To be eligible for the VA “Pension”, a veteran applicant must satisfy three basic tests: 1. Wartime Service; 2. A Disability; and 3. Limited Assets and Income. We will explore each of these requirements in the next few Parts.
A surviving spouse of a veteran must also meet a fourth test, the “Marriage” test. He or she must have been married to a veteran of the opposite gender at the time of the veteran’s death, been married for more than one year and have not remarried. Unfortunately, this means that many former spouses of veterans who were divorced from their veteran spouse before the veteran’s death do not meet this test.
As to the service test, a veteran must have generally have served 90 days of active (not reserve) duty one day of which was during designated wartime periods, including WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War. Please note the the VA definition of “wartime” differs from many common definitions for such periods.
The service test also requires that the veteran discharge must be “other than dishonorable”. Thus, it is not limited only to those who earned an honorable discharge. Nor is it limited to veterans who saw combat or were stationed overseas.
In determining wartime periods, World War II is defined from December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor) to December 31, 1946, not V-J day in July 1945 as many mistakenly assume. For Korea, the dates are June 27, 1950 to December 31, 1955. For Vietnam, it is August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1995, however, there is additional earlier coverage (February 28, 1961 onward) for certain veterans who actually served in Vietnam before 1964. For the Gulf War period, the dates are August 2, 1990 until present.
In the next two Parts we will discuss the medical and financial tests for the pension benefit.
WARNING: This Primer series is for educational purposes only and is only a general discussion of the topics. It is not a substitute for personalized legal advice based upon one’s individual circumstances and goals. For such advice, seek the counsel of an experienced and qualified elder law attorney accredited to practice before the VA.