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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Veteran's Pension

What is VA Pension for veterans?

Pension is a benefit paid to wartime veterans who have limited or no income, and who are age 65 or older, or, if under 65, who are permanently and totally disabled. Veterans who are more seriously disabled may qualify for Aid & Attendance and Housebound benefits. These are benefits that are paid in addition to the basic pension rate.

What are the Periods of War?

World War II. December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946, inclusive. If the veteran was in service on December 31, 1946, continuous service before July 26, 1947 is considered World War II service.

Korean Conflict. June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955 inclusive.

Vietnam Era. August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975. The period beginning on February 28, 1961 and ending on May 7, 1975 if the veteran served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period.

Persian Gulf War. August 2, 1990 through date to be prescribed by Presidential proclamation of law.

Who is eligible?

Generally you may be eligible if:

You were discharged from service under conditions other than dishonorable,

and

You served at least 90 days of active military service, 1 day of which was during a period of war. If you entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally you 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

Your countable family income is below a yearly limit set by law. (The yearly limit of income is set by congress.)

and

You are age 65 or older, or you are permanently and totally disabled, not due to your own willful misconduct.

As you can see, there are a number of criteria that may affect your eligibility to pension benefits. If you are unsure if you meet all criteria, we encourage you to contact our office if your countable income appears to be near or over the maximum. You can deduct your Medicare premiums, private health insurance premiums and the cost of an assisted living facility or In-Home Care provider from your income to reduce your income.

What is countable income for veterans pension eligibility purposes?

This includes income received by the veteran and his or her dependents from most sources. It includes earnings, social security, disability and retirement payments, interest and dividends, and net income from farming or business.

What about net worth?

Net worth means the net value of the assets of the veteran and his or her dependents. It includes such assets as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds and any property other than the veteran’s residence and a reasonable lot area. There is no set limit on how much net worth a veteran and his dependents can have, but net worth cannot be excessive. The decision as to whether a claimant’s net worth is excessive depends on the facts of each individual case. All net worth should be reported and VA will determine if a claimant’s assets are sufficiently large that the claimant could live off these assets for a reasonable period of time. VA’s needs-based programs are not intended to protect substantial assets or build up an estate for the benefit of heirs.

Are there any exclusions to income or deductions that may be made to reduce countable income?

Yes, there are exclusions. The following are examples of what may be excluded:

  • Public assistance such as Supplemental Security Income is not considered income.
  • Many other specific sources of income are not considered income, however, all income should be reported. VA will exclude any income that the law allows.
  • A portion of unreimbursed medical expenses paid by the claimant after VA receives the claimant’s pension claim my be deducted. (These are expenses you have paid for medical services or products for which you will not be reimbursed by Medicare or private medical insurance.)
  • Certain other expenses, such as a veteran’s education expenses, and in some cases, a portion of the educational expenses of a child over 18 are deductible.

How does VA calculate your pension?

Your annual pension is calculated by first totaling all your countable income. Then any deductions are subtracted from that total. The remaining countable income is deducted from the appropriate annual income which is determined by the number of your dependents, if any, and whether or not you are entitled to housebound or aid and attendance benefits. This amount is then divided by 12 and rounded to the nearest dollar. This gives you the amount of your monthly payment.

Your pension is calculated to be an amount equal to the difference between your countable family income and the annual pension limit set by Congress.

  • If for example the annual income limit for a veteran and spouse is $13,855 and your income combined with your spouses income is $10,855, your VA pension will be $3,000 paid in monthly installments.
  • If your total countable family income is more than $13,855 in this example, then you are not eligible for VA Veterans Pension for that year. You may reapply again at any time your countable income falls below the limit.
  • A portion of your unreimbursed medical expenses (what you paid out of pocket after medical insurance pays) may reduce your countable income. Using the example above for combined family income ($10,855)
    • If your medical expenses for a year are $8,000 and your medical insurance pays $6,400 of that, your unreimbursed medical expense is $1,600.
    • That portion of your unreimbursed medical expense ($1600 in the example above) which is more than 5% of the maximum rate of pension, or $693 in this example ($13,855 x .05 = $693), may be deducted from your total combined income which then increases the amount VA pays you.
    • Since the $1,600 out of pocket expenses is greater than $693, you may reduce your family income by $907 ($1,600 - $693). So, your income for VA pension purposes is now $9,948 ($10,855-$907).
    • Your VA pension would then be $13,855 (maximum rate for a veteran with a spouse) minus $9,948 (total family income after deducting unreimbursed medical expenses), or $3,907 for that year.

