Pension plan for veterans

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By Bob Kibler

    Veterans with low incomes who are either permanently and totally disabled, or ages 65 and older, may be eligible for monetary support if they have 90 days or more of active military service, at least one day of which was during a period of war.
    The 90-day active service requirement does not apply to veterans with a service-connected disability justifying discharge from the military. (Veterans who entered active duty on or after Sept. 8, 1980, or officers who entered active duty on or after Oct. 16, 1981, may have to meet a longer minimum period of active duty). The veteran’s discharge must have been under conditions other than dishonorable and the disability must be for reasons other than the veteran’s own willful misconduct.
    Pension beneficiaries, who were receiving a VA pension on Dec. 31, 1978, and do not wish to elect the Improved Pension, will continue to receive the pension rate received on that date. This rate generally continues as long as the beneficiary’s income remains within established limits, or net worth does not bar payment, and the beneficiary does not lose any dependents.
    Beneficiaries must continue to meet basic eligibility factors, such as permanent and total disability for veterans. VA must adjust rates for other reasons, such as a veteran’s hospitalization in a VA facility.
    Congress establishes the maximum annual improved Veterans pension rates. Payments are reduced by the amount of countable income of the veteran, spouse, and dependent children. When a veteran without a spouse or a child is furnished nursing home or domiciliary care by VA, the pension is reduced to an amount not to exceed $90 a month after three calendar months of care. The reduction may be delayed if nursing-home care is being continued to provide the veteran with rehabilitation services.
    In general, a veteran is considered permanently and totally disabled when such disabilities render it impossible for the average person to follow a substantial gainful occupation, and it is reasonably certain that the condition will continue throughout the life of the disabled veteran.  Medical documentation of the disability is required.
    VA makes payments to qualified veterans bringing their total income including other retirement or Social Security income to an established level.  Countable income may be reduced by the amount of un-reimbursed medical expenses paid for the veteran’s health care or for his dependents.  Pension is not payable to those veterans who have sufficient assets to support a comfortable and safe lifestyle.
    Current claims are submitted under the Improved Pension Program, although some veterans are still enrolled in similar programs known by other names that were in effect in the past.  Effective Dec.1, 2011, the Improved Pension Program provides the following examples of some of the annual rates, which are payable monthly to qualified veterans:
•    Veteran without dependents $12,255
•    Veteran with one dependent (spouse or child) $16,050
•    Veteran permanently housebound, one dependent $18,772
•    Veteran In need of aid and attendance, no dependents $20,446
•    Veteran In need of aid and attendance with one dependent $24,238
    If you are in one of the above categories and your income is less than the amount listed for that category, and you are otherwise qualified, you may be eligible for benefits under this program.
    For more information contact VA at (800) 827-1000 or the Service Officer for American Legion Post 16 at (434) 401-7335  for assistance. The office, located in American Legion Post 16 at 1301 Greenview Drive, Lynchburg, is open for walk-ins 10 a..m to 3 p..m on Tuesdays and by appointment (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) on Thursdays.
    Source for this article: VA booklet “Federal  Benefits for Veterans and Dependents”, 2011 edition.