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ALTCS attorney Marsha Goodman  

Marsha Goodman


Pension Benefits for Veterans and Their Surviving Spouses

The benefit available to the veteran or surviving spouse is the amount necessary to make up the difference between the applicant’s Income for VA Purposes (IVAP) and the maximum benefit amount.

See Also: Veterans Benefits for Service-Connected Illness and Injury

Veterans over age 65 who served during specified periods of war, and who were not dishonorably discharged, may be eligible for pension benefits to supplement low income and to assist with the cost of aid and attendance that is necessary to help them with their activities of daily living.

Monthly Maximum Benefit Amounts for 2018 (effective 12-1-17)

Basic Pension

  • Single Veteran: $1,097

  • Veteran and Spouse: $1,437

  • Each additional Dependent: $188

Pension for Veteran Requiring Regular Aid and Attendance

  • Single Veteran: $1,830

  • Veteran and Spouse: $2,170

  • Each additional Dependent: $188

Pension for Surviving Spouse of Veteran

  • Basic Pension: $735

  • Surviving Spouse requiring Aid and Attendance: $1,176

  • Additional benefit for each dependent child: $188


The benefit available to the veteran or surviving spouse is the amount necessary to make up the difference between the applicant’s Income for VA Purposes (IVAP) and the maximum benefit amount.

IVAP is calculated by totaling the applicant’s gross income, including all dividends and interest income, as well as the income of the spouse, if the veteran is married, and subtracting the unreimbursed cost of care, provided those expenses are at least 5% of gross income. Allowable expenses include:

  • Medicare and Supplemental Insurance Premiums, deductibles and co-pays for prescriptions that will continue to be incurred in the future;

  • therapy and medical care at home that is not covered by health insurance;

  • non-medical home care intended to assist with activities of daily living; and

  • the cost of a residential facility such as a group home, assisted living or memory care facility.

Example. Veteran’s monthly income consists of $1,788 from Social Security and $1,000 from a pension. Spouse’s monthly income is $765 from Social Security. Veteran is in a memory care facility that costs $4,300 per month. Veteran's IVAP: $1,788 + $1,000 + $765 - $4,300 = ($747). Since this Veteran’s IVAP is less than $0, he would be eligible for the maximum benefit amount.


The Veteran is expected to use a reasonable portion of his (and his spouse’s) resources to pay for care. Although a specific resource value is not included in the regulations, the general rule of thumb is that the countable resources for an unmarried applicant should not exceed $40,000, and the countable resources for a married applicant should not exceed $80,000. As with ALTCS, the applicant’s and/or spouse’s primary residence, personal and household goods, and one vehicle are not counted as resources. The principal value of a specific type of annuity is also not counted, although the income that is generated is counted as income. However, other income-producing property that may not be counted as a resource by ALTCS would be counted by the VA.

Assets transferred to an irrevocable trust, of which the veteran or his spouse is not the beneficiary, and over which he and/or his spouse have no control, is also generally not counted as a resource.

As of December 1, 2017, there is no transfer penalty or look-back period for creating such a trust or making any other transfers, such as gifts. However, the VA has indicated that it will propose regulations imposing a look-back period and penalty sometime during 2018.