TN 125 (01-18)

SI 00830.302 Veterans Affairs (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 Veterans Affairs' (VA) improved disability pension program that 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 receive an honorably military service discharge, and 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 a needs-based benefit.

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 needs-based 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 receives 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 remarry. 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

  • The VA determines the surviving spouse and unmarried children to be permanently incapable of self-support because of a disability before age 18.

Surviving spouse improved death pensions are a needs-based benefit and the surviving spouse and dependent children’s amount of countable income reduces the benefit amount. 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 a needs-based benefit and the surviving spouse and dependent children’s amount of countable income reduces the benefits amount.

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

  • The VA determines the independent child to be permanently incapable of self-support because of a disability before age 18.

Surviving child improved death pension payments are a needs-based benefit and the amount of the independent child’s income reduces the benefit amount. 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. The terms of a Special Act of Congress pension award state the terms of the award, the pension rate, the pension start date, and the duration of the pension. The 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 a needs-based benefit.

5. Payments for dependents

a. Disability pension payments

The VA considers dependents' needs into account when determining a pension. However, the VA does 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 increase for a dependent(s) 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

The VA considers surviving dependents’ needs into account when determining a pension for a deceased veteran. The VA considers the surviving spouse the beneficiary and eligible children as dependent children when paying surviving spouse pension payments. 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 that increases 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

The VA considers surviving dependents’ needs into account when determining a pension for deceased veterans. For surviving child improved death pension, the VA considers 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 considers dependents’ needs into account for Special Act of Congress pensions determinations. The VA considers the veteran the beneficiary and the eligible spouse and children as dependents. The VA does not make pension payments directly to a dependent during the lifetime of the veteran. If the veteran has a dependent spouse and children, the VA increases the amount of the veteran’s basic pension.

A Special Act of Congress pension the VA increases for a dependent is an augmented VA payment. A Special Act of Congress pension payment 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

The VA pays pension payments monthly. VA pays quarterly, bi-annually, or annually when the monthly payment due is less than $19. VA may make an extra payment if an underpayment is due.

7. Unreimbursed medical expenses

When VA computes needs-based pension payments, they deduct 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 needs-based benefits. 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 a needs-based benefit. The VA does not consider Medal of Honor pension payments as income.

d. Special Act of Congress pension

The Special Act of Congress pension is not needs-based benefit. 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 a needs-based benefit unless there is evidence to the contrary.

C. Procedure for developing and verifying VA pension payments

Use the procedures in this chart to develop and verify 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 Supplemental Security Record (SSR) for aid and attendance or housebound benefits (A&A/HB), or ask the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient whether he or she receives aid and attendance or housebound benefits (A&A/HB). See SM 01601.475 for Person-Related Data (PRSN) field identifiers on the SSI2 query.

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. SSI claims system (i.e., MSSICS/SSI Claim)

a. Pension payments based on need

To code VA pension payments on the SSI claims system, select “Yes” for “Department of Veterans Affairs” on the Income Selection page 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 VETERANS AFFAIRS PAYMENT (IVAB) page, select the appropriate VA pension payment types from the drop-down list:

  • Pension – Base on Need

  • Other VA Payment – Based on Need

Enter the:

  • “Name of beneficiary” field - First name, middle initial, and last name of the beneficiary. If the name of the beneficiary is unknown, select the “Unknown” checkbox.

  • “ID” field - Veterans Affairs Payment claim number in the “ID” field. If the ID is unknown, select “Unknown.”

  • Monthly Values, if available:

    Date From

    Date To

    Alleged Amount (of the VA pension payment)

    Verified Amount (of the VA pension payment)

    Court Ordered or IV-D Support Amount

    Double Counting Overpayment Recovery Amount

    Double Counting Applies

    Other Deduction Amount

    Unknown

    Countable Amount

    Actions

  • If any of the required fields in Monthly Values are not available, select “Unknown” checkbox.

    For more information on the IVAB page, see MS INTRANETSSI 014.052.

b. Pension payments not based on need

Select “Yes” for “Department of Veterans Affairs” on the Income Selection page for the following types of VA pensions payments:

  • Medal of Honor pension, or

  • Special Act of Congress pension

On the IVAB page, select from the following VA pension payment types from the “TYPE” drop-down list:

  • Pension – Medal of Honor, or

  • Pension – Special Act of Congress

Enter the:

  • “Name of Beneficiary” field - First name, middle initial, and last name of the beneficiary. If the name of the beneficiary is unknown, select the “Unknown.”

  • “ID” field - Veterans Affairs Payment claim number in the “ID” field. If the ID is unknown, select “Unknown.”

  • Monthly Values, if available:

Date From

Date To

Alleged Amount (of the Medal of Honor or Special Act of Congress pension payment)

Verified Amount (of the VA pension payment)

Court Ordered or IV-D Support Amount

Double Counting Overpayment Recovery Amount

Double Counting Applies

Other Deduction Amount

Unknown

Countable Amount

Actions

  • If any of the required field in Monthly Values are not available, select “Unknown” checkbox.

For more information on the IVAB page, see MS INTRANETSSI 014.052.

2. Non-SSI Claims System

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 VA pension payments types:

  • 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

MS INTRANETSSI 014.003 Income Selection

MS INTRANETSSI 014.052 Veteran Affairs Payment


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0500830302
SI 00830.302 - Veterans Affairs (VA) Pension Payments - 01/12/2018
Batch run: 01/15/2018
Rev:01/12/2018