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If my husband and I were never officially married can I still get VA DIC benefits?

DIC for Common Law Surviving Spouse

Typically, to qualify for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) as a surviving spouse, the spouse must have been married to a Service member who died on active duty or married to a Veteran (for at least one year prior to his death) who died from a service-connected disability.  There are a few other exceptions when minor-aged children are involved, but by and large, DIC is designated for the “surviving spouse and minor-aged dependents.”  But what about circumstances where the Veteran and “spouse” never married?  In states where common law marriages are recognized, as long as the couple meets those requirements, then the VA views them as married and the spouse qualifies for the DIC.  But in states that do not recognize common law marriage, or the couple had not been married for one year prior to the Veteran’s death, the spouse claimant may still qualify for DIC benefits[i].

VA General Counsel has established that a lack of residence in a state that does not recognize common law marriage should not be a bar for establishing a DIC claim and VA law states that, “In certain circumstances, the VA may determine a marital-type relationship to be a ‘deemed valid marriage[ii]’ even where no legal marriage was created under state law.”  However, most common law DIC claims are not always straight forward, for under VA law, a common law type of relationship would only qualify if the spouse was “unaware of the existence of the legal impediment” at the time of the Veteran’s death.

In developing such a DIC claim, the VA Rater would first have to establish whether the spouse alleges a common law marriage in a state that does not recognize common law marriage, then the surviving spouse would be required to provide a personal statement “as to whether he or she was aware that common law marriages were not recognized in the jurisdiction and the reasons for this understanding.”  The spouse would also fill out a Statement of Marital Relationship form[iii] and have at least two individuals who knew the couple each submit a Supporting Statement Regarding Marriage form[iv] attesting to their knowledge of the relationship.  Based upon the spouse claimant’s statement and any other evidence of record, the VA Rater will then make a determination on “whether the claimant was without knowledge of the impediment to the marriage.”

According to various Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims decisions[v], the VA is not limited in its ability to conduct full inquiry as required by law[vi] nor does it invalidate the Department’s responsibility to weigh the evidence submitted both as to its probative value and credibility.   If the VA Rater determines that the claimant was without knowledge of the impediment to the marriage, the other requirements of a deemed valid marriage are satisfied, and all the elements of a common law marriage are present, then the DIC claim can be established.

 

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by Matthew Hill
August 28, 2014

Why are “buddy statements” important in developing your VA claim

Many veterans seeking service-connected compensation benefits from the VA are not aware of the importance of a well-prepared “buddy statement”. These statements can be from your spouse, friend, pastor, adult child, or from a fellow serviceman. A credible and supportive statement may sometimes suffice or be the catalyst to winning a claim.

The VA has the duty to assist veterans in developing a claim for a service-connected disability. It is their obligation to apply the benefit of the doubt doctrine when the record lacks medical evidence either because none existed or were lost or destroyed. The VA is required to review and take into consideration lay evidence, including buddy statements in support of a veteran’s claim. The key is figuring out when such as a statement is needed.

Most medical facilities destroy medical records after a number of years, typically 7-10 years. In these situations, if the medical records are no longer available, you can obtain credible statements to gap the dates of treatment that are missing.

For example, many veterans returning from war may experience symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, or other mental health disorder, but frequently fail to seek treatment until a loved one urges them to do so. I’ve seen that a number of years go by as the veteran is trying to enter back into society and lead a productive life. All the while, those around him are noticing the changes since his return from service. Those loved ones who witness the changes are the ones that can provide the most credible observations of the veteran’s symptoms during the period of time when the veteran failed to seek medical treatment, or gap a hole in treatment of medical records that are no longer available. Specifically, the witness can provide a historical narrative of when the veteran was having difficulty coping with stress at work, getting along with co-workers, or not being able to accept direction from an authoritative figure. A close friend or relative can provide information of the veteran’s difficulties with day-to-day activities, such as maintaining hygiene, isolating, or any other change noticed during that period.

We are all aware of the VA losing or misplacing files and records, but sometimes an injury or event did not require a veteran to seek immediate medical treatment or availability to sick bay was out of reach, then a supportive statement may be critical in developing your claim. If you suffered an injury or event in service but no record was kept or was destroyed, then a statement from a service member that served with you and witnessed the event or injury has to be weighed and considered by VA when determining service-connection.

