What is VA Survivors’ Pension?
VA survivor’s pension is similar to DIC, a tax-free monthly benefit. The difference between survivors’ pension and DIC is that eligibility is based on wartime service and income, not the veteran’s status or service-connection.
VA offers survivors’ pension benefits to low-income, single surviving spouses of veterans with an honorable or other-than-honorable (OTH) discharge who:
- Served at least 90 days active duty on or before September 7, 1980, with at least one day during wartime, OR
- Served 24 months (or the total duty time) after September 7, 1980, with at least one day during wartime.
Surviving children may also be eligible for survivors’ pension under the same criteria used for DIC benefits.
What Are VA DIC Benefits?
When a veteran passes away, any monthly payments they received for a service-connected disability will cease. Surviving family members seeking financial assistance can then apply for DIC benefits.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free, monthly VA payment available for surviving spouses, children, and parents of deceased service members or military veterans.
Surviving spouses receive monthly payments for life, unless they remarry before age 57. Surviving children can collect DIC benefits until age 18 - age 23 if attending school - or indefinitely if the child has qualifying special needs.
Currently, VA DIC benefits are paid at $1,357.56 per month for spouses, $340.69 per month for each child – more in certain cases, such as if you are disabled and require daily care assistance.
Who Is Eligible for VA DIC Benefits?
VA DIC benefits are available for surviving family of service members who die on active duty or die from a service-connected disability. Surviving family may include the spouse, children, or parents.
To be considered a “surviving spouse” for DIC benefits, you must meet several criteria, including:
- Married to the veteran for at least one year.
- Married within 15 years of the veteran’s discharge from the service their disability is connected to.
- Unmarried with a shared child AND living with the veteran at the time of their death.
A surviving spouse who prompted a separation during the marriage may not be eligible for DIC benefits. Similarly, spouses who remarry may not be eligible for DIC benefits - unless remarrying after age 57, remarrying after December 16, 2003, or the remarriage has ended due to annulment, divorce, or death.
Can same-sex spouses get VA DIC benefits? Yes. VA is not allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. In September 2013, same-sex couples in the military were granted the same beneficiary rights as heterosexual couples.
For a child to collect DIC benefits, they must be a dependent of the veteran, and meet ONE of the following criteria:
- Under age 18
- Between ages 18-23 and enrolled in a qualifying school
- Unmarried with special needs
The main criteria for receiving DIC benefits is being able to prove that the cause of death was service-related. If the veteran had a presumptive condition or was service connected for their illness, this may not be necessary.
If the veteran’s cause of death is not service connected, survivors can still collect DIC benefits. In some cases, the applicant may need to provide evidence that the cause of death was service-related – the most powerful being a good medical nexus letter.
Also, if the veteran had total disability due to individual unemployability (TDIU) or was rated at 100% disability (or combined rating of 100%) at the time of death, survivors may be eligible for DIC benefits.
Who Gets VA Benefits When a Veteran Dies?
Losing a loved one can be both emotionally difficult and financially overwhelming - especially when a spouse, children, or other dependents rely on a veteran’s VA benefits to get by.
What happens to VA benefits after a veteran’s death? Do VA benefits go to family members when a veteran passes?
While veteran’s disability payments stop after the veteran’s death, the surviving spouse and others may be eligible to collect other types of ongoing VA benefits, including Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), VA Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA) health care coverage, survivors’ pension, and burial benefits.
Does The Surviving Spouse Get Health Care Benefits After Veteran’s Death?
A deceased veteran’s spouse and children may qualify for health care benefits through the CHAMPVA program as long as they don’t receive TRICARE benefits.
Will my wife receive my VA benefits when I die?
The normal rule is that your VA benefits die with you. Another person cannot receive your VA benefits. However, this does not mean that your wife is without recourse and does not have entitlement to certain VA benefits in her own right. There are certain survivor benefits that your wife could be entitled to. Please see our resources on DIC.
If a veteran dies and his wife service connects the cause of his death, she would be entitled to monthly VA compensation. In addition, if the veteran had a pending claim for disability compensation at the time he died, his wife could substitute for him in that pending matter and bring it to conclusion and potentially receive the accrued benefit that would have been payable to the veteran due to that pending claim.
Does VA Pay for Veteran Burial and Funeral Expenses?
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a flat rate monetary benefit to cover eligible burial and funeral costs. VA may also agree to cover additional expenses, including plot, interment, and transportation costs.
Veterans eligible for VA burial benefits include veterans with honorable or other-than-honorable (OTH) discharge who:
- Died due to a service-connected disability or were receiving VA benefits at the time of death.
- Died during VA hospitalization or under VA care at a non-VA facility.
- Died during transit to or from a VA health exam, treatment, or healthcare appointment.
- Received VA benefits at time of death or qualified for VA benefits but instead received full disability or military retirement.
- Died while receiving care at a VA-approved nursing home (after Oct. 9, 1996).
- Had a VA claim pending at the time of death and would have been eligible for VA benefits prior to the date of death.
Surviving spouses typically receive the VA burial benefits payment automatically once the VA learns of the veteran’s death - no need to file a claim. If there is no surviving spouse, a surviving child or parent can file a claim for VA burial benefits.
Surviving family members should apply for DIC and other VA benefits as soon as possible after a veteran’s death, as the effective date for payments starts on the date of the claim if you wait a year or longer to apply (otherwise it starts one month after you receive approval).
If you have questions about your DIC claim or are having difficulty collecting DIC benefits after a veteran’s death, we are available to help. Contact Gang & Associates toll-free at 888.878.9350 or Contact Us online. Initial consultations are free and confidential.