What benefits are available for veterans?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides a variety of benefits to eligible veterans and to their families through the Veterans Benefits Administration. These benefits range from medical care to pensions, and include education and training and burial assistance. Oregon offers additional benefits, including home loans and a partial property tax exemption for a disabled war veteran or the surviving spouse of a disabled war veteran. You can find general information about federal veterans’ benefits at http://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/ and general information about state veterans’ benefits at http://www.oregon.gov/odva/benefits/pages/index.aspx.

Who is eligible for a VA pension?

In order to qualify for a VA pension, the veteran generally must meet the following requirements:

  • The veteran must have at least 90 days of active duty service, with at least one day occurring during a wartime period specifically identified by the VA. There are longer minimum active duty service requirements for veterans whose service began on or after September 8, 1980;

  • The veteran must have been discharged from military service under conditions other than dishonorable;

  • The veteran must be 65 or older or “permanently and totally disabled.” The veteran’s disability does not have to be connected to his or her service;

  • The veteran meet the income and asset criteria described below.

The attorneys at The Elder Law Firm help clients understand the eligibility requirements for the different types of VA pension benefits and decide when to apply for those benefits.

What are the types of VA pensions?

There are three types of VA pensions. One type is the low income or basic pension. This is the lowest level of pension available to a veteran or to the surviving spouse of a veteran. In 2019, the maximum payment to a veteran with no dependents was $13,537 per year. The housebound benefit is a special monthly pension paid to a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran who has disability that confines him or her to the home. In 2019, the maximum payment to housebound veteran with no dependents was $16,540 per year. Aid and Attendance is paid to a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran who needs regular assistance with his or her activities of daily living, is blind, or is in a nursing facility. In 2019, the maximum Aid and Attendance payment to a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran was $22,577 per year.

A different benefit, called VA Disability Compensation, is paid to a veteran because of injuries or disease contracted while on active duty or which were made worse by active military service.

What are the limits on assets and income?

The VA established new eligibility requirements for VA pensions pertaining to assets and income. As of October 18, 2018, The new regulations require a veteran (or the surviving spouse of a veteran) to have “net worth” not exceeding $127,061. The VA defines net worth as the sum of assets plus annual income. If the veteran is married, the assets and income of the spouse of the
veteran are included in this calculation. Some assets are not counted, including the home, furnishings, and a car. The VA’s new definition of home has the impact if including acreage adjacent to the veteran’s residence in the calculation of net worth.
For income, the VA looks at the veteran’s (or the surviving spouse’s) household income and subtracts unreimbursed medical expenses. If the amount of income that is left exceeds the applicable VA income limit, then the veteran (or the surviving spouse) is not eligible for a VA pension payment. The income limits are adjusted annually.

What happens if the person who needs a VA Pension gives something away?

If you give money or property away, or if you transfer something for less than its fair market value, and the gift or transfer occurs within three years of the time that you apply for a VA pension, the gift or transfer may make you ineligible for a VA pension for a period of time of up to five years. Some transfers that are acceptable in an application for Medicaid benefits, such as transfers to purchase annuities or to fund a trust, may result in penalties for the applicant for a VA pension.

Who is eligible for VA health care benefits?

A veteran who served on active duty and who was discharged from military service under conditions other than dishonorable may qualify for VA health care benefits. The VA gives priority to veterans with service-connected disabilities and conditions, followed by veterans who receive housebound pension benefits or Aid and Attendance benefits.

The Veterans Health Administration provides primary care, specialty care, hospital-based services, medications, dental care, vision care, mental health care, counseling, and other health care services. Some veterans are required to make copayments for health care services and medications.

Where does the VA offer health care services?

The VA operates the Portland VA Medical Center and the Roseburg VA Health Care System; the Southern Oregon-White City Rehabilitation Center and Clinic (which includes the White City domiciliary), and a number of outpatient clinics around the state. The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs operates two long term care facilities, the Oregon Veterans’ Home in The Dalles, which includes a memory care unit, and the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home in Lebanon. Both state veterans’ home receive support from the VA.