Death Benefits or DIC

If you qualify as a surviving spouse, child or parent of a Veteran, you may be entitled to monthly VA death benefits.

child holding a USA flag representing a military personnel who has died

Receiving monthly benefits from the VA can provide your family with an invaluable resource to help support your household in the absence of your late family member who passed due to a service-related condition. DIC or Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, is a tax-free monthly benefit that is paid to the “eligible survivors” of military Servicemembers who died in the line of duty.

DIC also applied to survivors of Service Members whose death may not have happened during active-service but was caused by a service-related injury or disease. To collect these benefits, you’ll need to file the appropriate forms with the necessary evidence to prove your eligibility for DIC benefits and to begin to move forward with the process. Knowing how to request and access the information you need for a successful DIC appeal can be difficult, and our experienced attorneys are standing by to help you pursue the best pathway to your DIC benefits.

If you are looking for a veterans benefits attorney, you have most likely already submitted a claim and had it denied by VA. Paid VA-accredited attorneys cannot represent Veterans in the filing of their initial applications for a fee, however, if your claim has been denied our expertise and experience can meant the difference between an efficient appeal that leads to a reversal, or the ongoing denial of your benefits.

If you believe you qualify for death benefits or Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and your claim has been denied by VA, contact our office today at (888) 878-9350 today.

Families Who are Eligible to File for DIC

It is necessary for the VA to approve the circumstances surrounding the death of the military Service Member or veteran in your family, and they must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Died due to a service-connected disease or illness 
  • Died while serving qualifying active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training
  • Died due to a non-service-connected injury of disease and was totally disabled from his or her service-connected disability for any of the following: 10 years or more prior to death, since the release of the veteran from active duty, and for at least 5 years prior to their death, or at least 1-year preceding death if the veteran was at one time a prisoner of war 

When the Service Member meets one of the above requirements, then their surviving dependents will have a right to pursue compensation through DIC.

What types of death benefits are available to surviving family members of veterans?

There are basically two programs that pay benefits to survivors of Veterans whose deaths were service-connected. These benefits are dependents and indemnity compensation (DIC) and death compensation.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation & Death Compensation

Benefits can include a tax free monetary payment for eligible survivors, a survivors’ pension, educational assistance, home loans, health care, educational and vocational training.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation & Death Compensation

You May Apply Online or Use VA Form 21P-534EZ

To begin applying for the DIC benefits you and your family may be entitled to, you can use VA Form 21P-534EZ, or if you are a spouse, dependent, or parent, you may also apply online here.

Find Out What Your Benefits Should Be

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When Should I file a claim for death or DIC Benefits?

Keep in mind there is no time requirement for filing a DIC claim. But if a DIC claim is received within one year of the Veteran’s death, the back-pay award for the benefits would go back to the first day of the month following the month in which the Veteran died.

Even if the claim for the underlying disability was made during the Veteran’s lifetime and denied, the surviving spouse can still file the claim for DIC and the VA must consider it as a brand new claim.

The following information is provided to help you improve your chances of getting your VA benefits claim approved.

If you would like to talk to one of our experienced VA disability attorneys at no charge to you, call our office at (888) 878-9350 today.

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Who Qualifies for VA Death Benefits?

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    Surviving Spouse of a Veteran

    To qualify as a surviving spouse, you must be validly married to the veteran. You must also have proof of marriage. To qualify, you must establish that you were the valid or deemed valid spouse of the veteran at the time of his death.

    You may also have to satisfy several other requirements, such as: being married for one year; have continually cohabited with the veteran during the marriage; and not have remarried after the veteran’s death. Keep in mind that the one-year marriage requirement does not apply if the marriage occurred before or during the veteran’s service or if the couple had children at any time.

  • Can I Still Qualify For Spousal Benefits If I Did Not Live With The Veteran For At Least One Year?

    With respect to the requirement that you cohabitate with the Veteran there are exceptions to the co-habitation requirement if the separation was due to the misconduct or the actions of the Veteran. The evidence and information that you submit to the VA in support of your claim in this regard will determine whether or not your application is ultimately approved. In practice, this exception typically involves veterans with severe PTSD or other psychiatric problems that result in abusive behavior toward their spouse and family.

