The Survivors Pension is also known as the Death Pension, and is a tax-free benefit that is generally paid to the spouse and children of a deceased veteran.
How Does VA Survivors Pension Work?
In order to receive VA Survivors Pension, the spouse must not have remarried and dependent children must remain unmarried. It is intended to support low-income family members of a deceased veteran who served during a time of war.
The Survivors Pension is provided through the VA, and the VA has specific eligibility requirements that the deceased veteran and surviving dependents must meet in order to receive the benefit. Surviving dependents also must have an annual income lower than a specific amount set by Congress, called the “Maximum Annual Pension Rate”.
Survivors Pension Eligibility
In order to be eligible for the Survivors Pension, surviving dependents and the deceased veteran must both meet certain requirements set by the VA. The eligibility requirements are as follows:
- Veteran cannot have been dishonorably discharged
- Veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty, with at least one of those days during a period of war
- If the veteran entered active duty after September 7th, 1980, they must have served for at least 24 months of active duty service, or completed the full period of active duty for which they were called up. At least one of those days must be in a war time period
- Surviving spouse cannot be remarried
- Surviving children cannot be married
- Surviving children must be under the age of 18 unless they are in school, in which case they can be aged 18-23
- Annual countable family income must be below the MAPR amount set by Congress
Survivors Pension Rates
In order for surviving dependents of a deceased veteran to be eligible for the Survivors Pension, they must meet specific financial requirements. Surviving dependents must have a lower annual income than the amount set by Congress. The VA will also evaluate the net worth of each applicant to determine if it is large enough to reasonably live off of for an extended period of time. Net worth can include financial assets such as stocks, bonds, bank accounts and properties owned, not including the spouses primary residence.
As of December 1st, 2014, the MAPR income limit for a spouse without a dependent is $8,630/yr. A surviving spouse must have an annual income below this number in order to be eligible for the benefit. For a surviving spouse with one dependent child, that number is $11,296. For every additional surviving child, $2,198 is added to the benefit.
For surviving spouses or children who require aid and attendance or are housebound, the annual income limit is higher.
In order to calculate the amount of a Survivors Pension, surviving dependents should take the difference between the MAPR and their annual income. For example, if a surviving spouse has an annual income of $6,630, then they would receive the difference between $8,630 and $6,630 — which is $2,000. The Survivors Pension is paid in monthly installments.
All income is counted including payments from Social Security, however SSI income from the Social Security Administration is not counted. In addition, out of pocket medical expenses that exceed 5% of the applicable MAPR may deducted from the spouses income for qualification purposes.