Net worth, or corpus of estate (the value of your assets) also has a bearing on your pension eligibility. Because VA pension is a needs based benefit, a large net worth may render you ineligible.

Net worth and corpus of estate mean the market value, less mortgages or other encumbrances, of all real and personal property owned by the veteran, except the veteran’s dwelling (single family unit), including a reasonable lot area, and personal effects to and consistent with the claimant’s reasonable mode of life.

There are a number of other criteria that may affect your eligibility to pension benefits such as veterans who are in need of regular aid and attendance to manage normal daily activities, or who are in a care facility. That is why we encourage you to go ahead and file an application, particularly if your countable income appears to be near the maximum.

What are Aid & Attendance and Housebound benefits?

Aid & Attendance (A&A) is a benefit paid in addition to monthly pension. This benefit may not be paid without eligibility to pension. A veteran may be eligible for A&A when:

  • The veteran requires the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required by everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting himself from the hazards of his daily environment, OR
  • The veteran is bedridden, in that his disability or disabilities requires that he remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment OR
  • The veteran is a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity OR
  • The veteran is blind, or so nearly blind as to have corrected visual acuity or 5/200 or less in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.

Housebound is paid in addition to monthly pension. Like A&A, Housebound benefits may not be paid without eligibility to pension. A veteran may be eligible for Housebound benefits when:

  • The veteran has a single permanent disability evaluated as 100 percent disabling AND due to such disability, he is permanently and substantially confined to his immediate premises OR
  • The veteran has a single permanent disability evaluated as 100 percent disabling AND another disability, or disabilities, evaluated as 60 percent or more disabling.

A veteran cannot receive both Aid & Attendance and Housebound benefits at the same time.

How do I apply?

You may apply for Aid & Attendance or Housebound benefits by Department of Veterans Affairs (Not recommended) or

Complete Information to Apply for Aid & Attendance and VA Form 21-2680 Informal Claim. Completed applications can be emailed, faxed or mailed to this office. We are a county office and there are no charges for this service.

In addition you will need to get the following forms completed.

  • VA Form 21-2680 Examination for Housebound Status or Permanent Need for Regular Aid and Attendance. Must be completed by an MD.
  • Care Expense Statement. To be completed by Assisted Living Facility or Home Care Provider and also signed by the veteran or widow.

If I am already receiving monthly payments or a service-connected disability can I get a VA pension too?

You cannot receive a VA non-service connected pension and service-connected compensation at the same time. However, if you apply for pension and are awarded payments, VA will pay you whichever benefit is the greater.

What are the maximum annual pension rates?

Set Annually by Congress

What if I am receiving DIC payments because my husband died in service or of a service connected disability?

No, you cannot receive both the DIC payments and Pension benefits at the same time. DIC payments are always higher than pension benefits.

If you meet the requirements for Housebound or Aid & Attendance benefits you can get an additional amount added to your DIC payments. To apply for A&A simply have your doctor complete VA Form 21-2680 and submit




Healthcare Enrollment Questions

If I am enrolled with VA, what benefits will I receive?

Veterans in the VA health care system will be eligible to receive necessary hospital and outpatient services, including preventive and primary care. These include: diagnostic and treatment services; rehabilitation; mental health and substance abuse treatment; home health, respite and hospice care; and drugs in conjunction with VA treatment.

If I am enrolled, what cost will there be for me?

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is required by law to charge veterans, in certain income categories, a co-payment for their outpatient visits. Co-payments are based on primary care visits ($15), specialty care visits ($50), and no co-payment designations.

Is this an insurance policy or an HMO?

VA health benefits are established by Federal law and regulations and funded through appropriations. They are not the same as an insurance contract. Also, veterans do not pay monthly premiums to receive VA health care. In addition, you are not required to use VA as your exclusive health care provider. If you have health insurance, or eligibility for other programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, or TRICARE, you may continue to use services under those programs. We recommend that you keep any other insurance or HMO coverage.

Are there any restrictions on getting care in private facilities at VA expense?

Yes. Care in private facilities at VA expense is provided only under certain circumstances. To determine if you are eligible for private care at VA expense, you will need to contact the nearest VA health care facility.

Will VA pay for care in private facilities?

Usually not. VA provides care in private facilities at VA expense when VA has a contract arrangement for certain services or, under very limited circumstances, when VA approves the care in advance.

What is the coverage for emergency services?

