VA Pension is a benefit administered by the Veterans Administration that provides monthly cash benefits to veterans and their surviving spouses to pay for long term care expenses.  VA pension is not dependent on an injury during military service, but rather is based on a medical need for long term care.  The benefit is flexible as the cash paid from VA pension can be used to pay for a variety of long term care services, including assisted living, independent living, at home care, and nursing homes.  Along with proving a medical need for long term care, applicants for VA pension must meet income and asset tests to receive the benefit.
The amount of the benefit depends on whether the person applying is the veteran or surviving spouse,, the size of the veteran’s family, and the level of care needed.  While the veteran is alive, the level of care is based on the needs of the veteran not their spouse, but the medical expenses of the spouse can help to  reduce the income of the couple to enable qualification for VA pension.  A veteran who is married receives a higher amount of VA pension than a single nonmarried veteran.
When a married couple who is receiving VA pension experiences the death of one of the spouses, the treatment of the VA pension upon the death depends on whether the veteran or the spouse is still alive.  If the veteran is still alive, VA pension will continue but will likely be adjusted downward because the veteran is no longer married. If the surviving spouse remains after the death of the veteran, VA pension will be stopped and only can be restarted at the filing of a new pension application.  The surviving spouse, whether or not the veteran, will need to meet the asset and income tests for an individual to receive the continued VA pension benefits.
Those who have a need for VA pension but have significant assets, should seek a free consultation with an experienced elder law attorney.  Such consultation is the beginning step to receiving benefits.