Veterans' Benefits

Social Security Bulletin, July 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Veterans' Benefits


A variety of programs and benefits are available to servicemembers and veterans of military service: disability payments, educational assistance, health care, vocational rehabilitation, survivor and dependents benefits, life insurance, burial benefits, special loan programs, and hiring preference for certain jobs. Most of the veterans programs are administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Monetary Benefits

Two major cash benefit programs are available for veterans. The first program provides benefits to veterans with service-connected disabilities and, on the veteran's death, benefits are available for eligible surviving spouses, children, and dependent parents. These benefits are payable regardless of other income or resources. The second program provides benefits to needy veterans who have nonservice-connected disabilities. These benefits are means tested.

Compensation for Service-connected Disabilities

Disability compensation is a monetary benefit paid to veterans who are disabled by injury or disease incurred in or aggravated during active military service. Individuals discharged or separated from military service under dishonorable conditions are generally not eligible for compensation payments. The amount of monthly compensation depends on the degree of disability, rated as the percentage of normal function lost. Payments in 2003 range from $104 a month for a 10-percent disability to $2,193 a month for total disability. Veterans who have at least a 30-percent serviceconnected disability are entitled to an additional dependent's allowance. The amount is based on the number of dependents and degree of disability.

Pension for Non-service-connected Disabilities

Monthly benefits are provided to wartime veterans with limited income and resources who are totally and permanently disabled because of a condition not attributable to their military service. To qualify for these pensions, a veteran must have served in one or more of the following designated war periods: The Mexican Border Period, World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam Era, or the Gulf War. The period of service must have lasted at least 90 days, and the discharge or separation cannot have been dishonorable. Service less than 90 days is acceptable if the veteran was discharged with a service-connected disability.

Pension payments are reduced by countable income. Some medical and other expenses are allowed as deductions from countable income. Veterans aged 65 years or older who meet service, net worth, and income requirements are eligible for pension, regardless of current physical condition.

Effective December 1, 2002, maximum benefit amounts for non-service-connected disabilities range from $807 per month for a veteran without a dependent spouse or child to $1,597 per month for a veteran who is in need of regular aid and attendance and who has one dependent. For each additional dependent child, the pension is raised by $136 per month.

Benefits for Survivors

The dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) program provides monthly benefits to the surviving spouse, children (under age 18, disabled, or students), and certain parents of service persons or veterans who die as the result of an injury or disease incurred while in or aggravated by active duty or training, or from a disability otherwise compensable under laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

DIC payments may also be authorized for survivors of veterans who were totally disabled by service-connected conditions at the time of death, even though their serviceconnected disabilities did not cause their deaths.

Eligibility for survivor benefits based on a non-serviceconnected death of a veteran with a service-connected disability requires a marriage of at least a 1-year duration before the veteran's death. A surviving spouse is generally required to have lived continuously with the veteran from marriage until his or her death. …

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