The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) is required to provide pensions to certain veterans and their families. Generally, a Veteran must have at least 90 days of active duty service, with at least one day during a wartime period to qualify for a VA Pension. Veterans who entered active duty after September 7, 1980 are required to have served at least 24 months or the full period for which you were called or ordered to active duty (with some exceptions), with at least one day during a wartime period. In addition to meeting these minimum service requirements, the Veteran must be:

  • Age 65 or older, OR
  • Totally and permanently disabled, OR
  • A patient in a nursing home receiving skilled nursing care, OR
  • Receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, OR
  • Receiving Supplemental Security Income

The Veterans Pensions Protection Act, as introduced

When assessing a veteran’s eligibility for a pension, the VA considers a variety of sources of revenue to determine a veteran’s annual income, which must be less than the amount set by Congress. You can learn more about the way income is calculated here:

I first introduced the Veterans Pensions Protection Act in 2010, which sought to exempt a number of sources of revenue from the VA’s determination of income. These exemptions included payments regarding reimbursements of any kind for accidents, theft or loss, casualty loss, medical expenses resulting from accident, theft, loss, or casualty loss, and insurance settlements for pain and suffering.

The Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, which was signed into law by President Obama, implemented three of the five exemptions; for reimbursements related to accidents, theft or loss, and casualty loss. However, the exemptions for medical expenses and pain and suffering were not included, and are still considered as income by the VA. This means that when a veteran is reimbursed for a medical expense, for instance, through an insurance payment, the reimbursement is treated as income by the VA. As a result, veterans can actually lose their pensions as a result of a medical emergency.

The Veterans Pensions Protection Act of 2016 seeks to exempt reimbursements for medical expenses from the VA’s calculation of income. It was adopted by the House of Representatives as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016, which subsequently passed.

Read a copy of the legislation here:

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