Veterans: What Is Survivors Pension with Aid and Attendance?

Veterans Pension and Survivor ‘s Pension – also known as Death Pension – are disability income programs available to veterans or to the single surviving spouses of deceased veterans. Survivor ‘s Pension or Death Pension is often referred to as “The Aid and Attendance Death Benefit.” This is a misnomer, but still the title still lives on.

These programs provide tax-free income ranging from $735/month to $2,903/month. For younger totally disabled veterans, pension can also be available for dependent children. Eligibility requirements include active duty service for at least 90 days – with one of those days during a period of war – and an honorable discharge or a discharge classified as other than dishonorable. Service in combat zones is not required. For veterans of the Gulf War, the service requirement is 24 months or completion of the requirement for active duty service, whichever comes first.

Here is the Period of War chart for benefit purposes:

Period of War Beginning and Ending Dates
World War 2 December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946
Korean Conflict June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955
Vietnam Era August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975; for veterans who served “in country” before August 5, 1964, February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975
Gulf War August 2, 1990 through a date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation

Definition of Surviving Spouse and Rules Pertaining to Application
The rules pertaining to application for Survivor ‘s Pension for a single surviving spouse – who was married to a veteran– are very much the same as the rules pertaining to application for Pension. There are, however, some minor but very important differences.

The single surviving spouse can be any age and does not have to be permanently and totally disabled prior to age 65. The veteran, who died, did not have to be totally disabled if death occurred before age 65. The veteran who died does have to qualify based on active duty service days as well as serving during a period of war.

Application should not be made unless it is certain that the surviving spouse meets the rules to be a surviving spouse. All of these following conditions must apply or the surviving spouse is not eligible for Death Pension.

  1. The surviving spouse must have met the conditions to be married under VA rules. Generally this means a marriage lasting at least one year or a child was born as a result of the marriage regardless of the length of time married. Under certain conditions, VA will also accept common-law marriages or marriages where the couple held themselves out to be married and can prove that was their intent.
  2. The surviving spouse must have lived continuously with the veteran while they were married unless they were separated due to the fault of the veteran. Evidence regarding such a separation will be required.
  3. The surviving spouse must have been married to the veteran when the veteran died.
  4. The surviving spouse cannot have remarried after the veteran ‘s death even if the surviving spouse is currently single. There is one exception to this rule. If the surviving spouse remarried after the veteran ‘s death and that marriage has been terminated either through death or divorce prior to November 1 of 1990 and the surviving spouse has since remained single, that person can still receive the benefit.

Survivor’s Pension will pay the difference between the surviving spouse ‘s gross household income and the applicable rate in the table below. There is a special provision, which we will explain later, that allows the spouse to deduct ongoing care and medical expenses from his or her income. These claimants must be “medically rated” in order to make these deductions and will qualify for a higher paying benefit.

Aid and Attendance
Survivor’s (Death) Pension is sometimes called the “Aid and Attendance Benefit.” This misnomer has become common place due to a general need for the aid and attendance of another person and a medical rating to qualify. The “aid and attendance” or “housebound” terms pertain to medical ratings and 16 different monetary allowances available with Veterans Pension, Survivor ‘s Pension, Disability Compensation, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and certain forms of Special Monthly Compensation (SMC).

VA ‘s Maximum Annual Survivor Pension Rates for Surviving Spouses, effective December 1, 2017 through December 1, 2018

2018 Maximum Annual Survivor ‘s Pension Rates (MAPR)
Effective December 1, 2017 – 2% COLA Increase

If you are a surviving spouse…  



MAPR Without Dependent Child



No dependents, medical expenses must exceed 5% of MAPR



MAPR With One Dependent Child



With dependents, medical expenses must exceed 5% of MAPR



Housebound Without Dependents



Housebound With One Dependent



A&A Without Dependents



A&A Without Dependents (SAW Veteran’s Surviving Spouse)



A&A With One Dependent



A&A With One Dependent (SAW Veteran’s Surviving Spouse)



SBP/MIW Annuity Limitation



Add for Each Additional Child






Child Earned Income Exclusion effective 1/1/2000