Veterans Survivors’ Benefits & You
None of us can escape mortality. This is certainly true of veterans. While nothing will never make up for this loss, there are certain benefits that are available to survivors of veterans who have died.
Retroactive Disability Compensation Benefits
If a veteran passes away while a claim for disability compensation benefits is pending before the VA, the claim does not have to die with the veteran. While the surviving spouse or children would not be eligible for future disability benefits (if the claim is ultimately approved), the surviving they may apply to receive the past-due benefits. This could turn out to be a significant sum, depending upon how the VA ultimately rates the level of disability and how far back the VA determines the disability started (i.e., the “effective date” of the disability). These accrued benefits are not available to all survivors; survivors must meet certain eligibility requirements. The same is true for the next form of compensation.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Another way surviving dependents may receive compensation is through Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). This is a monthly benefit paid to survivors of deceased veterans. There are requirements for eligibility for DIC benefits. The veteran must have died:
While on active duty ORFrom a service related injury or disease OR
While receiving disability for a totally disabling condition for: At least 10 years before death OR
Since the veteran’s discharge AND for at least five years prior to death OR
At least one year prior to death if the veteran was a former POW.
Additionally, there are requirements for the survivors. A surviving spouse must have:
Married the veteran at least one year before the veteran’s death OR
Married a veteran who died from a service-connected disability, if the marriage was within 15 years of discharge from the period of service that caused the disability OR
Married a veteran and had a child with the veteran, OR
Married a service member who died while on active duty.
Also, generally speaking, the surviving spouse must have lived with the veteran and must not have remarried after the veteran’s death. And a surviving child may be eligible for DIC if the child isn’t part of the surviving spouse’s DIC, is unmarried and is under 18 (there are exceptions to this).
The list of requirements is actually even more complicated and this blog just touches on the basics. These are complicated rules, conditions and, as usual, many potential exceptions which can work to your advantage OR work against you. It would be to your advantage to seek qualified help if you’re not sure if either of these benefits apply to you. And, if you apply for DIC or accrued benefits and receive a denial letter from the VA, as with other VA decisions, you have the right to appeal the denial.
We at The Law Offices of Maurice L. Abarr are uniquely qualified to assist you with all manner of veterans’ benefits issues. Contact us for a free consultation.