VA Benefits for Surviving Spouses and Dependents

VA Benefits for Surviving Spouses and Dependents

surviving spouse
Spouses and dependent children of veterans may already qualify for a number of healthcare, insurance, and money benefits while the veteran is alive, but surviving spouses and dependent children may be eligible for more benefits and compensation when the veteran passes away.

Three critical forms of survivors benefits include monthly payments, pensions, and health insurance. Other benefits include educational assistance, home loans, and burial assistance.


Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

Dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) is a monthly tax-free monetary benefit available to surviving spouses, dependent children, and parents of a deceased veteran.

This benefit is meant for when the circumstances of a veteran’s passing meets one of the following conditions:

  • They passed away on active duty, active duty training, or inactive duty training
  • They passed away due to a service-connected condition
  • Their passing may not be service-related, but they received disability benefits for a totally disabling condition (meaning a 100 rating) for at least 10 years before their death, or for at least five years before their death and starting immediately after discharge, or for at least 1 year prior to death if they were a POW

The monthly base rate for surviving spouses for veterans who have died on or after January 1, 1993 is $1,437.66 with added amounts based on your circumstances. For instance, if the veteran was totally disabled for 8 years prior to death and you lived with them for the whole period, or if you are affected by a disability, or you have dependent children under 18, you may qualify for more compensation.

To qualify, a spouse must satisfy certain requirements. You must first be be married to veteran without break up to the time of death, or if separated, not be at fault. You must also have been married to the veteran within 15 years of discharge from service when the veteran’s qualifying illness or injury occurred, be married for at least one year, or had a child with the veteran.

A surviving partner (who was not married to the veteran) may also be eligible for DIC benefits if the state in which they reside allows common law marriages, or if the partner and the veteran shared a child and lived together, or if separated, the partner was not at fault and never married after.

Surviving parents qualify for DIC benefits if they are biological, adoptive, or foster parent of the veteran. The amount of your monthly benefit depends on a number of factors, including your income range and living circumstances. VA allows you to calculate your expected rates depending on whether you are the only surviving parent, if both parents are still alive and married, or if both parents are alive but living separately or remarried.

Children qualify if they are not married, are excluded from the spouse’ compensation, and are under 18 (or 23 if in school).

Survivors Pension

A survivors pension is available to surviving spouses and dependent children of wartime veterans who meet income and net worth limits set by Congress called the Maximum Annual Pension Rates (MAPR). Once again, rates will vary depending on your living situation, including whether or not you have dependents or not, as well as what your income and assets total up to.

The survivors pension benefit comes in the form of a monthly payment similar to DIC benefits. It’s important to note, however, that if you qualify for both, VA will not award you both benefits. Instead, you will receive the one benefit that gets you the most money.

Surviving spouses qualify if they have not remarried after the veteran’s death, the veteran was not dishonorably discharged, and the veteran satisfies one of the following requirements:

  • Entered active duty on or before September 7, 1980 and served at least 90 days with at least 1 day during a covered wartime period
  • Entered active duty after September 7, 1980 and served at least 24 months with at least 1 day during a covered wartime period
  • Veteran was an officer who began active duty after October 16, 1981 and hadn’t served on active duty for at least 24 months

Children of deceased wartime veterans also qualify if they are unmarried and meet one of the following conditions:

  • Are under 18 years old
  • Are under 23 years old and attending a VA-approved school
  • Are unable to care for oneself due to a disability that happened before 18 years of age

Recognized wartime periods include:

  • Mexican Border period (May 9, 1916, to April 5, 1917)
  • World War I (April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918)
  • World War II (December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946)
  • Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam War era (November 1, 1955, to May 7, 1975 if you served in Vietnam, or August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975 if you served outside Vietnam)
  • Gulf War (August 2, 1990 up to a future date to be determined)

When you apply for a survivors’ pension, you’ll be asked to report all income, including your salary, investments, retirement payments, and any money coming in from dependents.

CHAMPVA Health Insurance

CHAMPVA stands for Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It provides health insurance for surviving spouses and dependents who don’t qualify for TRICARE, which is the Department of Defense’s insurance plan for active-duty and retired service members and their families. This program helps cover the costs of some healthcare services and supplies.

To qualify, you must first be ineligible for TRICARE, and satisfy one of the following requirements listed on the VA website:

  • You’re the spouse or child of a Veteran who’s been rated permanently and totally disabled for a service-connected disability by a VA regional office, or
  • You’re the surviving spouse or child of a Veteran who died from a VA-rated service-connected disability, or
  • You’re the surviving spouse or child of a Veteran who was at the time of death rated permanently and totally disabled from a service-connected disability, or
  • You’re the surviving spouse or child of a service member who died in the line of duty, not due to misconduct (in most of these cases, family members qualify for TRICARE, not CHAMPVA).

CHAMPVA covers services and supplies deemed by VA to be medically necessary and received by an authorized provider. Such services include the following:

  • Ambulance service
  • Ambulatory surgery
  • Durable medical equipment (DME)
  • Family planning and maternity
  • Hospice Inpatient services
  • Mental health services
  • Outpatient services
  • Pharmacy (prescription medicines)
  • Skilled nursing care
  • Transplants

A number of circumstances may affect your eligibility for or change your current usage of CHAMPVA benefits, too. Make sure you keep VA updated about such things as an expected baby, if you’re a surviving spouse who is remarrying, or, having remarried, is now separating or divorcing. Once children with CHAMPVA turn 18, they must also notify VA if they are fully enrolled in college to continue coverage. If you qualify for Medicare, know that CHAMPVA is always used as the second payer behind Medicare. These scenarios all contain information VA needs to determine your eligibility.

Survivor Benefit Plans

VA isn’t the only organization that offers benefits to survivors of veterans. The Department of Defense offers survivors the survivor benefit program (SBP), which is a voluntary monthly annuity calculated by the veteran’s retired pay, and which guarantees a monthly payment to a select beneficiary.

VA cautions that anyone who has both an SBP and qualifies for DIC benefits will be unlikely to collect the full amount of both benefits every month. One exception would be if you were first married to a veteran who had an SBP, then remarried after age 57 to another veteran who passed away, which qualified you for DIC. In that case, the surviving spouse could collect both benefits.

If you do not qualify for an exception that allows you to collect both benefits, the Department of Defense will reduce the SBP payment by the amount of your DIC payment. If your DIC payment is higher, however, then they will cease your SBP payments altogether according to a rule called the SBP/DIC offset.

VA Accrued Benefits

Accrued benefits are not considered a survivor benefit, but survivors of deceased veterans should pay attention, nonetheless. Accrued benefits refer to any compensation that is owed to a veteran following discharge, such as back pay or disability compensation, but only if a veteran has opened a claim and passes away before that claim is resolved. It’s incumbent on both the veteran to have opened a claim for such benefits, and for survivors to report these claims when filing for DIC benefits. If these unresolved claims are approved in the veteran’s favor, the veteran’s survivors will receive any compensation due to them.

Assistance with your claim

This really only scratches the surface of what benefits are available to survivors of veterans. VA offers plenty of information regarding your eligibility and payment rates based on your living situations.

If you qualify as a survivor of a deceased veteran, you are entitled to a number of kinds of compensation that are critical for your standard of living and growth. To ensure that you are able to get the benefits you deserve, contact VA Disability Group at 844-VET-LAWS now.