Updated: Oct 6, 2022
If you’re an older veteran, the spouse of an older veteran, or a family member looking after a veteran, you’re probably already taking advantage of benefits the VA offers, such as health care or service-connected disability benefits.
What many veterans and their families don’t realize is that the VA also offers non-service-connected (NSC) benefits. Take the NSC VA Pension, for example. This is a means tested benefit for veterans age 65 and older (or 100% disabled) with limited resources who are suffering from catastrophic medical costs. For these veterans, if unreimbursed medical expense outpace income, this benefit can offset some of those expenses.
To qualify for the NSC Pension, a veteran must meet certain criteria. The benefit is for those with honorable record of service, minimum of 90 days of active duty, at least one day in a wartime period. Under current law, the VA recognizes the following wartime periods to decide eligibility for VA pension benefits:
Mexican Border period (May 9, 1916, to April 5, 1917, for Veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders, or in adjacent waters)
World War I (April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918)
World War II (December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946)
Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955)
Vietnam War era (November 1, 1955, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served outside the Republic of Vietnam.)
Gulf War (August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)
The NSC Pension isn’t the only benefit available. There’s also Aid & Attendance, which pays an additional amount on top of the NSC Pension for people who need more care. This money can make a real difference for older veterans and their families.
For a married veteran in 2021, the Aid & Attendance benefit caps out at $2,269 per month, or $27,549 per year. Let’s put this in perspective. A typical older veteran today might be getting $1,500 a month in Social Security. If the veteran is married, the spouse may also be getting Social Security. For the sake of this example, let’s say a veteran has a monthly income of $2,500. If the veteran needs care in a facility, he or she may be spending upwards of $4,000 per month for that care, which puts the veteran is in the red every single month.
As long as the veteran meets certain resource limits ($133,000 at this writing), and as long as their home isn’t on a plot larger than two acres, the veteran can qualify for NSC Pension and Aid & Attendance to make up the deficit. The veteran can remain in that facility and get the appropriate level of care.
The NSC Pension and Aid & Attendance are wonderful benefits that few veterans know about. I didn’t know about them until I started working in elder law, and I’m retired from the Marine Corps. Why is this? I’m inclined to believe that it’s a matter of the numbers. Take Sumner County for example. According to the latest census data, there are currently 11, 978 veterans living in the county. We have one Veterans Services Officer (VSO). That’s a lot of ground to cover. The VA acknowledges that they need to do more to let veterans know about NSC benefits and they have committed to doing more. That’s good news for our older veterans and their families.