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Survivor's Benefits for Spouses and Children of Deceased Veterans and Service Members

Survivor's Benefits for Spouses and Children of Deceased Veterans and Service Members

Surviving spouses and children of deceased veterans and service members are eligible for death benefits or DIC. Certain cash benefits are available to survivors of deceased active service members and deceased veterans. Some of these programs are basically for low-income families only, and others are based on the veteran's service-connected disabilities (if any). Survivors' cash benefits include Dependent Indemnity Allowance (DIC), Death Pension, and Accumulated Disability Benefit.

Dependents Indemnity Compensation Benefits

The Dependents' Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Benefits are intended for military survivors killed in the course of active service and survivors of veterans who died as a result of a work-related disability or with a 100% degree of disability for some time before death.

If your veteran spouse died while his or her claim for disability compensation benefits was pending, you might be eligible for accrued disability benefits (delays) due to your deceased veteran. However, you won't receive continuing disability benefits; instead, you may be eligible for dependents indemnity compensation services.


Veteran Eligibility Requirements

Only family members of dead veterans who meet the following conditions are eligible for the dependent indemnity compensation. The veteran must be dead: 

  • during active duty (including training) or inactive duty for training

  • a disability-related to service or

  • while receiving (or being eligible for) disability allowance for a condition of total disability, for one of the following periods: for at least ten years before death or at least one year before death if the veterinarian was a prisoner of war, or since discharge and at least five years before death. 


Recipient Eligibility Conditions

Surviving spouses and children can be eligible for DIC if they meet the following conditions. 

When a surviving spouse is eligible for DIC

A surviving spouse must meet at least one of the following conditions to be eligible for the DIC. The spouse must have:

  • married the veteran at least a year before his or her death

  • married a veteran and had a child with a veteran

  • married to a veteran who died from work-related disability, if the marriage was within fifteen years of the release from the period of service causing the disability

  • married a service member who died during active service (including training) or inactive training service.

Also, the surviving spouse needed to have lived with the veteran without separation until the death of the veteran, unless the surviving spouse is responsible for the separation.


When a remarried surviving spouse is eligible for the DIC

In some cases, being remarried makes the surviving spouse ineligible for DIC. It depends on the date of the new marriage and the age of the surviving spouse on the date of the new marriage.

Surviving spouses who remarry after 57 years of age remain eligible for the DIC, despite the new marriage. A spouse who remarries before the age of 57 years will only be considered eligible for the DIC if the marriage takes place before December 16, 2003.


When a surviving child is eligible for the DIC

A surviving child is entitled to the DIC if the child isn't included in the survivor spouse's DIC, is single, and is less than 18 years old (or less than 23 years old and attends school).


How to apply for Dependents Indemnity Compensation

The first step will be to notify the VA of the veteran's death by completing a casualty report form. Then complete the VA 21-534 application form and send it to the nearest VA regional office. You can also request the DIC request form by calling 800-827-1000.


Retroactive Disability Compensation Benefits (Accrued Benefits)

Accumulated benefits are cash benefits due to the veteran between the date he applied for disability benefits for service reasons and the date he finally received the disability allowance. Sometimes a veteran may die before receiving this fixed amount of arrears or retroactive compensation for disability.

Surviving spouses or children who meet the above DIC requirements may also request a fixed amount for the service-related disability allowance due to the deceased veteran. This can sometimes represent a significant amount of money.

A request for payment for accumulated services is included in the same VA application Form (21-354) used to request the DIC and has the same request procedure described above.


Death Pension (or Survivors Pension)

A surviving spouse and the children of a veteran who served during the war and who are not eligible for the DIC can receive the death benefit if they are not married and follow the low-income program's guidelines. The amount of the death benefit depends on your income.


Eligibility for Death Pension

A surviving spouse is eligible at any time until remarriage, while a surviving child is only entitled if: less than 18, under 23 and attending a school approved by the VA or had an injury or illness before the age of 18, which caused permanent disability to the point that the child could not support himself.

 

The requirement of Wartime Service

What counts as a wartime service for death benefit claims? If the veteran served on or before September 7, 1980, the entire service must have been at least 90 days without at least one day during the war for survivors to receive a pension.

Veterans who entered service after September 7, 1980, must have completed 24 full months or the entire service period and must have served at least one day during the war.

Many times veterans and their families believe the veteran's service qualifies as wartime, but the VA has strictly defined certain periods as wartime.


Low-Income Requirement

The family's annual income must be below the death pension program's income and activity limits to allow a spouse or child to receive benefits.

How to Apply for the Death Pension

The first step is to notify the VA of the veteran's death by completing a report of casualty form. Then complete the death benefit application form and send it to the nearest VA regional office. The registration form is the same as the DIC and the accumulated benefits.


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