Memorial Day honors men and women who died while serving in the United States military. It was originally known as Decoration Day and originated in the years following the Civil War as Americans began holding springtime tributes to the fallen soldiers of that war. Eventually, Decoration Day evolved as a day to commemorate members of the American military who died in all wars. In 1971 Memorial Day became an official federal holiday.
As we prepare to celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, I thought it would be nice to address an important benefit that is available to Veterans. VA Pension benefits, which are available to qualifying Veterans, are a valuable benefit that many Veterans and their families are unaware exists. VA offers two broad categories of Pension benefit programs:
- Veterans Pension – a tax-free monetary benefit payable to low-income wartime Veterans; and
- Survivors Pension – a tax-free monetary benefit payable to a low-income, un-remarried surviving spouse and/or unmarried child of a deceased Veteran with wartime service.
Veterans and survivors who are eligible for Pension benefits and are housebound or require the aid and attendance of another person may be eligible to receive additional monetary amounts.
Pension benefits are needs-based so there are certain income and net-worth limitations imposed by law. In addition, a Veteran must have at least 90 days of active duty service, with at least one day during a wartime period to qualify for a VA Pension. If you entered active duty after September 7, 1980 you will generally have the additional requirement of having served 24 months or the full period for which you were called or ordered to active duty.
Wartime periods are currently defined as:
- Mexican Border Period (May 9, 1916 – April 5, 1917 for Veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders, or adjacent waters);
- World War I (April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918);
- World War II (December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946);
- Korean conflict (June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955);
- Vietnam era (February 28, 1961 – May 7, 1975 for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period; otherwise August 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975);
- Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – through a future date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation)
Finally, the Veteran must meet one of the following requirements:
- Age 65 or older; or
- Totally and permanently disabled; or,
- A patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care; or
- Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance; or
- Receiving Supplemental Security Income.
This Memorial Day, as a nation we desire to honor our service men and women who died protecting our freedoms. One of the ways we do this is through benefits such as the VA Pension. Unfortunately, many of our Veterans and their families are unaware of the existence of this benefit. If you know of a wartime veteran or surviving spouse of a wartime veteran, thank them for their service and consider passing this information along.