If you’ve been injured due to your military service and served America’s people during wartime, you might be eligible for VA compensation and pension payments. However, although these two benefits may seem similar, they are distinctly different, and you need to know how to claim both — or if you qualify to receive both at the same time — to maximize your monthly income.
Read on for more information about VA compensation vs. pension payments and what each means for your financial future.
Veterans’ Pension benefits are monthly, federally tax-free monetary benefits for low-income and wartime Veterans. Wartime Veterans are those who served in the United States military during wartime.
Even though VA pension benefits sound similar to traditional job pensions, they’re not affected by how many years you served in the military. Instead, the amount of a VA pension benefit is based on your overall financial need.
The pension benefits last for the rest of your life once you receive them unless some element of your eligibility changes to make you ineligible.
Veterans can receive VA pension benefits if they were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. In addition, applying Veterans must have served under one of the following conditions:
In addition to the above requirements, your countable family income and net worth must be below the yearly limit set by Congress.
On top of those requirements, at least one of the below things must be true for you to qualify for VA pension benefits:
Your payment rate for your VA pension payments is based on your countable income and the MAPR as described above.
“Countable income” is how much money you earn. It includes Social Security benefits, retirement or income payments, and income received by your dependents. Various expenses, such as medical expenses not covered by your insurance provider, can reduce your countable income, so you qualify for higher Veterans pension payments.
In essence, you receive money based on how much you earn/receive each month and up to the limit set out by the MAPR.
VA disability compensation is not the same thing as VA pension benefits. Disability compensation is a monthly payment to Veterans with a service-connected disability. They suffered an injury or disabling incident due to their time in the military.
VA disability compensation is available to Veterans who experience a disease, injury, or event while in the military that caused a disability they still have today. It’s also available to Veterans who develop negative health conditions, illnesses, or disabilities after they leave the service, though they must prove that their time in the military caused or aggravated these conditions.
Veterans with an other than dishonorable discharge qualify for VA disability compensation benefits. Furthermore, the Veterans must prove that:
If they prove this, they receive a service connection and monthly benefits as disability compensation payments.
Proving disability compensation can be difficult, even in the best of circumstances. It can be complicated to determine what evidence the VA is looking for and an experienced Veterans law attorney can help navigate the process.
There are several differences between VA compensation benefits and pension benefits.
Firstly, VA pension benefits are only available to Veterans and their non-service family members with demonstrable financial need. Disability compensation benefits generally aren’t affected by monthly income. A Veteran could be financially comfortable or secure but still qualify for disability benefits if they receive a service connection for their injuries or disabilities.
Next, VA pension benefits are not affected by service connections. A disability might factor into VA pension benefit decisions, but the disability doesn’t have to be service connected. Instead, the VA may think of the disability in terms of how it affects the Veteran’s ability to earn substantially gainful income. Meanwhile, a service connection is required for VA disability benefits.
In addition, the VA pension allows qualifying Veterans to be eligible for monthly payments based on age. Veterans over the age of 65 don’t have to have a disability to be eligible. Disability compensation cases aren’t affected by age, in contrast.
Lastly, both of these VA benefits tend to differ in payment rates. Monthly payment rates for pensions are set based on a veteran’s household income, whereas rates for disability compensation benefits depend on the severity of your service-connected disabilities.
In most cases, you cannot receive both Department of Veterans Affairs disability compensation and a Veteran pension. In these cases, VA will automatically pay the amount of pension to which you are eligible first (because it is a tax-free benefit federally), and then if your disability compensation exceeds your pension amount will pay the difference in disability compensation. Keep in mind, however, that if your disability compensation is high enough, you might not meet the income cap requirement to receive pension.
The Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits are separate monthly payments added to the amount of your pension if you qualify for one. These are only available to Veterans who require day-to-day assistance with their living activities or are housebound.
To qualify for Aid and Attendance or Housebound payments, a Veteran must stay in bed or require the assistance of another person to help them do daily activities like feeding, dressing, and bathing. Alternatively, they can be a nursing home patient because of loss of physical or mental abilities, or they may have limited eyesight.
Regardless, the Aid and Attendance pension is intended to help cover the cost of assisted living, nursing home care, or in-home care from a live-in nurse. Veterans may combine the Aid and Attendance payments with general disability compensation payments if they qualify for both.
Once again, however, to qualify for disability compensation payments, the Veteran must have a provable service connection between their disabling injuries and their time in the military.
As you can see, VA disability compensation and pension payments are distinctly different benefits. Though you may qualify for both, you can only claim one. Fortunately, the VA defaults to paying you whichever benefit is higher, so you always receive the maximum monetary compensation possible.
That said, filing for and claiming your VA pension benefits or disability compensation can be tricky. Knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys like Berry Law can help you file successful applications, overturn disability benefits appeals, and much more when you contact us today for a free case evaluation.
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