Surviving Spouse Assistance: What You Need to Know

You may be entitled to Survivors Pension if you are an unmarried widow of a veteran.

The Survivors Pension, or the Death Pension, is a tax-free monetary benefit the Department of Veteran Affairs provides to surviving spouses and children of wartime veterans. 

Veterans would have to meet certain criteria to meet eligibility requirements. Then, based on their rating, recipients would receive a monthly amount of $1,432. 

Survivors must apply for the benefits, provide the required documentation and prove a record of the relationship with the veteran.


Veteran Assistance for Surviving Spouses

Surviving spouses can receive veteran assistance through the Survivors Pension, a monetary benefit that helps provide for medical and daily living needs. 


What is Survivors Pension?

Survivors Pension is part of the Veterans Pension program, popularly known as Aid and Attendance.

Aid and Attendance provides financial support for veterans, while Survivors Pension extends it to the surviving spouse.


How Much to Expect from Survivors Pension

Amounts vary depending on your rating, circumstances, and criteria. Eligible recipients can receive up to $1,432 per month.

Surviving spouse assistance amounts are measured by medical needs, expenses, and the spouse’s income. 

The spouse is rated by their medical situation based on Activities of Daily Living (ADL). These are tasks deemed necessary (like eating or using the restroom). Based on our experience, we have seen that if the spouse has a disability that prevents two or more of these tasks, they may be eligible and rated for benefits. 

Regarding income, most spouses would not qualify if it weren’t for Survivors Pension’s Aid and Attendance exception.

For every dollar the spouse earns, they lose a dollar of possible benefits. Thankfully, Aid and Attendance allows for deductions of qualified medical expenses. This makes it possible for many veteran spouses to receive their needed aid. 


A). Income that Doesn’t Count Against You

The VA has established reasonable exclusions for spouses’ income. 

For example, if you have a reverse mortgage, this income does not negatively affect your benefit amount. This is a great way for veteran spouses to enjoy a comfortable quality of life without worrying about their livelihood. They can live off their reversal and receive benefits. 

In addition, welfare payments are excluded from countable income, like Medicaid or disability (though once receiving pension benefits, it may affect welfare programs; contact us for more information). 

There are other exclusions, and we can help you identify them for maximum benefits. 


B). Understanding Your Rating 

The Aid and Attendance rating primarily depends on the medical and health situation of the spouse. They may need regular help or require Housebound if their situation requires a higher level of care.

Ratings are critical because they distinguish spouses in need from spouses in regular retirement. For example, a spouse might be in assisted living, primarily for retirement. But there may be a spouse in a similar living situation because they have a disability or need for help – qualifying them for possible benefits. 

If survivors want a rating, they will undergo a doctor’s exam (form 21-2680). The results will help establish deductible expenses from income.

The significant medical costs spouses accumulate due to health needs help to counteract their income through deductions, making it possible to receive aid. 


C). Factors for Aid and Attendance

As mentioned in this article, surviving spouses who need access to pension benefits should meet medical and income criteria. 

The last requirement needed is for the veteran to have had met military requirements. 

The veteran should have:

  1. Served up to 90 days total of active duty (and one day during a period of war)
  2. Been discharged (not including dishonorable)
  3. (Active duty is not required, and you can combine different service periods with meeting your 90-day parameters)

Recognized war periods:

  • World War II: December 7, 1941-December 31, 1946
  • Korean Conflict: June 27,1950-January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam Era: August 5, 1964-May 7, 1975; for those who served in the Republic of Vietnam, dates are November 1, 1955-May 7 1975
  • Gulf War: August 2, 1990-TBD (*Veterans need to have served at least 24 months or completed their assignment)


Getting Started: Surviving Spouse Assistance

If you want to get started and access Survivors Pension, you should follow this roadmap for a successful application process. 


Review the requirements 

First, assess whether you may qualify for Survivors Pension or not. It’s alright if you don’t know for sure, but try to get a general idea. When you’re ready to move forward, you can receive help that will clarify eligibility. 


Partner with a team

If you want the maximized benefits entitled to you promptly, we highly recommend partnering with a reputable organization with VA-accredited agents to help you. They review your situation and eligibility, and expedite the process by providing exactly what the VA needs the first time. 


Apply for benefits 

Once your team helps establish eligibility, they will work with you to provide the application and appropriate documentation for approval.


Receive a response 

After Veteran Affairs receive the application, they will review it and respond. 


Frequently Asked Questions

We answer questions about veteran assistance every day. Below are a few common questions we get about surviving spouse assistance. 


1. How does a widow apply for VA benefits?

We recommend surviving spouses partner with a reputable organization with VA-accredited agents to help them through the process. 

Many applicants get rejected, wait a long time, or don’t receive full benefits because of errors or preventable situations. With help, they can get maximum benefits in a quicker timeframe. 


2. How long does it take to receive VA Survivors Benefits? 

We’ve seen applicants who apply wait a year or more! When an applicant partners with a qualified team, they could get a response as quickly as a few short months. 


3. How long does a widow receive Survivors Benefits?

If the surviving spouse maintains eligibility requirements, they can claim their benefits for life.

All veterans deserve to be honored, especially by caring for the ones they love the most. Survivors Pension takes care of their spouses, even after they have left our world. 

If you think you or your loved one is entitled to the pension, contact us to find out how much you could earn.

*United Veterans Assistance is a private company and is not affiliated with, or recognized by the Veterans Administration or any government organization. Only the VA can determine who is eligible for Veterans Pension.

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