    It is not necessarily the case that the VA wants to pay out on every claim filed, but rather they require certain information to approve claims, which is why quite a few are denied. While there are exceptions to some rules, taking advantage of them requires a thorough understanding of how the VA applies them - knowledge that our death benefits lawyers can apply to your claim.

    In the experience of our veteran’s benefits attorneys, a Veteran may be suffering from extreme cases of PTSD or other psychiatric problems which make living with him or her difficult or impossible. A surviving spouse might also live apart from the Veteran for business reasons. Therefore, a separation occurring under these circumstances doesn’t have to impair a surviving spouse’s ability to qualify for death benefits.

    Proving the mental health condition of the late Service Member in your family can be accomplished through the use of supporting statements from personal journals, information from mental health professionals who worked with your family member, and also statements from individuals familiar with how the symptoms of their service-connected disability impacted their ability to engage in social interactions.

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    Child of a Veteran

    If you are the child of a veteran, you may qualify for death benefits if you are not included in the surviving spouses DIC, you are unmarried, meet certain age requirements and are attending school. In order to receive death benefits, you will need to provide certain evidence about the Veteran, his service and his death.

    Accessing this information on your own can sometimes be difficult, particularly if you do not have a positive relationship with other members of your family who filed a separate claim. Working with a death benefits attorney from our VA benefits law firm provides you with the ability to rely on us to advance your appeal. We file the necessary paperwork and requests for information on your behalf to ensure that your application has the evidence you need to be approved in your claim and receive the DIC benefits you are entitled to.

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    Parent of a Veteran

    If you are the parent of a service member who died in the line of duty or a service related injury or illness, you may qualify for DIC benefits. You must be the biological, adoptive or foster parent of the service member and have income below a certain level. In order to receive death benefits, you will need to prove that the cause of death was service connected.

    Dependency is essential to qualify for DIC benefits as the parent of a deceased Service Member who died in a service-connected event or due to a qualifying service-connected injury or disease. You must be unable to provide for your basic needs and/or were dependent upon your relationship with the deceased Service Member in your family.

    Surviving parents file VA Form 21P-535, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation by Parent(s) (Including Accrued Benefits and Death Compensation When Applicable). While it may seem that the burden of proof to prove your right to benefits is difficult, if it has been initially declined, you can contract for assistance from one of our death benefits lawyers to help you through every step of the appeals process.

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How Does Service Connection Relate to Death Benefits?

In order to qualify for death benefits, the cause of death must be determined to be service-connected. The service-connected disability – either by itself or in combination with another condition – needs to be the main or underlying cause of death.

As a contributory cause of death, the disease must be shown to have contributed “substantially or materially” to death. It is not enough to show that it causally shared in producing death. But it must be shown that there was a causal connection between the service-connected disability and death. Proving this requires a careful and in-depth medical review of your late family member’s service records, medical records, and any other related information. Providing the VA with detailed evidence to support your case helps to ensure that their assessors understand your position. Moreover, proving contributory causes often requires the assistance of a qualified medical expert.

There are a number of situations where service-connection for the cause of death is quite obvious. If the Veteran died in-service and the death resulted from disease or armed conflict the VA will obviously consider the death to be service-connected. Another easy case would be a situation where a Veteran is receiving service-connected disability benefits for the disability that was the principal or contributory cause of death.

More difficult cases involve situations where the cause of death was not service-connected prior to the Veteran’s death. In order to prove that the Veteran died of a disability that should be service-connected, you must go through the typical analysis for service-connection. There must be medical evidence that the Veteran had a disability at the time of death, evidence of an in-service event and a link between the disability at the time of death and the in-service event.

The Rules, Deadlines, and Limitations of DIC Benefits 

Under the VA Rules, there is no specific time limit during which you must file a DIC claim. So long as you can prove the claim within the rules and limitations of the system, then you will be approved. 

