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Veterans Non-Service Connected Disability Pension Benefits

What is non-service connected disability pension?

Non-service connected disability pension is a needs-based program for veterans with war-time service who are permanently and totally disabled or over the age of 65.  Non-Service Connected Pension is also known as VA pension or Widower’s pension.

How do I apply for non-service connected disability pension benefits?

You must file a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs requesting pension benefits because you are permanently and totally disabled or over the age of 65 and you are in need of financial support.

What is a non-service connected disability?

A non-service-connected disability is any injury or illness that prevents you from working. 

Does the injury or illness need to be related to my military service?

No.  All of your injuries or illnesses are considered for pension benefits, not just the injuries or illnesses that occurred while you were on active duty.

For example, if you had a stroke that leaves you unable to work you may apply for non-service connected disability pension if you served during a period of war and you are in need of financial support.

How do I know if I served during a period of war?

Below is a list of war-time periods that have been established by Congress.

  • World War II. December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946.
  • Korean conflict. June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955.  
  • Vietnam era. The period beginning on February 28, 1961, and ending on May 7, 1975 in the case of a veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. The period beginning on August 5, 1964, and ending on May 7, 1975 in all other cases.  
  • Persian Gulf War. August 2, 1990, through current date.   

Does it matter that I did not serve in combat or in a combat zone?

No.  You only need to be on active duty during a period of war.  

Does the type and character of my discharge from the military matter?

Yes. To be eligible for most veterans benefits and programs you must have been discharged or released from military service under conditions other than dishonorable. You will always be eligible for veterans benefits and programs when the character of your military service is Honorable.

You may still be eligible for service-connected disability compensation if the character of your military service is listed as a Discharge Under Honorable Conditions or a General Discharge.

If your character of military service is listed as Discharge Under Other Than Honorable Conditions, Undesirable Discharge, Bad Conduct Discharge or Dishonorable Discharge, in most cases you will be barred from receiving benefits.

What does it mean to be permanently and totally disabled?

The Department of Veterans Affairs will consider you to be permanently and totally disabled if your injury or illnesses is so severe that you are unable to work and the injury or illness is unlikely to improve with treatment.

The Department of Veterans Affairs presumes that you are permanently and totally disabled if you are 65 or older.

How does the Department of Veterans Affairs determine if I am in need of financial support?

To receive a non-service-connected disability pension you must show a financial need.  The Department of Veterans Affairs considers you to have a financial need if you do not have income greater than the maximum annual pension rate (MAPR) which by law is changed annually based on the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). For 2021 the MAPR for a single veteran with no dependents and who doesn't qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits is $13,931.00.  The MAPR increases if the veteran is married, has dependents or qualifies for Housebound or Aid and Attendance Benefits.


For example, if you are a single veteran with no dependents who would not qualify for Housebound or Aid and Attendance benefits with countable annual income of $15,000.00 from Social Security Retirement Benefits, you would not qualify for the non-service-connected disability pension because your countable annual income is more than the MAPR of $13,931.00.


Additionally, you as an otherwise qualified veteran would not qualify for the non-service-connected disability pension if in 2021 your net worth is more than $130,773.00. Net worth includes the countable income and assets of  both yourself and your spouse. Countable income is the total income of yourself  and your spouse reduced by deductible expenses such as educational expenses and unreimbursed medical expenses. Assets include the fair market value of real and personal property minus the amount of mortgages, but assets don't include the your primary residence and car. 


For example, if you and your spouse have $100,000.00 in assets and $40,000.00 in annual countable income, you wouldn't qualify for the non-service-connected disability pension because your net worth of $140,000.00 would be more than the net worth limit of $130,773.00.

Do I need to report my income to prove that I have a financial need?

Yes.  You will file an Eligibility Verification Report (EVR) with the Department of Veterans Affairs to show a financial need.  

For more information…

The Department of Veterans Affairs website has useful information about non-service connected disability pension benefits.  Go to http://www.va.gov/.

For referrals to organizations that specifically help veterans, please click here.