VA provides urgent and limited emergency care in VA facilities. However, VA’s ability to pay for emergency care in non-VA facilities is very limited. The Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act authorized VA to expand emergency care coverage. Refer to the last paragraph for additional details.

What if I get sick while on travel?

You may receive health care at any VA health care facility in the country. To minimize any “out-of-pocket” expenses while traveling, you should familiarize yourself with the location of any VA health care facilities in the area. VA’s authority to reimburse you for care in non-VA facilities is very limited.

If enrolled, can I get dental care?

In general, dental benefits are limited to service-connected dental conditions or to veterans who are permanently and totally disabled from service-connected causes. For specifics, contact the VA health benefits advisor at your local VA health care facility.

Will VA take care of my nursing home needs?

Nursing home care in VA or private nursing homes may be provided to certain veterans as space and resources permit. The Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act has authorized VA to expand long-term care services. Refer to the last paragraph for additional details. To determine if you are eligible for VA nursing home care, you will need to contact the nearest VA health care facility.

Will VA provide hearing aids and eyeglasses?

Yes, if you are receiving VA care and are service-disabled with a disability rating of 10% or greater or are a former POW. Otherwise, hearing aids and eyeglasses will only be provided in special circumstances and not for generally occurring hearing or vision loss.

What kinds of maternity services are available?

VA provides maternity care, but cannot provide care to a newborn child, even in the immediate aftermath of the birth. The veteran mother must make other arrangements for payment for the care of the child.

Are there any limits on days of hospital care or outpatient visits VA will provide?

No, your treating physician will determine what is considered appropriate and necessary hospital care or outpatient services and will provide such care consistent with current medical care practices.

Are there any plans to further expand VA’s health care benefits?

On November 30, 1999, the President signed Public Law 106-117, the Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act. This legislation authorizes VA to expand long-term care services and to reimburse for the emergency treatment of certain enrolled veterans. The law also requires VA enroll veterans awarded the Purple Heart into Priority Group Three. VA is currently in the process of drafting regulations required to implement these new authorities. For specifics, contact the Health Benefits Service Center at 877-222-8387.



Agent Orange

What is Agent Orange?

Agent Orange was one of the weed-killing chemicals used by the U.S. military in the Vietnam War. It was sprayed to remove leaves from trees that enemy troops hid behind. Agent Orange and similar chemicals were known as “herbicides.” Agent Orange was applied by airplanes, helicopters, trucks and backpack sprayers.

In the 1970’s some veterans became concerned that exposure to Agent Orange might cause delayed health effects. One of the chemicals in Agent Orange contained small amounts of dioxin (also known as “TCDD”), which had been found to cause a variety of illnesses in laboratory animals. More recent studies have suggested that dioxin may be related to several types of cancer and other disorders.

As a Vietnam Veteran, What Kind of Benefits Can I Get?

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays disability compensation to Vietnam veterans with injuries or diseases that began in, or were aggravated by, their military service. These are called “service-connected” disabilities.

How Much Compensation Will I Get?

Monthly payment rates are based on the veteran's combined rating for his or her service-connected disabilities. These ratings are based on the severity of the disabilities. Additional amounts are paid to certain veterans with severe disabilities ("special monthly compensation") and certain veterans with dependents.

What Evidence Do I Need?

In an Agent Orange-based claim by a Vietnam veteran for service-connected benefits, VA requires:

  • A medical diagnosis of a disease which VA recognizes as being associated with Agent Orange.
  • Competent evidence of service in Vietnam, and
  • Competent medical evidence that the disease began within the deadline (if any).

Who Can Get Benefits?

Under the law, veterans who served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 (including those who visited Vietnam even briefly), and who have a disease that VA recognizes as being associated with Agent Orange, are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange.

These veterans are eligible for service-connected compensation based on their service, if they have one of the diseases on VA's list of "Diseases associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents" VA updates this list regularly based on reports from the National Academy of Sciences, an independent research and education institution.

What Benefits Can My Family Get?

Spina bifida birth defect

In 1996, President Clinton and VA Secretary Jesse Brown asked Congress to pass legislation providing health care, monthly disability compensation, and vocational rehabilitation to the children of Vietnam veterans suffering from the serious birth defect spina bifida, which has been linked to the veterans' exposure to Agent Orange. Congress passed the legislation, marking the first time our nation had ever compensated the children of veterans for a birth defect associated with their parent's exposure to toxic chemicals during their military service. VA is now providing benefits to over 800 children, including minors and adults.

Effective December 16, 2003, Congress authorized these benefits to children with spina bifida of certain veterans who served at or near the demilitarized zone in Korea between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971, because Agent Orange is known to have been sprayed in that area.

