Article 40-Estate Planning Series: Why You Can Qualify For The Improved Pension Benefit Even If Your Income Is Too High

Written by Wright Law on . Posted in Estate Planning

In the last several columns I have addressed how some veterans or surviving spouses can qualify for untaxed pension benefits.  I addressed which veterans are eligible and the requirements to qualify.  This included the limit on assets and income a veteran can have and still qualify.

Last column I described just how little income a veteran could have and still qualify.  If the veteran is single, he or she can have an income of only $12,868.  If married, the combined annual income cannot exceed $16,851.  Unfortunately, many otherwise qualified veterans or spouses may see these numbers and assume they do not qualify for a benefit.  That would be a mistake.

The government also allows certain expenses to be deducted from income.  Essentially, most unreimbursed medical expenses can be deducted before determining the veteran’s income.

Examples of unreimbursed medical expenses include health care and insurance premiums/deductibles.  Costs for home health care, assisted living and nursing home care may also qualify.  Even prescriptions, hearing aids, transportation and similar costs may qualify.

The bottom line is that veterans or couples with high out-of-pocket medically related costs may be entitled to pension benefits even if their income is otherwise too high.  In fact, it is possible in some cases that a veteran’s income may be effectively zero, qualifying him or her for the maximum pension benefit. 

There is one other important benefit available to veterans considering applying for this benefit.  By federal law, veterans (or surviving spouses) cannot be charged by someone for assisting with the application process.  In fact, those who do assist must be accredited by the government.  You can go to www.va.gov/vso/ to find a list of those who are accredited and qualified to assist.

Having walked through the basics to qualify for the improved pension benefit, in my next column I will address why and how the VA may be changing the rules . . .

© 2015 Steven J Wright  

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