What Are the Qualifications for a Widow's Pension?

What Are the Qualifications for a Widow's Pension?
••• Nick Dale / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

When the spouse of a military veteran dies, that spouse is entitled to a pension, called a widow's pension or VA death pension. But to qualify, you must meet several requirements. If you're the surviving child of an unmarried veteran, you also may qualify for the pension, provided you meet the requirements. For a veteran's widow, you'll be required to have an income that is below a certain threshold, set by the U.S. Congress. For the surviving children, it means being unmarried, meeting age requirements and having a household income below the threshold.


  • In order for a veteran's widow to receive a pension from the federal government, they must first meet a series of requirements, including having an income level that is below the threshold established by the US Congress.

Widow's Income and Net Worth

The widow must earn an annual income that is below a certain monetary threshold. Countable income includes any money that the widow or children earn, including farm or business income, interest, disability pay, retirement pay and earnings from jobs. If children earn money, this is counted toward the widow's income limit. A widow's net worth is not counted toward the income limit. The VA will make the final decision on whether your income falls under the limit. In addition to meeting the income requirement, widows must not be remarried to qualify for the pension. There is no age limit set on surviving spouses.

Exploring Veteran's Requirements

The deceased veteran must have met certain requirements in order for the surviving spouse to receive the benefit money. He must have been honorably discharged and served more than three months of active military duty. At least one day of that service had to be during a war period. If the veteran enlisted in the military after Sept. 7, 1980, he must have served at least two years of active duty for his widow to qualify.

Options for Surviving Children

Any children who are receiving the pension must be under 18 or in college and under the age of 23. They must be attending a VA-approved school to receive the pension. Children also must not be married. If a surviving child is permanently incapable of self-support due to a disability, that child can continue to receive the pension. The disability must have been in place before the age of 18, though.

Initiating the Application Process

Widows may apply for death benefits with VA form 21-534, which is the Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. There are several parts to the application, which can be downloaded online. You must include copies of your marriage record, children's birth certificates, discharge papers and proof of net worth and income. Surviving children will need to complete the form, Request for Approval of School Attendance. Severely disabled children must provide relevant medical records. Mail all required documents to the Pension Management Center in your state.