Considered supplemental income, a military pension shares more similarities with Social Security benefits rather than a pension that a former employee receives after being dismissed from a job. Pensions are one of the types of retirement options available to veterans to aid them in living out their retirement with less of a financial burden.
Pensions that are available to veterans are similar to Social Security benefits due to the fact that the pensions are need and/or age based. Families of veterans may also qualify for a pension following the death of a veteran.
To find out more about the benefits, qualifications and application process for veteran pensions, review the information that has been provided within the sections below.
What is a pension?
Pensions are a form of retirement that are offered by both the government and several large corporations. When an employer offers a pension plan, the employer will contribute funds for the employee’s future benefit.
One way that a military pension is similar to an employment pension is that the amounts of a pension that an eligible veteran may qualify for will be based upon the number of years that the veteran served in the U.S. armed forces.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) awards monthly tax-free payments to qualifying war-veterans. There are several differences between a veteran pension and other types of pensions. For example, a veteran pension is not pre-planned by the veteran or the army.
On the other hand, an army pension is protected by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). This government organization guarantees that funds will be allocated for pensions of any type that are guaranteed and that these pensions will be distributed throughout the rest of the recipient’s lifetime.
A pension is not a 401k, though both provide finances towards retirement. Unlike a pension plan, a 401k is never protected by the PBGC and 401k plans require the recipient to contribute to the plan financially, a requirement that is not imposed on pensions for veterans.
Resources for Retired Veterans
- MyArmyBenefits (Retirement, Survivor Benefits, Deployment, Disability Income)
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Army Retirement Services Officers
- Defense Finance and Accounting Service
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC)
Eligibility for Military Retirement Plan
In order to be considered eligible for military retirement pay, a veteran must meet both military and need-based eligibility requirements. Need-based refers to eligibility requirements such as income. Veterans who struggle or are incapable of financially supporting themselves and families without aid will generally meet this requirement.
To meet military based eligibility requirements, the veteran must have served during a period of war. Starting with the earliest eligible war, here are some wartime periods that a veteran may have served within in order to qualify:
- Mexican Border Period – May 9th, 1916 to April 5th, 1917.
- World War II – December 7th, 1941 to December 31st, 1946.
- Korean War – June 27th, 1950 to January 31st, 1955.
- Gulf War – August 2nd, 1990 to present day.
While veterans are required to serve during a wartime to qualify for benefits, it is important to know that a veteran is only required to serve for a minimum of one day. However, the veteran must have had a minimum of 90 days on active duty.
Additionally, any veteran who entered the armed forces after September 7th, 1980 will be required to:
- Have at least 80 days of active service with a minimum of one day occurring in a time of war, or
- Remain active for 24 months, or
- Be active for the full period of their duty.
To be eligible military retirement benefits, you must be at least 65 years of age and you have been honorably discharged from the military. If you are under the age of 65, then you may still qualify if you:
- Have a non-service related total and permanent disability.
- Are receiving care in a nursing home.
- Are receiving benefits from Social Security disability.
- Receive Supplemental Security Income.
Aid and Attendance
You might be eligible to receive additional pension benefits if you require aid and attendance (A&A) from another individual or you are housebound. Pension benefits may be larger under these circumstances due to the fact that you likely require extra expenses to be cared for, especially if you are completely housebound and you have a permanent disability.
However, only either the veteran or the survivor of the veteran can receive A&A at any one time. To be eligible for additional benefits through A&A, you must meet one of the following:
- You require another person in order to perform everyday functions, such as eating, dressing or bathing.
- You are bedridden due to a disability that prevents you from leaving a bed.
- You are in a nursing home due to being mentally or physically incapacitated.
- You have a limited eyesight of 5/200 or less in both eyes or you have a concentric contraction of your visual field of five degrees or less.
Military Retirement Benefits
As stated previously, military retirement benefits are awarded in the form of a monthly tax-free payment. Your Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) is determined by a number of factors, including:
- The number of dependents you have in your household.
- Aid and attendance.
- Whether or not you have a spouse.
- Whether or not your spouse is also a veteran.
- Whether or not you are housebound.
Within each MAPR category, there is a corresponding maximum income level. If you qualify for benefits, you will be informed as to the benefit amount that you can expect. However, you can review examples of the maximum monthly pension amounts that you may be able to earn in specific categories:
- If you are a veteran who does not have a spouse or a dependent child, you will typically earn no more than $13,166 annually. This amount may increase if your medical expenses exceed $659.
- If you are a veteran that has one dependent, you can generally earn no more than $17,241 each year. Each additional dependent child can increase annual income by $2,250.
- If you are a housebound veteran without dependents, you will receive a maximum of $16,089 per year. If you are housebound with one dependent, you can receive up to $20,166 annually.
While a veteran pension is reserved for veterans who served during wartime, survivor benefits may be available to you under a different application, should you qualify. Survivor benefits may be available to widows or widowers of a service veteran whom have not remarried.
Children of a deceased veteran may also qualify for benefits if the child is unmarried. These benefits will only be available to surviving spouses and/or dependents if the deceased veteran would have qualified for a veteran’s pension.
Application for Veterans Pension Benefits
If you would like to submit an application for a veteran pension (with or without A&A) or survivor’s benefits, you may do so online, in person at a veteran’s affairs office or by mail. If you have any questions about the application, eligibility requirements or potential benefits, you may contact the VA by phone or in person.
In order to complete your application, you must be able to provide the required documentation. You will not be charged an application fee.
As stated previously, you will be required to provide documentation that will support the information that you have provided on your application. Documents that may be required include but are not limited to:
- Proof of income and net worth.
- Records of private medical treatments.
- Service-related military records.