Written By: Aaron Munz,
Last modified: April 23, 2021

What Is a VA Pension and Survivors Pension?

The Veterans Pension program provides monthly compensation to wartime veterans who are eligible based on age, certain disability requirements and income and net worth limits.  

VA Survivors Pension is available to certain surviving spouses and dependent children. The payment amount depends on your income and a limit that Congress sets, known as the Maximum Annual Pension Rate, or MAPR. Eligible veterans and surviving spouses may also qualify for additional financial assistance through the VA Aid and Attendance program. 

The money can be used to financially support veterans or surviving spouses and children with low incomes. Contact a VA-accredited claims agent to learn more about VA pensions and get help applying for VA benefits.

VA Survivors Pension

Certain surviving spouses and dependent children of veterans qualify for VA Survivors Pension. This provides a monthly payment that is based on your income, net worth and the Maximum Annual Pension Rate set by Congress. 

The VA sets a net worth limit to qualify for Survivors Pension. As of Dec. 1, 2020, the VA’s net worth limit to qualify for Survivors Pension is $130,773. 

VA Aid and Attendance Benefits

VA Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits provide monthly payments for qualified veterans and dependents or surviving spouses receiving a VA pension.

These benefits are available to veterans who are housebound or need assistance performing daily activities such as eating, bathing and dressing. Veterans coping with end-stage mesothelioma may qualify for this type of assistance.

VA Pension Eligibility

The VA sets certain requirements to qualify for a VA pension, including serving during a wartime period. Wartime periods are defined by the VA as falling within certain dates for the following wars: Mexican Border period, World War I, World War II, Korean conflict, Vietnam War and the Gulf War. 

The VA’s eligibility requirements are complex, and some veterans may need assistance to understand whether they qualify.

Service Requirements for Eligibility

To qualify for a VA pension, a veteran must satisfy both of the following requirements:
  • The veteran did not receive a dishonorable discharge, and
  • The veteran must have a yearly family income and net worth within certain limits set by Congress.
And at least one of the following must be true about the veteran’s service. The veteran:
  • Started active duty before Sept. 8, 1980, and served at least 90 days, with at least one day during wartime
  • Started on active duty as an enlisted person after Sept. 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months or the full period for which they were called, with at least one day during wartime
  • Served as an officer and started on active duty after Oct. 16, 1981, and had not previously served on active duty for at least 24 months
Additionally, at least one of the following must be true. The veteran:
  • Is at least 65 years old
  • Has a permanent and total disability
  • Is a patient in a nursing home because of a disability
  • Is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income.
Surviving spouses may qualify for VA Survivors Pension if:
  • They haven’t remarried after the veteran’s death, and
  • The deceased veteran didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge and they met one of the above service requirements
  • Yearly family income and net worth is within certain limits set by Congress
2020 Mesothelioma Packet from the Mesothelioma Center
Free Mesothelioma Guide for Veterans
Learn about mesothelioma, asbestos exposure in the military, your treatment options and more.

Filing a Claim for a VA Pension

Veterans can apply online, in person at a VA regional office, or by mailing the Application for Pension, also known as VA Form 21P-527EZ, to the Pension Intake Center, P.O. Box 5365, Janesville, WI 53547-5365.

The Application for Pension must include the following information:
  • Social Security number or VA file number
  • Military history
  • Work history
  • Medical information
  • Personal financial information and the financial information of dependents
  • Bank account direct deposit information

To start the process, veterans must submit their intent to file by phone or in written form. The number to submit an intent to file is 800-827-1000.

If submitting in written form, a veteran must file VA Form 21-0966, also known as an Intent to File a Claim for Compensation and/or Pension or Survivors Pension. Submitting an intent to file is important because it sets the effective date, which is the day you can start getting your benefits, and then you can gather the documents to support and submit your VA pension claim. 

How Long Does the VA Take to Make a Decision?

The VA does not offer a time frame for how long it takes them to make a decision on VA pension claims. It processes claims in the order it receives them, unless the claim requires priority processing.

While you wait for a decision you may explore other options for compensation, including other VA claims, Social Security Disability and treatment and travel grants.

VA Pension Amounts

VA pension amounts depend on your income, net worth and a limit set by Congress known as the Maximum Annual Pension Rate, or MAPR. Your MAPR is based on how many dependents you have, if you’re married to another veteran who qualifies for a pension, and if your disabilities qualify you for Aid and Attendance compensation.  

A VA pension affects other forms of VA compensation. For example, if you’re eligible for both a VA pension and VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, also known as DIC, the VA will give you the benefit that pays the most money. You cannot receive both a VA pension and DIC.

2021 VA pension rates for veterans with no dependents:
If you have no dependents and … Your MAPR amount is:
You don’t qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits $13,931
You qualify for Housebound benefits $17,024
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits $23,238
2021 VA pension rates for veterans with at least one dependent spouse or child:
If you have no dependents and … Your MAPR amount is:
You don’t qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits $9,344
You qualify for Housebound benefits $21,337
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits $27,549
2021 VA pension rates for veterans with no dependents:
If you have no dependents and … Your MAPR amount is:
You don’t qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits $13,931
You qualify for Housebound benefits $17,024
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits $23,238
2021 VA pension rates for surviving spouses with no dependents:
If you have no dependents and … Your MAPR amount is:
You don’t qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits $9,344
You qualify for Housebound benefits $11,420
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits $14,934
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits and you’re the surviving spouse of a veteran who served in the Spanish-American War $15,539
2021 VA pension rates for surviving spouses with at least one dependent:
If you have no dependents and … Your MAPR amount is:
You don’t qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits $12,229
You qualify for Housebound benefits $14,300
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits $17,815
You qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits and you’re the surviving spouse of a veteran who served in the Spanish-American War $18,355

The VA’s pension program provides monthly payments to veterans and surviving spouses with low income to help support them financially. This program can assist families undergoing financial strain and can help them afford to live and pay for medical care.

Understanding who is eligible for this program and how to apply is complex. Veterans should reach out to a VA-accredited claims agent if they have questions about eligibility and if they need help applying for a VA pension.


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