By David Austin
September 7, 2018
Calculating The Survivors Pension
Unsuspecting survivors often experience shock and disappointment when they realize how much money the VA Survivor Pension actually pays.
For starters, the Survivors Pension benefit, which the VA also refers to as the Death Pension, is a tax-free monetary benefit payable to a low-income, un-remarried surviving spouse and/or unmarried child(ren) of a deceased Veteran with wartime service.
The Survivors Pension is also based on the survivor’s yearly family income, which must be less than the amount set by Congress to qualify for the pension.
Here’s How to Calculate Benefits
Survivors with more than one child should add $2,250 for each additional child in the household. In general, if a child is in the custody of a surviving spouse, then all child benefits are wrapped into what gets paid to the surviving spouse.
The VA will take into consideration all of the survivors countable income and subtract it from the maximum pension amount. For the purpose of VA calculations, countable income will include any wages and/or salaries, income from investments, other pension or disability benefits, and income from a business or from farming. For example, if the survivor has no dependents and has $7,000 in countable income for the year, then the pension amount would be $8,830 minus $7,000, or $1,830 annually. That annual amount would get paid in 12 monthly payments of roughly $153 per month.
If the survivor has unreimbursed medical expenses, the survivor can use a portion of them to reduce the countable income and therefore boost the amount of the survivor pension. But those unreimbursed medical expenses must be greater than 5% of the maximum pension rate.
The VA Survivor Pension also considers any assets the survivor may have that may include bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, and any property other than the residence the survivor lives in. If the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determines that the survivor has assets that are large enough to live off for a reasonable period of time, it has the option of denying a survivor pension. The VA doesn't provide any specific dollar amount or rules, but has a lot of latitude in making its decisions.
Sometimes VA stipulations can be extremely confusing, therefore, the surviving spouse may want to consider the assistance of an accredited Veterans Service Officer (VSO) to go over any potential pension benefits.