Protected Pension Programs


Pension beneficiaries who were receiving a VA pension on Dec. 31, 1978, and do not wish to elect the Improved Pension will continue to receive the pension rate they were receiving on that date. This rate generally continues as long as the beneficiary’s income remains within established limits, his or her net worth does not bar payment, and the beneficiary does not lose any dependents.


These beneficiaries must continue to meet basic eligibility factors, such as permanent and total disability for veterans, or status as a surviving spouse or child. VA must adjust rates for other reasons, such as a veteran’s hospitalization in a VA facility.






Military veterans are entitled to certain benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, including healthcare and pension benefits.

Following the death of a military veteran, the VA also pays a survivor pension, also known as a widow's pension, to qualifying family members.


Pension Is Need Based

The VA widow's pension is payable to families with relatively low incomes, including both a surviving spouse and unmarried children. In order to qualify, the veteran must meet the requirements of military service, and the family must meet yearly family income limitations.

To meet the military service requirement, the veteran must generally have wartime service. For those who served before Sept. 7, 1980, 90 days of active military service is necessary, and at least one of those days has to have been served during a war-time period. For those entering active duty after Sept. 7, 1980, at least 24 months of service is necessary unless the full period for which the servicemember was called to active duty was shorter. In addition, at least one day must have been during a war-time period. In addition, the veteran must not have been dishonorably discharged.

Eligible family members include the surviving spouse, but benefits end if the surviving spouse remarries. In addition, children of wartime veterans can receive benefits if they are under 18, under 23 and attending an approved educational institution, or incapable of self-support due to a disability before reaching age 18.