diameter of visual fields subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees in the better eye, OR
  • Severe burn injury: Deep partial thickness or full thickness burns resulting in scar formation that cause contractures and limit motion of one or more extremities or the trunk and preclude the effective operation of an automobile, OR
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

To support a claim for adaptive equipment, the evidence must show that you have a disability as shown above, OR you have ankylosis of at least one knee or one hip due to service-connected disability.

How to Apply (Automobile Grant)

  • Complete, VA Form 21-4502, “Application for Automobile or Other Conveyance and Adaptive Equipment” and mail to your regional office OR
  • Work with an accredited representative or agent OR
  • Go to a VA regional office and have a VA employee assist you. You can find your regional office on our Facility Locator page
  • If you are entitled to adaptive equipment only (i.e., service connected for ankylosis of knees or hips) you should complete VA Form 10-1394, “Application for Adaptive Equipment – Motor Vehicle” and submit it to your local VA medical center. You can find your local VA medical center on the health Facility Locator page.

Conveyances

You may purchase a new or used automobile, truck, station wagon, or certain other types of conveyance if approved by VA.

Adaptive Equipment

A veteran or servicemember who qualifies for the vehicle allowance also qualifies for adaptive equipment unless he or she is blind, requires a driver, or doesn’t have a valid State driver’s license or learner’s permit. See the attached list for more information about adaptive equipment. Important: VA will not pay for the purchase of add-on adaptive equipment (equipment furnished by someone other than the automobile manufacturer) that is not approved by VA. Contact the nearest VA health care facility for more information on add-on equipment. The adaptive equipment benefit may be paid more than once, and it may be paid to either the seller or the veteran or servicemember.

Special drivers training for disabled veterans should contact the nearest VA health care facility to request this training.

To Apply use VA form 21-4502, http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-4502-ARE.pdf.  There is no time limit for filing a claim; however, the claim must be authorized by VA before you purchase the automobile or conveyance.

Special Instructions to Veteran or Servicemember,

1. Complete all items of Section I in duplicate and submit both copies to VA. If you have previously applied for disability compensation, send the form to the VA regional office where your claims folder is located. If you have not applied for disability compensation or have not separated from military service, send the form to the nearest VA regional office.

2. VA will determine your eligibility and, if eligibility exists, VA will complete Section II and return the form to you.

3. Purchase a vehicle. When you receive the vehicle and the adaptive equipment from the seller, complete Section III.

4. Give the original VA Form 21-4502 to the seller.

5. Submit any invoices for adaptive equipment and/or installation not included on the seller’s invoice to the nearest VA health care facility. These invoices, identified with your full name and VA file number, must show the itemized net cost of any adaptive equipment and installation charges, any unpaid balance, and the make, year and model of the vehicle to which the equipment is added.

Special Instructions to Seller:

1. Make sure that Section II of VA Form 21-4502 is completed and signed by VA.

2. Deliver the vehicle, including VA-approved adaptive equipment provided and/or installed by the seller.

3. Obtain the original copy of VA Form 21-4502 from the veteran or servicemember after he or she has completed Section III.

4. Submit the original copy of VA Form 21-4502 and itemized invoice to the VA regional office shown in Section II, Attention: Financial Division, for payment.

The itemized invoice must include the following:

  • The net cost of any approved adaptive equipment and installation charges. If certain items of approved adaptive equipment (automatic transmission, power seats,     etc.) are included in the purchase price, also submit a copy of the window sticker.
  • A list of which adaptive equipment is standard on the vehicle or combined with other items.
  • The unpaid balance due on the vehicle which is to be paid by VA.
  • A certification that the amounts billed do not exceed the usual and customary cost for the purchase and installation of the adaptive equipment.

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 Military Veterans Should Know About VA Education Benefits

VA offers a number of educational benefits to veterans and, in some cases, to a veteran’s spouse and dependents. Educational benefits programs include the Montgomery GI Bill (“New GI Bill”), Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program, Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP), Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP), Survivors & Dependents Assistance (DEA), Educational Test Program, National Call to Service Program, and Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. Each program has different eligibility requirements, eligibility periods, and time limits for completing the educational programs. A person receiving benefits from one VA educational program cannot receive benefits from any other VA educational benefits program.

