VA Benefits 101: Understanding “Income for VA Purposes”

Income for VA Purposes

Our last blog explored the basics of the Income Pension with Aid and Attendance benefit. We mentioned the income requirements for VA benefits and briefly explained that the VA does not have a defined income limit in order to be eligible for VA benefits. This issue has generated a ton of questions from our readers, so let’s spend some time clarifying “Income for VA Purposes.

What is Income for VA Purposes?

In order to qualify for VA Pension with Aid and Attendance a veteran (or surviving spouse) must prove that he/she is in danger of outliving their money if they continue to have to pay for long- term care. One way of proving this is to show that the veteran (or surviving spouse) is spending more on care than they make in income. Thus, the VA does not simply look at what the gross income is, they look at the gross income minus the recurring, unreimbursed medical expenses (click here for a list of possible medical expenses). This is “Income for VA Purposes.” If the income for VA Purposes is less than the maximum benefit ($2,169/month for a married couple, $1,830/month for a single veteran, and $1,176 for a surviving spouse), the veteran or surviving spouse is eligible for Aid and Attendance from an income standpoint.

Let’s look at an example. Mr. Johns makes $4,300 in monthly income. His income is above the VA Pension with Aid and Attendance benefit that he is eligible for ($1,830/month), so it may appear that he does not qualify for the benefit. Mr. Johns, however, is living in an assisted living community that costs $3,800/month, pays for medications at about $200/month, pays a health insurance premium of $170/month, and buys incontinent supplies for about $180/month. His expenses total $4,350/month. Although his gross income is $4,300/month, his income for VA purposes is in the negative, which the VA rounds up to $0. This means that Mr. Johns is eligible for the full benefit of $1,830/month (at least from an income standpoint).

What if Income for VA Purposes is more than $0?

After qualifying medical expenses are deducted from gross income, the veteran (or surviving spouse) may be eligible for all, some or none of the VA Pension with Aid and Attendance benefits. He/she is eligible for all if the income for VA purposes is $0, and may be eligible for some if the income is more than $0 but still less than the maximum benefit. Taking Mr. Johns’ example, let’s assume that his expenses are only $3,300/month. This would leave him with $1,000 in income for VA purposes. Since the maximum benefit is $1,830, Mr. Johns would be eligible for $830/month in VA Pension with Aid and Attendance (this is the maximum benefit of $1,830 minus his income for VA benefits of $1,000). If his expenses were only $800/month, his income for VA purposes would be $3,500 which is way above the maximum benefit of $1,830/month. In this situation, Mr. Johns would not be eligible for VA Pension with Aid and Attendance benefits.

These requirements can seem confusing to families who need extra income to pay for care and have been told they have too much money to qualify. The Certified Elder Law Attorneys at Hurley Elder Care Law can devise a strategy to allow veterans or a surviving spouse to qualify for the benefit. To access our complimentary phone consultation, please contact our office at (404) 843-0121 or through our website at