The following information is from the CVSO Association.
Non-service connected (NSC) pensions are available to certain veterans who are no longer able to work due to disability or age. These pensions are intended to keep qualified veterans from living below the poverty level. As such, they are "needs-based" and not entitlements.
To qualify for an NSC pension, veterans must have been on active duty during a recognized wartime period. It doesn’t matter where they actually served (i.e. overseas or stateside). They must have served at least one (1) day during a wartime period.
Veterans with service prior to 9/8/1980 are required to have served at least 90 days on active duty. Veterans who served after that date may have longer active duty requirements. Veterans dishonorably discharged are not eligible for this benefit.
This benefit is only available to wartime veterans who are low income and no longer able to work due to a permanent and total disability or who are over age 65. As a needs-based benefit, the pension availability is based on family income and net worth, adjusted by unreimbursed medical expenses. If net worth and income are below a specified level, the veteran may be eligible for a monthly tax-free stipend. If income or net worth is above that level, the veteran is not eligible for the benefit. Benefit levels also depend and vary according to family size and level of medical care required by the veteran.
While this benefit is for wartime veterans, it also extends to the widows and widowers of those veterans. Any low-income survivor of a wartime veteran should apply for the benefit, including (and especially) those in nursing homes.