Survivor Benefits

Survivors of veterans (including spouses, children and dependent parents) who died as the result of a service-connected disease may be eligible for monthly Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits. These survivors may also be eligible for education, home loan and medical care benefits.

What If My Claim is Denied?

If the VA Regional Office says your disability is not service-connected or if the percentage of disability is lower than what you think is fair, you have the right to appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals. The first step in appealing is to send the VA Regional Office a "Notice of Disagreement" This Notice of Disagreement is a written statement saying that you "disagree" with the denial. Be sure your Notice includes the date of the VA's denial letter and be sure to list the benefits you are still seeking.

In response to the Notice of Disagreement, you will get a "Statement of the Case" from the VA Regional Office. This will repeat the reasons stated in the VA's denial letter why your claim was denied and will include the relevant VA regulations. Once you get the Statement of the Case, if you still wish to pursue your appeal, you should file a VA Form 9, "Appeal to Board Veterans' Appeals" which is sent to with the Statement of the Case. You have 60 days from the date on the Statement of the Case, or one year from the date the VA first denied your claim, to file the VA Form 9. Whichever date is later is your deadline.

Can I Appeal Beyond the VA Regional Office?

The Board of Veterans' Appeals (also known as "BVA") is a part of the VA, located in Washington, D.C. Members of the BVA review benefit claims decisions made by VA Regional Offices and issue a new decision. You may have a hearing before the BVA in Washington, DC or at your VA Regional Office.

Anyone appealing to the BVA should read the "Understanding the Appeal Process" pamphlet. It explains the steps involved in filing an appeal and to serve as a reference for the terms and abbreviations used in the appeal process. The Board mails a copy of this pamphlet to anyone who appeals their case. It is also available on the . Internet

Can I Appeal to a Court?

If the BVA does not grant all the benefits you are seeking, you have four choices:

  • Decide not to pursue your claim
  • Appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
  • Ask the BVA to reconsider its decision or
  • Reopen your case with new and material evidence.

What If I Served in Vietnam and Have a Disease Not on VA's List?

If you served in Vietnam and believe that you have a disease caused by herbicide exposure, but that disease is not on VA's list of diseases associated with herbicides like Agent Orange, you may still apply for service-connection. Such a veteran needs to establish entitlement to service connection on a direct (rather than “presumptive”) basis. In these cases, VA requires:

  • Competent medical evidence of a current disability
  • Competent evidence of exposure to an herbicide in Vietnam; and
  • Competent medical evidence of a nexus (causal relationship) between the herbicide exposure and the current disability.

What If I Was Exposed to an Herbicide Outside Vietnam?

Herbicides were used by the U.S. military to defoliate military facilities in the U.S. and in other countries as far back as the 1950s. Even if you did not serve in Vietnam, you can still apply for service-connected benefits if you were exposed to an herbicide while in the military which you believe caused your disease or injury. If you have a disease which is on the list of diseases which VA recognizes as being associated with Agent Orange, the VA requires:

  • A medical diagnosis of a disease which VA recognizes as being associated with Agent Orange (listed below),
  • Competent evidence of exposure to a chemical contained in one of the herbicides used in Vietnam (2,4-D; 2,4,5-T and its contaminant TCDD; cacodylic acid; or picloram), and
  • Competent medical evidence that the disease began within the deadline for that disease (if any).

If you have a disease which is not on the list of diseases which VA recognizes as being associated with Agent Orange, VA requires:

  • Competent medical evidence of a current disability;
  • Competent evidence of exposure to an herbicide during military service; and
  • Competent medical evidence of a nexus (causal relationship) between the herbicide exposure and the current disability.

VA Medical Care

Even if you decide not to file a claim for VA compensation benefits based on Agent Orange, you can still get a free physical examination at the nearest VA Medical Center. This is called the Agent Orange Registry Exam. This exam consists of four parts: an exposure history, a medical history, laboratory tests and a physical exam of those body systems most commonly affected by toxic chemicals. This exam might detect diseases which can be treated more effectively the earlier they are diagnosed. You may also be entitled to free ongoing medical treatment at a VA medical facility.

Social Security Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers both disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits. Veterans can receive both Social Security disability insurance benefits and VA disability compensation. (The supplemental security income benefit (SSI) is offset for VA pension or compensation.) Unlike VA compensation benefits that are measured in degrees of disability, SSA benefits require a total disability that will last at least one year. If you cannot work because of your disability, contact the nearest district office of the Social Security Administration.

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