The VA provides a pension (US Code Title 38 § 1541, § 1542, click here for the current rate tables) for the survivors of deceased wartime veterans. The pensions for survivors of deceased wartime veterans is intended to provide a guaranteed minimum income for the unremarried spouse and/or children who qualify.
For example: If the spouse had a countable income of $6000 per year with no deductible medical expenses and 1 dependent child, in 2012 the VA would have provided $10,759 – $6000, or $4,759 paid in 12 equal monthly payments. The current rates can be found on the VA’s web site.
A survivor eligible for the Death Pension may also be qualified for the Aid and Attendance or Housebound supplement. These supplements are are paid in addition to the basic pension, and provide a small additional income for persons who either need daily assistance with everyday living tasks or are substantially confined to their home.
The survivor may receive either Aid and Attendance or Housebound, not both.
“Countable Income” and “Net Worth” for Pensions for Survivors of Deceased Wartime Veterans
Countable Income is a complex matter (US Code Title 38 § 1503). For pension purposes, countable income is most sources of income received by the survivor or his/her dependents. This includes earnings, disability and retirement income, interest, dividends, rental income, net income from any business or farm, and normally any income from a dependent child.
An example of an uncountable income is public assistance (such as SSI). Additionally, unreimbursable medical expenses and educational expenses can be deducted from countable income. There are other specific incomes that are deductible, so if the “Countable Income” as you calculate it is even in the ballpark of the income rates, you should apply for the pension and report all your income sources. The VA is required to deduct all income allowed by law.
Their is no set limit on net worth of the claimants, however it cannot be ‘excessive’ (US Code Title 38 § 1543). Net worth includes such things as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, bank accounts, and property other than the primary residence. All net worth should be reported to the VA.
Pension Eligibility Criteria for Pensions for Survivors of Deceased Wartime Veterans
- the deceased veteran was discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions, AND
- the deceased veteran served at least 90 days of active military service 1 day of which was during a war time period. If he or she entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally he or she must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty. (There are exceptions to this rule.) AND
- you are the surviving spouse or unmarried child of the deceased veteran,
- AND your countable income is below a yearly limit set by law (The yearly limit on income is set by Congress).
An unremarried spouse can be any age.
A child must be:
- under 18, or
- in school and under 23, or
- was incapable of self support before the age of 18.
Aid and Attendance Eligibility for Pensions for Survivors of Deceased Wartime Veterans
The claimant is eligible for a Pension, and:
- The claimant requires the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting himself/herself from the hazards of his/her daily environment, OR,
- The claimant is bedridden, in that his/her disability or disabilities requires that he/she remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment, OR,
- The claimant is a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity, OR,
- The claimant is blind, or so nearly blind as to have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less, in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.
The claimant is eligible for a Pension, and:
- The claimant is substantially confined to his/her immediate premises because of permanent disability.
How to Apply
The NVF strongly recommends that you seek out the assistance of a Veteran Service Officer when filing a pension claim. The VSO will assist you in filling out the paperwork, gathering the required documentation, and tracking the status of the claim at no cost. Most Veterans Organizations, like the VFW, American Legion, Order of the Purple Heart, etc. have VSOs. The veterans affairs departments for each state also have Veteran Service Officers. If you would like some assistance in finding a VSO near you, please call us at 888 777-4443.
You can apply by filling out the VA Form 21-534, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by Surviving Spouse or Child (Click here to download). If you have any of the following material, please attach it to your application:
- Discharge or separation papers for the veteran (DD214 or equivalent, click here to apply for a replacement DD214)
- Dependency records (marriage & children’s birth certificates)
- Medical evidence (doctor & hospital reports)
Mail the application for Pensions for Survivors of Deceased Wartime Veterans to the VA Regional Office responsible for the area in which you live. You can find the correct Regional Office here.
You can also use the VA’s online application. The VA’s benefits hotline number is 1-800-827-1000.