TN 120 (01-14)

SI 00830.302 VA Pension Payments

Citations:

Social Security Act, as amended, Sections 1612(a)(2)(B) and 1612(b)(2)(A);

Regulations 20 CFR — 416.1103(a)(7) and 416.1103(b)(1); 416.1121(a), 416.1123(e) and 416.1124(c)(12)

A. Introduction for VA pension payments

1. Disability pension payments

a. Improved disability pension payments

When a veteran is eligible for a disability pension he or she will receive benefits under the Department of Veteran Affairs' (VA) improved disability pension program which was established on January 1, 1979.

A veteran is eligible for the improved disability pension when he or she has at least 90 days of active duty service with at least one day of service during a wartime period. A veteran who entered active duty after September 7, 1980, must have served at least 24 months or the full period ordered to active duty with at least one day of service during a wartime period. The veteran must have been discharged from military service honorably, and also be:

  • age 65 or older; or

  • totally and permanently disabled; or

  • a patient in a nursing home receiving skilled care; or

  • receiving Social Security Disability benefits; or

  • receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

The VA pays improved disability pension based on the countable income of the veteran, his or her spouse, and dependent children. Congress establishes the maximum annual improved disability pension rates.

Improved disability pension payments are based on need.

b. Protected disability pension payments

Prior to the VA’s improved disability pension program, its previous disability pension programs were called Old Law and Section 306 disability pensions (also known as protected disability pensions). These protected disability pensions were phased out and replaced by the improved disability pension program on January 1, 1979. At the time, recipients of protected disability pensions could elect to receive the improved disability pension or continue to receive disability pensions through Old Law or Section 306. Recipients who elected to remain on the protected disability pensions continue to receive the payment rates they were entitled to when the programs were phased out and do not receive cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).

Protected disability pensions are based on need and are reduced by the amount of countable income of the veteran, his or her spouse, and dependent children.

2. Surviving spouse pension payments

a. Surviving spouse improved death pension payments

When a surviving spouse is eligible for a death pension, he or she will receive benefits under the VA’s surviving spouse improved death pension program established on January 1, 1979. The VA provides this pension to low-income surviving spouses and unmarried children of deceased veterans with wartime service. To be eligible, spouses must not have remarried. For children to be eligible, they must meet the following conditions:

  • be under age 18, or

  • under age 23 if attending a VA-approved school, or

  • determined to be permanently incapable of self-support because of a disability before age 18.

Surviving spouse improved death pensions are based on need and are reduced by the amount of countable income of the surviving spouse and dependent children. Congress establishes the maximum annual surviving spouse improved death pension rates.

b. Surviving spouse protected death pension payments

Prior to the VA’s surviving spouse improved death pension program, its previous pension programs were called “Old Law and Section 306 death pensions” (also known as “protected death pensions”). Surviving spouse-protected death pensions were phased out and replaced by the surviving spouse improved death pension program on January 1, 1979. At the time, recipients of surviving spouse-protected death pensions could elect to receive the surviving spouse improved death pension or continue to receive death pensions through Old Law or Section 306. Recipients who elected to remain on the protected death pension programs continue to receive the payment rates they were entitled to when the programs were phased out and do not receive cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).

Surviving spouse protected death pensions payments are based on need and are reduced by the amount of countable income of the surviving spouse and dependent children.

3. Surviving child improved death pension payments

The VA provides pensions to low-income, unmarried surviving children of wartime veterans who are independent of the veteran’s surviving spouse (e.g., the surviving child is no longer in the custody of the surviving parent or the surviving parent is deceased). An independent child receives VA benefits on his or her own award. To be eligible, an independent child must:

  • be under age 18, or

  • under age 23 if attending a VA-approved school, or

  • determined to be permanently incapable of self-support because of a disability before age 18.

Surviving child improved death pension payments are based on need and are reduced by the amount of the independent child’s income. Congress establishes the maximum annual surviving child improved pension rates.

4. Medal of Honor and Special Act of Congress pension payments

a. Medal of Honor pension

A veteran, who received a Medal of Honor, is eligible to receive a special monthly pension. The VA can pay the monthly Medal of Honor pension as follows:

  • a single entitlement, or

  • with another entitlement in a combined award, and

  • only to the recipient.

