Understanding the three major VA pension programs

By Mary Markovich

Affordable VA Accreditation Training


It is important to understand that there are currently three major pension programs being administered by VA:
    1) The old law pension program formerly known as protected pension, for those veterans and dependent applicants receiving benefits on June 30, 1960;
    2) The pension program under Section 306 Pension, for those who filed on or after July 1, 1960; and
    3) The current pension program, the Improved Pension law (Public Law 95-588), effective Jan. 1, 1979. Applicants for pension or death pension after Dec. 31, 1978, will come under the Improved Pension law.
NOTE: Being knowledgeable about the three major pension programs is important because persons who are currently receiving a pension under the old law or Section 306 Pension programs do not have the asset limitations.

However, the claimant may elect to receive their pension under the Improved Pension law. Such election is irrevocable, except where election was based on erroneous information furnished by VA.

Improved pension is a monthly payment available to veterans or surviving spouses. The improved pension provides a special monthly pension to offset the cost of necessary health care. The three types of SMP are:
    1) Low income pension
    2) Housebound benefits
    3) Aid and attendance
The pension may be payable to a veteran who is
    1) Age 65 or over or
    2) Who is permanently and totally disabled as a result of a non-service-connected disability.
Upon the non-service-connected death of a veteran, his or her spouse and/or dependent children may be entitled to death pension.