Each program requires a claim for the benefit desired to begin the process using VA Form 22-1990 [link]. As all of these programs often have very specific requirements, any potential claimant should carefully review each program in detail to identify the benefits for which they may be eligible and the best program for their individual needs. The two most commonly sought programs are briefly described below.

Benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill are generally available for those who went on active duty after June 30, 1985. In some cases, Selected Reserve and National Guard members may also be eligible. In all cases, there are minimum service periods of from 2 to 4 years depending on the specific circumstances of service. Under this program, which is also known as “Chapter 30” benefits, educational benefits are available for up to 36 months. Payments are for a fixed amount depending on whether the educational program is full- or part-time.

Eligible veterans must have received an honorable discharge (not just “other than dishonorable”). Before applying, a claimant must also have (1) obtained a high school diploma or equivalent or (2) completed the equivalent of 12 credit hours in a college degree program. Involuntarily separated veterans may also qualify under certain conditions.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill became effective August 1, 2009, and provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service after September 10, 2001, and individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days of service. A veteran must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, which are also known as “Chapter 33” benefits. Approved training under this program includes undergraduate and graduate degrees, vocational and technical training, licensing, and national testing. To receive benefits, the particular training program attended must be approved by VA.

In general, the Post 9-11 GI Bill program pays full tuition directly to the school for all public school in-state students. There are some restrictions and caps for those attending private or foreign schools. The program will also pay a limited monthly housing allowance, books and supplies stipend, and a one-time rural benefit, if applicable. The Chapter 33 program provides up to 36 months of benefits and benefits are generally payable for up to 15 years following release from active duty.

An individual entitled to either Chapter 30 or Chapter 33 benefits may transfer an entitlement to educational assistance to: (1) a spouse; (2) a child; or (3) a combination of spouse and child. The family member must otherwise be eligible for benefits at the time of transfer to receive transferred educational benefits. Applications should be submitted using VA Form 22-5490 [link].

38 U.S.C. Chapter 35 provides educational assistance to “eligible persons,” including “children whose education would otherwise be impeded or interrupted by reason of disability or death of a parent from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the Armed Forces.”  38 U.S.C. § 3500.  For purposes of DEA benefits under chapter 35, “eligible person” means a child of a person who, as a result of qualifying service, died of a service-connected disability or has a total disability permanent in nature resulting from a service-connected disability, or who dies while a disability so evaluated was in existence.  38 U.S.C. § 3501(A)(1)(a).

In general, an eligible child’s period of eligibility for educational assistance under chapter 35 ends on his or her 26th birthday.  38 U.S.C. § 3512(a); 38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(a), (b), although there are some exceptions.  38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(g).  The general rule is that the commencing date of an original award of educational assistance is the latest of:  (a) the date the educational institution certifies the course; (b) one year before the date of receipt of the claim; or (c) the effective date of the approval of the course, or one year before VA receives approval notice, whichever is later.  38 U.S.C. § 3672; 38 C.F.R. § 21.4131(a).  When determining the effective date of an award under Chapter 35 the Secretary may consider the individual’s application as having been filed on the eligibility date of the individual if that eligibility date is more than one year before the date of the initial rating decision.  38 U.S.C. § 5113(b).

Pursuant to 38 U.S.C. section 5113(b)(2) the criteria for an earlier effective date under this statute requires that the claimant is an eligible person who:

(A) submits to the Secretary an original application for educational assistance under Chapter 35 of this title . . . within one year of the date that the Secretary makes the rating decision;

(B)   claims such educational assistance for pursuit of an approved program of education during a period preceding the one-year period ending on the date on which the application was received by the Secretary; and

(C)   would have been entitled to such educational assistance for such course pursuit if the individual had submitted such application on the individual’s eligibility date.

Forever GI Bill – Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act

The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, also known as the “Forever GI Bill,” will bring significant changes to Veterans education benefits over the coming years. Most changes enhance or expand education benefits for Veterans, servicemembers, families, and survivors. View our breakdown of the updated benefits.

Resources

Contact Us

  • Join the conversation on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
  • Our Education Call Center is available at 1-888-442-4551 (Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. CST) for any questions about GI Bill benefits.
  • Take advantage of your local Veterans Service Officer to help you navigate the new information.

