Differences between Compensation and Pension


Compensation is not a needs or income-based program. Veteran’s applying for service connected disability compensation do not need to have total disability, low income or wartime service in order to be eligible. Veteran’s seeking compensation benefits must be able to connect their disabilities to their military service in order to receive compensation for those disabilities.∙ compensation not needs or income based:

  • Total disability not required
  • Low income not required
  • Wartime service not required
  • Disabilities must be related to military service

Example: a wealthy young Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) veteran was exposed to an IED explosion during his military service. He suffers with traumatic brain injury (TBI) from the blast. He also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to casualties he witnessed in combat. This veteran is likely eligible for service connected disability compensation.


Pension is a needs-based program. To be eligible for pension benefits, a veteran must have wartime service, low income and total and permanent disability. Disability for pensions purposes does not need to be connected to military service. Veterans aged 65 and older are presumed to be permanently and totally disabled for purposes of pension benefits.

  • Pension is needs-based
  • Disabilities do not need to be related to military service
  • Low income required
  • Total and permanent disability required
  • Wartime service required

Example: A homeless veteran of the Korean Conflict has chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) from years of smoking cigarettes. He also has severe ischemic heart disease. This veteran will likely be eligible for pension because he has low income, has total and permanent disabilities and has wartime service. He would also be older than 65 years of age, which would automatically make him permanent and total.