When a veteran dies the widow may be eligible for non-service connected pension benefits even though on the surface it appears she will not.

Here is how it works:

The widow must meet the basic requirements as any other veteran’s widow filing for non-service connected pension except for income (Proper discharge and wartime service of veteran, marital criteria, net worth below ceiling for that individual).

Then determine what the income of the widow will be for the next twelve months, remembering that Life Insurance proceeds are an exempt income for VA purposes. (Hint: Do not assign over any insurance to the funeral home, because the VA will not recognize it as a bill paid by the widow).

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From income will be deducted the widow’s anticipated medical expenses for the next twelve months.

Also deduct the burial expenses which include all normal expenses incident to the disposition of the remains such as the funeral, headstone, purchase of the grave with opening and closing, less amounts reimbursed by the VA (VA Burial benefits).

Also deduct the unreimbursed expenses of the “last illness” of the veteran. If death resulted from a lingering or prolonged illness, the period of the last illness is considered to have begun at the time the veteran became so ill as to require the regular and daily attendance of another person. That includes those bills paid by the spouse of the veteran for that period before his/her death. This does not include those bills that were already reimbursed or reported to the VA as a unreimbursed medical expense if the veteran was receiving VA pension.

To those deductions add the veteran’s “just debts”. Just debts do not include any debt that is secured by real or personal property and does not include jointly held credit card debt. But the VA does consider any other debt that would be recognized by a probate court.

Hopefully, the recalculated income is now below the pension rate which will give the widow a pension for at least the first year after the loss of the veteran.

Now apply for the life insurance and make application for VA Death Pension for the spouse.

After the VA has received the application, pay the bills.

When the VA sends the Award or denial letter then inform the VA of the other bills paid.