NOTE: Medal of Honor pension payments are not based on need.

b. Special Act of Congress pension

Special Act of Congress pension payments are made to individuals in recognition of special acts. When a Special Act of Congress pension is awarded, terms of the award state the pension rate, the pension start date, and the duration of the pension. Terms of the Special Act of Congress pension also state whether the pension rate is to remain constant (or is subject to COLA) and whether the duration of the pension is for a fixed period of time or is continuous.

NOTE: When the terms of a Special Act of Congress recipient’s pension state the pension rate is to remain constant (cannot be increased) with a fixed pension begin date, the recipient, if eligible for any other VA pension or compensation benefit, must choose between the two (unless the terms of the Special Act of Congress state otherwise).

Special Act of Congress pension payments are not based on need.

5. Payments for dependents

a. Disability pension payments

The VA will take dependents' needs into account when determining a pension. However, normally VA will not make a pension payment directly to a dependent during the lifetime of the veteran. Instead, the VA increases the amount of the veteran's basic pension if the veteran has dependents. For disability pensions, the veteran is the beneficiary.

A VA pension payment increased for dependents is an augmented VA payment. A VA pension payment made directly to the dependent of a living veteran is an apportioned payment. For a discussion of augmented and apportioned payments, see SI 00830.314.

b. Surviving spouse pension payments

When a veteran is deceased, the VA will take surviving dependents’ needs into account when determining a pension. For surviving spouse pensions, the VA considers the surviving spouse the beneficiary and they consider any eligible children as dependent children. Normally, the VA will not make a pension payment directly to a dependent child during the lifetime of the surviving spouse. Instead, they increase the amount of the surviving spouse’s basic pension if the surviving spouse has dependent children.

A surviving spouse pension payment, increased for dependent children, is an augmented VA payment. A surviving spouse pension that is made directly to a dependent child of a surviving spouse is an apportioned payment. For a discussion of augmented and apportioned payments, see SI 00830.314.

c. Surviving child improved death pension payments

When a veteran is deceased, the VA will take surviving dependents’ needs into account when determining a pension. For surviving child improved death pension, they consider the surviving child the beneficiary and VA does not pay any increased benefits for any dependents of the surviving child.

d. Medal of Honor pension payments

The Medal of Honor pension is payable solely to the recipient. There cannot be any additional dependents for this pension.

e. Special Act of Congress pension payments

The VA will take dependents’ needs into account when determining a pension. For Special Act of Congress pensions, they consider the veteran the beneficiary and they consider any eligible spouse and children as dependents. Normally, the VA will not make a pension payment directly to a dependent during the lifetime of the veteran. Instead, if the veteran has a dependent spouse and children, they increase the amount of the veteran’s basic pension.

A Special Act of Congress pension that the VA increased for dependents is an augmented VA payment. A Special Act of Congress pension payment, that is made directly to a dependent spouse or dependent child of a veteran, is an apportioned payment. For a discussion of augmented and apportioned payments, see SI 00830.314.

6. Frequency for pension payments

Pension payments are usually paid monthly; however, when the monthly payment due is less than $19, VA will pay quarterly, bi-annually, or annually. VA may also make an extra payment if an underpayment is due.

7. Unreimbursed medical expenses

When computing some needs-based pension payments, VA deducts unreimbursed medical expenses from any countable income. This computation may result in an increase in a pension payment or in an extra payment. An increase or extra payment resulting from this computation is not income. For a discussion of VA payments resulting from unreimbursed medical expenses, see SI 00830.312.

B. Policy for VA pension payments

1. Policy for needs based VA pensions

All VA pension payments, except those listed in SI 00830.302B.2. in this section, are federally funded income based on need. As such, these payments are unearned income to which the $20 general income exclusion does not apply.

2. Policy exceptions

a. Pension payments resulting from aid and attendance or housebound allowances

VA aid and attendance, and housebound allowances, are not income. All or part of a VA pension may be subject to this rule. For a discussion of aid and attendance or housebound allowances, see SI 00830.308.

b. Pension payments resulting from unreimbursed medical expenses

VA payments resulting from unreimbursed medical expenses are not income. All or part of a VA pension payment may be subject to this rule. For a discussion of unreimbursed medical expenses, see SI 00830.312.

c. Medal of Honor pension

The Medal of Honor pension is not based on need. Medal of Honor pension payments are not considered income.

d. Special Act of Congress pension

Special Act of Congress pensions are not based on need. These pensions are unearned income and the $20 general exclusion applies; see SI 00810.420.

3. Needs based assumption

Assume that a VA pension is partly or entirely needs based unless there is evidence to the contrary.