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 Burial and Memorial Benefits

VA burial benefits are available for service-connected and non-service-connected deaths. Eligibility for non-service-connected burial expenses generally requires receipt of VA compensation, VA pension, or military retired pay in lieu of compensation at the time of death, a claim pending at the time of death that is later determined to have entitled the deceased veteran to compensation or pension before death, death while hospitalized or receiving care in a VA facility, or the veteran’s estate does not have enough resources to cover costs and the veteran served during wartime or was released from active duty due to a service-connected condition. A veteran who dies while under VA care or in a VA-approved state nursing home is also eligible.

Benefits for a non-service-connected death are $300 for funeral and burial expenses (if not hospitalized by VA at time of death) and up to $762 for plot or internment expenses (if not buried in a National Cemetery). If the veteran was hospitalized by VA at the time of death, VA will pay up to $762 toward the burial and funeral expenses for deaths on or after October 1, 2017.  An application for burial expenses must submitted within 2 years of burial.

Burial benefits for service-connected deaths include a burial allowance of up to $2,000 for deaths on or after September 11, 2001. There is no time limit for applying for this allowance. No other amounts will be paid if this allowance is claimed.  If requested by VA, supporting documentation must be provided within a year of the request. There is no time limit for submitting an application for plot or internment expenses.

An important benefit is burial in a grave-site in one of the 131 National Cemeteries with available space. If eligible, this benefit includes opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a government-provided headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate at no cost to the family. The principal criteria for a veteran’s burial in a National Cemetery are an other than dishonorable discharge and completion of a required period of service or entitlement to retired pay due to 20 years of service with a reserve unit. A spouse, minor child, or unmarried dependent adult child of an eligible veteran is also eligible for burial in a National Cemetery.

Grave-sites in VA National Cemeteries cannot be reserved in advance and VA national cemetery directors have the primary responsibility for verifying eligibility for burial in a National Cemetery. A determination of eligibility is usually made in response to a request for burial. A VA Regional Office can also assist in determining eligibility.

Burial benefits available for spouses and dependents buried in a National Cemetery include burial with the veteran, perpetual care, and the spouse or dependents name and date of birth and death inscribed on the veteran’s headstone, at no cost to the family. Eligible spouses and dependents may be buried in a National Cemetery, even if they predecease the veteran.

Families should keep in mind that VA does not make funeral arrangements or perform cremations. VA also does not provide military honors at veterans’ funerals. The Department of Defense, through the “Honoring Those Who Served” program, provides military funeral services. Upon a family’s request or at the behest of the funeral home on behalf of a family, the program provides each eligible veteran a military funeral honors ceremony to include the folding and the presentation of the United States burial flag and the playing of Taps.

Burial benefits available for veterans buried in a private cemetery include:

  • a government-provided headstone or marker,
  • a burial flag, and
  • Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family.
  • Some veterans may also be eligible for a burial allowance.

There are no VA benefits available to spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery. Similarly, only an eligible veteran may receive a government-furnished headstone or marker for placement in a private cemetery. A veteran’s spouse and dependent children are not eligible.

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 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

How Military Sexual Trauma is Handled During VA Disbailities Claims

Military Sexual Trauma

Military sexual trauma, or MST, is the term used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to refer to experiences of sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that a Veteran experienced during his or her military service.

The definition used by the VA comes from Federal law (Title 38 U.S. Code 1720D) and is “psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a VA mental health professional, resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.” Sexual harassment is further defined as “repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character.”

Fortunately, people can recover from experiences of trauma, and VA has effective services to help Veterans do this. VA is strongly committed to ensuring that Veterans have access to the help they need in order to recover from MST:

