An applicant for pension benefits from the VA must meet certain medical and/or financial requirements. There is a disability requirement for the pension benefits, which is satisfied if the veteran is sixty-five (65) years of age or older, or permanently and totally disabled. If the veteran or surviving spouse has additional medical needs, then additional allowances like an aid and attendance allowance may be awarded.
The current law reads that an applicant’s net worth “must not be excessive”, taking into consideration the applicant’s age, income and expenses, life expectancy, and rate of depletion of the applicant’s net worth. The financial rules also require that household income must be less than the benefit the applicant is seeking; however, income may be reduced by out-of-pocket medical expenses.
The long-anticipated changes to the eligibility rules for veteran pensions have finally come. In October 2018 the VA officially changed two major eligibility requirements for veterans seeking pension benefits.
- There is now a thirty-six (36) month look-back period when applying for needs-based pension benefits. Historically there has been no look-back period and veterans could transfer assets freely without penalty, allowing for maximum asset planning. Now veterans cannot transfer assets, for less than fair market value, during the thirty-six (36) month period immediately before applying for benefits, without suffering a penalty. Any penalty assessed by the VA should not exceed five (5) years.
- In order to qualify for pension benefits a veteran may not have a net worth of more than $123,600.00 (2018). Prior to implementing this most recent set of rules, the VA had no bright-line asset limit, making it difficult for those applying for veteran pension benefits to know if an application would be approved. Now that there is a concrete asset limit, veterans can rest assured that their benefit applications will be reviewed uniformly.