Definitions of Commonly Used Legal Words In VA Pension (Aid & Attendance) Cases

Definitions of Commonly Used Legal Words In VA Pension (Aid & Attendance) Cases

Definitions of Commonly Used Legal Words In VA Pension (Aid & Attendance) CasesWhen you are looking for your roadmap to guide you through VA Pension rules and laws, you will run into words that are “odd” or that are normal words but perhaps the VA uses the words in a different context or with a different meaning than you are used to — even a different way than Alabama Medicaid uses the same or similar words.

We hope this list (which we will add to — please give us suggestions!) will help you.

Aid and Attendance

This has several meanings.

The common usage is for the entire program known as the VA Pension program which is a “non service” related disability benefit for war time veterans.

The most common aspect of the program is the aid and attendance “rating” so the whole program is often referred to as aid and attendance.

But the technical meaning is the highest “rating” that can be added to a VA Pension award.

There are three levels of benefits:

  1. Base pension (lowest amount);
  2. Housebound (sometimes called “homebound”); and
  3. Aid and attendance (highest amount of benefit)

Strangely, it is normally easiest to qualify (in a practical manner) for the highest benefit level of aid and attendance rating, which explains why this one part is often what people talk about exclusively when discussing this benefit.

You can read all about each level of VA Pension benefits (including housebound and aid and attendance ratings). 


The VA wants to know for the veteran (or surviving spouse) how much is owned or controlled by the veteran and the spouse.

They don’t care about whose name the asset is in — just whether the veteran or spouse owns it (and also any dependent children).

The VA does exclude several common assets:

  • House with a reasonable amount of land connected to it; and
  • Vehicles

Other than the assets excluded, the VA wants to know the “equity” in each asset.

So we look at the fair market value (what would a reasonable buyer and seller agree to now on price) and subtract any debt owed.

Base Rate

This is the basic, lowest rate, of a VA Pension award.

It varies based upon whether the veteran is married, single, has dependents or whether we are dealing with a surviving spouse.

You can read all about each level of VA Pension benefits (including housebound and aid and attendance ratings).

Countable Resources

This is really the same thing as Assets listed above but we only look to the types of assets the VA actually considers or “counts.”

So bank accounts, stock accounts, land, CDs, investments, vacation homes, etc.

The safest thing is to add up all assets and then get with an elder law  lawyer to find out if any can be excluded or if it they all need to be listed as a countable resource.

Disabled Veteran

A veteran must be 100% disabled.  This is shown in several ways:

  • Being 65 or older;
  • Being declared 100% disabled by social security; or
  • Showing that medically the veteran is 100% disabled as the veteran needs home health care or assisted living care or nursing home care.

The same test applies when we look at whether a surviving spouse qualifies for this benefit.


This is a rating — or additional benefit — on top of the base pension awarded in the VA Pension program.

This does not mean the veteran (or surviving spouse) cannot ever leave their home but, as a practical matter, that leaving the house is not an option or not something that can be easily done.

If the veteran or surviving spouse must wait on someone to get them and help them to leave their home, then they likely will qualify for this benefit which increases the amount of money the veteran can receive.

You can read all about each level of VA Pension benefits (including housebound and aid and attendance ratings).

Income for VA Purposes

The VA looks at the household income of the veteran and spouse (as well as any dependent children) and then subtracts almost all of the recurring, unreimbursed medical expenses that the household (veteran and spouse and dependent children) incurs every month.

After doing the math, we are left with the IVAP or Income for VA Purposes.

We then compare this to the amount of pension benefits the applicant is entitled to (married veteran can be $2054 a month) and subtract out any IVAP.

So, if possible, it is best to show the VA that the IVAP is zero so the veteran or surviving spouse will get the full benefits under the pension program.


This is the name of the whole program that is designed to help veterans who are disabled (not from service related issues) and who need financial help.

It also helps surviving spouses who are disabled and who need financial assistance.

The primary purpose of this benefit is to provide money so the family can provide for the veteran (or surviving spouse) with home health care, assisted living facilities, or with nursing homes.

Surviving Spouse

This means that the wife (or husband) of a veteran is still alive but the veteran has passed away.

The surviving spouse cannot remarry.

If they do remarry, they will no longer be considered a surviving spouse eligible to receive the VA pension benefits.

Unless their second spouse has died and was a war time veteran.

In our practice we normally see surviving spouses who are widows of World War II or Korean War veterans.

Although we are beginning to see more and more Vietnam veterans who have passed away and have left widows who qualify for this benefit.

War Time Veteran

This means the veteran had 90 days of active duty with one day being during a time of war.

No requirement to be in a combat zone — the test is active duty while the country was at war.

Here are the three main wars we see veterans from for this benefit:

  • World War II – December 7, 1941 to December 31, 1946.  (If in Service on December 31, 1946 with continuous Service before July 7, 1946, then this qualifies as wartime service.)
  • Korean War – June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam War – There are two periods:  For veterans who served in the country of Vietnam, the period is February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975.  This is sometimes called “in country” when the veteran was actually in Vietnam.  For veterans who did not actually go into Vietnam, the time period is August 5, 1964 through May 5, 1975.

The Gulf War (or Global War on Terror)  is defined as August 2, 1990 to the present.

The length of time for active duty is different — typically 24 months or a full tour of duty.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us.

If you live in Alabama and you have any questions, you reach us by phone at 1-205-879-2447. 

You can also fill out contact form and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible. 

We will be glad to help you figure out the best course of action.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

-John G. Watts

Leave a Comment