C. Procedure for developing and verifying VA pension payments

Follow the procedure below for developing and verifying VA pensions:

Step

Action

1

Screen for unreimbursed medical expenses per SI 00830.312.

2

Develop for augmentation if dependents are involved per SI 00830.314.

3

Screen for an aid and attendance or housebound allowance per SI 00830.308.

NOTE: Check the VAA field in the PRSN line on the SSR, or ask the individual (see SM 01601.475).

4

Are unreimbursed medical expenses, augmentation, or an aid and attendance or housebound allowance at issue in the case?

  • If yes, go to Step 5.

  • If no, go to Step 6.

5

Verify the gross amount and frequency of payment on the same SSA-L1103-U3 (Supplemental Security Income Request for Information) used to verify the issue in Step 1, 2, or 3. STOP.

6

Verify the gross amount and frequency of payment using (in order of priority):

  • a VA award letter or comparable document in the individual's possession;

  • a benefit check in combination with a signed statement from the individual that provides the frequency of payment and affirms that VA makes no deductions (such as insurance premiums, loan payments, and overpayment deductions); or

  • an SSA-L1103-U3 from the Veterans Affairs Regional Office (VARO). For instructions on use of Form SSA-L1103-U3, see SI 00830.320.

NOTE: To verify certain current benefit information for veterans and surviving spouses, you may call the VA at 1-800-827-1000. Information about payment history, augmentation, educational benefits, unreimbursed medical expenses, aid and attendance, or housebound allowances is not available by phone.

D. Procedure for systems coding

1. MSSICS claims

a. Pension payments based on need

Select from the MSSICS IMEN screen VA BASED ON NEED (PAID DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY AS A DEPENDENT) for the following types of VA pension payments:

  • Improved disability pension,

  • Protected disability pension,

  • Surviving spouse improved death pension,

  • Surviving spouse-protected death pension, or

  • Surviving child improved death pension.

On the DEPT VETERANS AFFAIRS – BASED ON NEED (IVAE) screen, enter the name of the beneficiary in the NAME ON CHECK field and enter the date and amount of the VA pension payment. For more information on the IVAE screen, see MSOM MSSICS 015.008.

b. Pension payments not based on need

Select from the MSSICS IMEN screen VA PAYMENTS NOT BASED ON NEED (PAID DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY AS A DEPENDENT) for the following types of VA pension payments:

  • Medal of Honor pension, or

  • Special Act of Congress pension.

For Medal of Honor pension, on the DEPT VETERANS AFFAIRS – NOT BASED ON NEED (IVAC) screen, select #1 for TYPE RECEIVED. Enter the name of the beneficiary in the NAME ON CHECK field and enter the date and amount of the Medal of Honor pension payment. Enter “Y” in the DEDUCTIONS field and enter the same amount entered for the VA payment amount in the OTHER DEDUCTIONS field. For more information on the IVAC screen, see MSOM MSSICS 015.012.

For Special Act of Congress pension, on the DEPT VETERANS AFFAIRS – NOT BASED ON NEED (IVAC) screen, select #1 for TYPE RECEIVED. Enter the name of the beneficiary in the NAME ON CHECK field and enter the date and amount of the Special Act of Congress pension payment. For more information on the IVAC screen, see MSOM MSSICS 015.012.

2. Non-MSSICS claims

a. Pensions based on need

On the SSA-1719B (Supplemental Security Income Post-Entitlement Input) or SSA-450-SI (SSI Data Input and Determination), enter “E” for the unearned income type, the amount of the VA pension payment, and the appropriate unearned income identification for the following types of VA pension payments:

  • Improved disability pension,

  • Protected disability pension,

  • Surviving spouse improved death pension,

  • Surviving spouse-protected death pension, or

  • Surviving child improved death pension.

NOTE: Protected disability and surviving spouse-protected death pensions are not subject to legislative cost-of-living increases. For a discussion on how to code the UM claim identification field for legislative increases, see SM 01305.296D.

b. Pensions not based on need

On the SSA-1719B or SSA-450-SI, enter “C” for the unearned income type, the amount of the VA pension payment, and the appropriate unearned income identification for the Special Act of Congress pension.

E. Reference

SI 00810.030 When Income is Counted


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0500830302
SI 00830.302 - VA Pension Payments - 01/22/2014
Batch run: 01/22/2014
Rev:01/22/2014