The interplay of assets and income for VA Pension qualification

By Mary Markovich

Affordable VA Accreditation Training


The following is an article intended for accredited agents and accredited attorneys who may have questions regarding the asset and income limitations for the Veterans Pension Benefit that is commonly known as the Aid and Attendance Program.

First, the veteran must meet the five general Aid and Attendance requirements:
    1) Served at least 90 days of active military service;

    2) with at least one day occurring during a wartime;

    3) received a military discharge other than dishonorable;

    4) is permanently and totally disabled, and

    5) is in need of daily aid and attendance of another person in order to avoid the everyday hazards of his or her environment.
The next question in planning is: “Does the claimant meet the asset and income tests?”

The VA website (http://www.vba.va.gov) states that "there is no set limit on how much net worth a veteran ... can have, but the net worth cannot be excessive. The decision as to whether a veteran's net worth is excessive depends on the facts of the case." Some professionals have written that a veteran can have $80,000 of countable assets, excluding exempt assets.

However, many accredited agents and accredited attorneys know that a veteran retaining $80,000 of countable liquid assets will most likely be disqualified. So, what is the amount of countable assets that qualifies a claimant?

The VA adjudicator investigates a combination of factors, including but not limited to:
    1) The claimant's total household assets;

    2) the claimant's total household gross income;

    3) the claimant's total household recurring unreimbursed medical expenses;

    4) and claimant’s life expectancy.
For example, a claimant, age 88, has a life expectancy of five years. The VA evaluates the claimant’s total household assets, total household gross income and total household countable UME. If the claimant has enough income and assets to pay for medical expenses for the next five years, the claimant will most likely be denied.

Therefore, an older veteran will be allowed fewer countable assets than a younger veteran. A veteran with a small amount of UME will be allowed a smaller asset amount than a veteran with greater amount unreimbursed medical expenses. A veteran with high income will be allowed a lesser asset amount than a veteran with low income.

For a basic calculation, countable income for VA purposes is gross household income less the unreimbursed medical expenses, including the 5 percent deductible.

The resulting figure of this calculation is deducted from the maximum annual pension rate for that particular category, such as a single veteran, married veteran, surviving spouse or a veteran married to veteran. The claimant is then paid the entire maximum monthly pension rate, if the resulting figure is zero. The claimant will receive the difference between the maximum annual pension rate and the net amount, if the resulting figure is between the maximum annual pension rate and zero. The claimant will not receive a monthly benefit if the resulting figure is over the maximum annual pension rate.