Veterans Disability Info Blog

Understanding DIC Benefits: Navigating the Process After Loss

When a veteran dies as a result of a service-connected disability, some of the survivors of the veteran may be entitled to a tax-free monthly benefit known as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). While there are specific eligibility rules, the surviving spouses, children, and parents generally qualify to collect DIC. 

To learn how a VA disability lawyer can help, contact our VA benefits law firm today. 

DIC Benefits for Military Widows and/or Widowers

Members of the military who are away from home, whether undergoing domestic training or serving at home or abroad, often rely on their spouses to maintain the household. When a member of the military returns home to their husband or wife with long-term, life-altering injuries or illnesses, the obligations of the spouse can increase. The spouse’s duties can extend beyond taking care of the household to caring for the injured veteran. 

Should the disabled veteran die following their service, the widow or widower is tasked with not only grieving but also maintaining the household, its finances, and their own situation. We understand the difficulty experienced during a time of loss and recognize that despite grieving, bills, mortgage payments, and other obligations also persist. 

DIC Payment Amounts

Qualifying survivors who have experienced the death of a spouse due to a service-connected disability can be eligible to receive a monthly DIC payment of $1,562.74. This is the base amount of the DIC payment, with the amount increasing when the survivor has additional dependents or other special circumstances. 

Increases in payments are available to the surviving spouse receiving DIC benefits under the following circumstances. The numbers change each year to accommodate changes in the cost of living, but generally range from $180 to $330.

The surviving spouse may also be entitled to accrued benefits that were owed to the late service member. In instances where a veteran’s benefits claim was pending at the time of their passing, the surviving spouse could be entitled to back pay from the effective date of the late veteran’s claim. The outstanding balance of VA benefits is known as VA accrued benefits and is generally paid to a surviving spouse. In other instances, they may be paid to dependent children or parents of the late service member. 

Service Member’s Dependent Children May Also be Eligible for DIC Benefits

To qualify to collect DIC benefits, a surviving service member’s adopted or biological child must meet the following requirements:

  • Be under 18 or aged 18-23 while attending school
  • Cannot be included on the surviving spouse’s DIC benefits
  • Cannot be married
  • Or have a total disability from a condition that began prior to the age of 18

Requirements to be Eligible for DIC Benefits

The survivors of veterans who died due to a service-connected disability or met other requirements must meet certain eligibility requirements, as do their late military spouses. When both sides of the marriage meet the rules and requirements to be eligible for DIC benefits, the amount is determined based on the number of dependents in the household and other factors as explored above. 

Veteran Qualifications for Survivors to be Eligible for DIC

For the widow or widower to be eligible for DIC benefits, the applying spouse must provide evidence that one of the following applies to their situation: 

  • The veteran died as a result of a service-connected injury or illness or their service-connected disability contributed to the death
  • The service member died while serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training
  • The veteran’s death was not from a service-connected illness or injury but had a VA disability rating at total disability for a service-connected disability that persisted for at minimum 8 years prior to death.

When the veteran meets these requirements, then the spouse must also meet the following to qualify for DIC benefits. 

Requirements for Surviving Spouses to Receive DIC

For a surviving spouse to be eligible to receive DIC, the above must be applicable, and the spouse must have lived with the veteran without a break in time until the veteran’s death. However, in some instances when a couple was separated, if the widow or widower was not at “fault” for the separation, they can still qualify to collect payments. 

In addition to the above, the surviving spouse must also meet one of the following conditions:

  • Have been married to the veteran within 15 years of their discharge from the period of active service in which their qualifying injury or illness occurred or was worsened or
  • Married to the veteran for 1 year or more, or 
  • Have a child with the service member 

To meet the marriage requirements, couples are considered to be in a “deemed valid marriage” after a minimum of a year. A marriage that is “deemed valid” is one that the VA determines would have been a valid marriage were it not for the existence of a legal impediment. 

There is also a rule concerning cohabitation, with the couple having to have continuously cohabited or lived with one another for the duration of their marriage. However, if the couple lived apart for medical reasons or due to marital discord but without the intention of leaving one another, then separations may not disqualify the surviving spouse from DIC coverage. 

Keep in mind that there are no income limits when it comes to survivors collecting DIC benefits. The VA does not consider the income or assets of a widow or widower when determining their eligibility for DIC benefits. While pensions generally have income limits, DIC benefits are a form of compensation and have no income limit. If you are a widow or widower receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you are not barred from receiving DIC benefits at the same time. They are separate benefits that must be applied for and are attended to by separate regulations and requirements. A VA disability lawyer can advise you on the complexities if you are filing an appeal. 

Remarriage and DIC Benefits 

If you are wondering whether or not a surviving spouse can remarry and continue to receive DIC benefits, there are some circumstances where this is allowed, as follows:

  • For surviving spouses who remarried on or following December 16, 2003, and the widow or widower was 57 years or older at the time of the remarriage, or
  • If the surviving spouse remarried on or following January 5, 2021, and were 55 years old or more

Eligibility for DIC benefits can be complicated, and the application process can seem daunting. If your prior application has been denied, going through the process again alone may seem intimidating. But keep in mind that a disabled veteran lawyer can step in on your behalf and handle every step of the appeal. 

When Can a VA Disability Lawyer Help with My DIC Claim? 

Your initial claim for DIC benefits can be filed with the assistance of the VA and VA-accredited experts free of charge. It is important to provide sufficient information concerning proof of your marriage, cohabitation, the service-connected injury or illness that was related to the service member’s death, and other important evidence. If your initial claim has been denied, then a VA disability lawyer from our firm can help you gather evidence, draft your appeal.

If you make the decision to work with our firm on your DIC benefits appeal, we do not ask for money upfront. Your initial case consultation is free, and we only charge a fee if we win, in the form of a percentage of back pay and case expenses. Your future benefits are yours and yours and yours alone.

Connect with a DIC Benefits Attorney for Assistance 

DIC benefits can make the difference between financial stability in your household following the loss of a service member spouse or having to cover burial and other costs and being forced to adapt without the VA disability benefits the household was receiving. If you are a surviving spouse, parent, or child of a deceased servicemember, you may be eligible to receive substantial benefits. To learn how a VA disability lawyer from our firm can help, call us at 888-878-9350 or visit our site to schedule your free initial consultation.

We are Here to Help

If you are having trouble obtaining benefits, contact us online or at 888.878.9350 to discuss your case.