  • Every VA health care facility has a designated MST Coordinator who serves as a contact person for MST-related issues. This person can help Veterans find and access VA services and programs. He or she may also be aware of state and federal benefits and community resources that may be helpful.
  • Recognizing that many survivors of sexual trauma do not disclose their experiences unless asked directly, VA health care providers ask every Veteran whether he or she experienced MST. This is an important way of making sure Veterans know about the services available to them.
  • All treatment for physical and mental health conditions related to experiences of MST is provided free of charge. To receive free treatment for mental and physical health conditions related to MST, Veterans do not need to be service connected (or have a VA disability rating). Veterans may be able to receive this benefit even if they are not eligible for other VA care.
  • Veterans do not need to have reported the incident(s) when they happened or have other documentation that they occurred. MST-related services are available at every VA medical center and every facility has providers knowledgeable about treatment for the aftereffects of MST. MST-related counseling is also available through community-based Vet Centers.
  • Services are designed to meet Veterans where they are at in their recovery, whether that is focusing on strategies for coping with challenging emotions and memories or, for Veterans who are ready, actually talking about their MST experiences in depth.
  • Nationwide, there are programs that offer specialized sexual trauma treatment in residential or inpatient settings. These are programs for Veterans who need more intense treatment and support. To accommodate Veterans who do not feel comfortable in mixed-gender treatment settings, some facilities have separate programs for men and women. All residential and inpatient MST programs have separate sleeping areas for men and women.
  • In addition to its treatment programming, VA also provides training to staff on issues related to MST, including a mandatory training on MST for all mental health and primary care providers. VA also engages in a range of outreach activities to Veterans and conducts monitoring of MST-related screening and treatment, in order to ensure that adequate services are available.

Military Sexual Trauma Details

MST includes any sexual activity where a Service member is involved against his or her will – he or she may have been pressured into sexual activities (for example, with threats of negative consequences for refusing to be sexually cooperative or with implied better treatment in exchange for sex), may have been unable to consent to sexual activities (for example, when intoxicated), or may have been physically forced into sexual activities. Other experiences that fall into the category of MST include:

Unwanted sexual touching or grabbing

Threatening, offensive remarks about a person’s body or sexual activities

Threatening and unwelcome sexual advances

The identity or characteristics of the perpetrator, whether the Service member was on or off duty at the time, and whether he or she was on or off base at the time do not matter. If these experiences occurred while an individual was on active duty or active duty for training, they are considered by VA to be MST.

MST is an experience, not a diagnosis or a mental health condition, and as with other forms of trauma, there are a variety of reactions that Veterans can have in response to MST. The type, severity, and duration of a Veteran’s difficulties will all vary based on factors like:

Whether he/she has a prior history of trauma

The types of responses from others he/she received at the time of the MST

Whether the MST happened once or was repeated over time

Although trauma can be a life-changing event, people are often remarkably resilient after experiencing trauma. Many individuals recover without professional help; others may generally function well in their life, but continue to experience some level of difficulties or have strong reactions in certain situations. For some Veterans, the experience of MST may continue to affect their mental and physical health in significant ways, even many years later.

Strong emotions: feeling depressed; having intense, sudden emotional responses to things; feeling angry or irritable all the time

Feelings of numbness: feeling emotionally “flat”; difficulty experiencing emotions like love or happiness

Trouble sleeping: trouble falling or staying asleep; disturbing nightmares

Difficulties with attention, concentration, and memory: trouble staying focused; frequently finding their mind wandering; having a hard time remembering things

Problems with alcohol or other drugs: drinking to excess or using drugs daily; getting intoxicated or “high” to cope with memories or emotional reactions; drinking to fall asleep

Difficulty with things that remind them of their experiences of sexual trauma: feeling on edge or “jumpy” all the time; difficulty feeling safe; going out of their way to avoid reminders of their experiences

Difficulties with relationships: feeling isolated or disconnected from others; abusive relationships; trouble with employers or authority figures; difficulty trusting others

Physical health problems: sexual difficulties; chronic pain; weight or eating problems; gastrointestinal problems

Although posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is commonly associated with MST, it is not the only diagnosis that can result from MST. For example, VA medical record data indicate that in addition to PTSD, the diagnoses most frequently associated with MST among users of VA health care are depression and other mood disorders, and substance use disorders.

For more information, Veterans can:

Speak with their existing VA health care provider.

Contact the MST Coordinator at their nearest VA Medical Center.

Call Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247 to get confidential one-on-one help. Safe Helpline provides 24 hour a day, 7 day a week sexual assault support for the Department of Defense community.

Contact their local Vet Center.

Veterans should feel free to ask to meet with a provider of a particular gender if it would make them feel more comfortable.

DOWNLOAD MST BROCHURE: military-sexual-trauma-mst-brochure-for-veterans

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