Disability Vs Pension

What’s the difference between a service-connected disability and a VA pension?

There’s a couple of similarities, but a service-connected disability and a VA pension are different. 

Money from the VA for service-connected disabilities and pension are both tax-free. After that the similarities stop there.

A VA pension is a monthly benefit for certain low-income veterans with wartime service. It is called a pension, but it isn’t based on years of service. Instead, it is based on disability, age, and financial need. 

The basic qualifications are:  

  • You received a general or higher discharge
  • Your yearly income and net worth meet certain limits set by Congress 
  • Your net worth includes all personal property you own (except your house, your car, and most home furnishings), minus any debt you owe
  • Your net worth includes the net worth of your spouse. (Find out about Veterans Pension rates https://www.va.gov/pension/veterans-pension-rates/)
  • You were active-duty before September 8, 1980 and you served for at least 90 days with at least one day during wartime, OR
  • You started on active duty as an enlisted person after September 7, 1980 and served at least 24 months during wartime, OR
  • You were an officer and began active duty after October 16, 1981, and you previously had not served on active duty for at least 24 months.

In addition to meeting these criteria, you must also have at least ONE of the following statements be true of you:

  • You are 65 years or older
  • You have a permanent and total disability
  • You are in a nursing home receiving long-term care because of a disability
  • You are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income

If you qualify for a VA pension as stated above, your spouse may be eligible for survivor benefits from the VA once the time comes.

Unlike a pension situation, the VA ties no financial qualifications or specific service dates to eligibility for receiving compensation for a service-connected disability. Your type of military discharge affects your eligibility. The other eligibility requirements have to do with the claim itself. Can you prove your disability stems from your military service? This is the service-connection requirement.

However, once you have an accepted claim for a service-connected disability, your rating award for VA disability may change due to an aggravation or worsening of your service-connected disability, a new claim, or a secondary claim.