Retroactive DIC Benefits 

Should an eligible surviving family member file their DIC claim within one year of the death of the veteran, the surviving family member is then entitled to DIC benefits retroactive to the date of the veteran’s passing. When your initial claim is denied, that means that you will be eligible to receive DIC benefits from the date of your loved one’s passing to the time that your appeal is reversed and your benefits are granted. 

The denial of DIC benefits can be financially destabilizing to the families of veterans killed during active duty or due to an illness or disease from active duty. Your application is important, but if you did not provide enough information, your appeal presents a fresh opportunity to move towards the benefits that you and your family are entitled to.

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Why did the VA deny my Death Benefit or DIC claim?

In order to qualify for death benefits, the cause of death must be determined to be service-connected. The service-connected disability – either by itself or in combination with another condition – needs to be the main or underlying cause of death.

The denial of your VA DIC benefits claim does not necessarily mean that you do not have a proper claim for which you are entitled to compensation. You simply may not have included the kind of information the VA needed to see in order for your application to be approved. Working with an experienced death benefits lawyer from our VA benefits law firm provides you with the insightful support you need to achieve the best possible outcome in your DIC claim.

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    No Service Connection

    The VA determines there is no connection between the veterans cause of death and their military service. When there is no service connection, there are still exceptions that may be available for the surviving members of a deceased Service Member, depending on the circumstances of death and whether they were ever a prisoner of war.

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    The surviving spouse, child or parent does not meet the criteria for death benefits.

    As you can see, there are many criteria you must meet in order to qualify for death benefits. If you do not provide all of the necessary paperwork, the VA will deny your claim. Meeting the complex criteria to be approved can be difficult, particularly when you do not have access to the paperwork needed to do so. Working with a death benefits lawyer on your appeal puts us on the case, and we do what is necessary to collect the evidence we need to accurately present your qualifications to the VA for your DIC benefits.

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    You did not prove you were married to and lived with the Veteran for the required period of time.

    The VA determines there is no connection between the veterans cause of death and their military service, but denied your benefits anyway due to insufficient proof that you were married and lived together for the essential period of time. As noted, there are exceptions to these rules, particularly when service-related conditions on behalf of the late Service Member made it impossible to cohabitate with them for the required period of time. Depression, PTSD, and other mental health conditions can lead to involuntary separation that is still service-connected. In other situations, you may have been living with the deceased veteran without formal marriage, but in a relationship that was the equivalent of a “common law” marriage. Currently, only about 8 states still allow common law marriage. In those cases of “common law” marriage, you will need evidence that you held yourselves out to the community as husband and wife, had shared finances, joint bank accounts, joint home ownership, etc.

How can a lawyer help me get VA Death Benefits?

In general, winning these types of claims involves aggressive representation and advocacy by a veteran’s benefits attorney and the utilization of high-qualified medical experts. Frequently, the actual cause of death may be misdiagnosed and there may be a lot of evidence that is missing. That is why these cases require expert analysis by an experienced veteran’s benefits attorney and review by well-qualified medical experts.

It is important to choose an attorney with a winning track record of appeals with the VA. There are a great many attorneys out there from which to choose, and it is important to work with one who is capable of achieving your goal of being approved for the full DIC benefits that you and your family are entitled to. You are fully within your rights to ask an attorney how many VA DIC appeals they have handled, and how many they have won.

If you are the surviving spouse of a deceased Veteran and your claim for DIC benefits has been denied, then we urge you to take a moment to contact our office to determine if there is something our veteran’s benefits attorneys can do to help you.

While many of our initial clients worry that they might not be able to afford our services, that is simply not the case. Your initial consultation is free, during which we’ll review your qualifications and general information surrounding the passing of your loved one. It is helpful to provide as much information as you can to your initial consultation to ensure that it is as productive as possible.

After our initial review, if we determine we might be able to help, we’ll ask for more information and ask for a release to allow us to consider more information. When we determine that your case is a fit with our firm, we take the time to answer any and all questions that you might have about how our fee structure and payment system works and how you receive the benefits you deserve. We only move forward on cases with clients who are fully satisfied with our answers and are happy and comfortable to have us represent their interests in their DIC appeal.

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