VA Pension for Surviving Spouses of Veterans
After cremation services in Phoenix, AZ for military veterans, their surviving spouses may be entitled to a Survivor’s Pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are several requirements that must be met in order to qualify to receive this pension, but it’s certainly worth investigating if you are the spouse of a military veteran who has died.
The first requirement for the VA Survivor’s Pension is that your spouse must have received an other than dishonorable discharge from the military.
There are also wartime service requirements that your deceased spouse must have met as a military veteran in order for you to be considered for a VA Survivor’s Penson. Your spouse must have served on active duty with the Army, Marines, Coast Guard, Navy, or Air Force for at least 90 days, and at least one of those days had to be during a recognized time of war.
Recent recognized times of war in the United States include:
- World War II (December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946)
- Korean Conflict (January 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955)
- Vietnam (August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975)
- Persian Gulf War (1991)
- Afghan War (October 2001 – December 2014)*
- Iraq War (March 2003 – December 2011)*
*Military operations continue in both Iraq and Afghanistan, so check with your local VA to see if your deceased spouse is considered a veteran of either of these wars, even if they served in either country after the end dates listed above.
Because the VA Survivor’s Pension is designed to supplement income for a military veteran’s surviving dependents who are in financial need, the family’s net worth (assets plus annual income) is used to determine eligibility for the pension.
The VA uses Medicaid’s maximum community spouse resource allowance (CSRA) as their net worth limit for eligibility for the VA Survivor’s Pension. In 2020, this amount is $128,640. Like other government benefits, cost of living adjustments are made annually to make sure these limits keep pace with inflation.
It’s important to note that there are some assets that are excluded from the VA’s net worth valuation. These include the survivor’s primary residence (regardless of its value) and their personal effects that are in line with “a reasonable mode of life” (furniture, household appliances, motor vehicles, etc.).
However, there is a limit on the size of the lot that the applicant’s primary residence is located on. It cannot be any larger than two acres (any land over two acres that the survivor’s primary residence sits on is considered by the VA to be an asset that goes into the net worth valuation).
Another limitation (the Maximum Annual Pension Rate or MAPR) that the VA imposes for eligibility for the VA Survivor’s Pension is on how much income the surviving spouse (and any other dependents) can make.
The more dependents a surviving spouse has, the higher their countable income can be. For example, if a surviving spouse has no dependents, their MAPR is $9,224, while a surviving spouse with one dependent is $12,072.
The VA Survivor’s Pension is the difference between the household’s countable income and its MAPR.
It’s important to know that medical expenses that are higher than five percent of the survivor’s base MAPR can be used to reduce both countable income and net worth. Therefore, even though a survivor may appear on paper to have too much income and too many assets to qualify for the VA Survivor’s Pension, if they have a serious or chronic illness, these medical expenses can be used to dramatically lower their net worth.