For example, a veteran filed a claim for residuals of a shoulder injury that was sustained during basic training. The VA attempted to obtain the veteran’s service medical records but was unable to do so because they had been destroyed in a fire. The veteran obtained a statement from a serviceman who witnessed the incident as well as medical evidence supporting his assertion that the original injury that occurred in service was the result of his current shoulder problems. The VA determined that lay evidence could be competent and sufficient in this case to identify a medical condition and that the buddy statement supported the veteran’s diagnosis that was rendered, sometimes many years later, by a medical professional.

It is important that the witness issuing the statement describes the event or injury in as much detail as possible. Providing dates and names increase the credibility of the witness.

The VA retains discretion to make credibility determinations when evaluating a statement in support of your claim. Therefore, we recommend that you seek assistance from an experienced VA advocate when preparing a substantiated statement in support of your claim.

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by Brenda Duplantis, Disability Advocate
August 27, 2014

VA says it is going to reduce my benefits, now what?

In my previous post, I discussed the delicate yet serious adverse VA action of declaring incompetency. While there are various types of adverse actions, including incompetency and the reduction of benefits – each involves the same basic right to contest implementation. This post will focus on the process of, and options for, contesting such adverse actions. The two primary options are to request and attend a hearing or submit additional rebuttal evidence. Although, similar to most dealings with the VA there are time limitations and formalities involved.

While most VA letters indicate the necessity to respond within 30 days, technically the VA must wait 60 days from the notification letter date to make decisions regarding adverse actions. In order to account for mail time, VA policy requires an additional 5 days before taking action as well as waiting until the next business day if the waiting period expires during the weekend. There may be significant consequence depending whether the Veteran responds within 30 days of the notification letter, or not.

Technically, Veterans may request a hearing at any point during the mandatory waiting period. However, it is more advantageous to request the hearing within 30 days because VA will not render the decision until the hearing occurs. Conversely, if the Veteran submits a hearing request 30 days after receiving the notification letter, decisions may occur prior to the actual hearing. In this case, hearings are still substantive but shift from being preventive to corrective in nature. While attending a hearing may be beneficial, it is not required to contest an adverse action.

Another viable option is submitting additional evidence for consideration, or reporting such evidence exists, that will rebut the proposal. The VA is obligated to obtain and consider any evidence, Federal or non-Federal, reported by the Veteran before making their decision. When obtaining evidence from non-Federal sources, the VA postpones any decision for at least 60 days; for cases involving Federal sources the VA will continue efforts until receiving the evidence or determining continued efforts are futile.

After obtaining all relevant evidence, VA will review the evidence and issue their decision. The goal here is to avoid the implementation of an unwarranted adverse action. However, if the decision is unfavorable – the next option is to follow standard appeal procedures.

It is very important to contest unwarranted adverse actions, by either attending hearings or submitting additional evidence. However, choosing the best approach is difficult and deserves careful consideration. Whether responding to an adverse proposal alone, or with guidance from an advocate, be sure to respect time limitations and submit appropriate evidence in order to avoid complications or unfavorable outcomes.

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by Eric Cook, Veterans Claims Advocate
August 25, 2014

Renal Cell Carcinoma & Chemical Exposure

Since Vietnam veterans began returning from their military assignments overseas, we have found a wide spectrum of diseases and conditions that have been caused by chemical exposures. The most well-known and researched is Agent Orange. And it has also been found that contaminated water supply systems, such as at Camp Lejeune, has caused similar health problems as well. This post discusses kidney cancer and how to establish service-connection between chemical exposures and kidney cancer.

What It Is

Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults. Many times, there are no warning signs or early symptoms of this disease, which makes kidney cancer difficult to diagnose early on. Once kidney cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done (called staging) to determine whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (called metastasis). Cancer spreads to other parts of the body by blood, tissue, or lymph nodes.

There are several signs and symptoms of kidney cancer:

  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Hypertension
  • Hypercalcemia
  • Night sweats
  • Malaise

Kidney cancer has four main stages:

Stage I— the tumor is 7 centimeters or smaller and is found only in the kidney.

Stage II—the tumor is larger than 7 centimeters and is found only in the kidney.

Stage III—

  • the tumor is any size and cancer is found only in the kidney and in 1 or more nearby lymph nodes; or
  • cancer is found in the main blood vessels of the kidney or in the layer of fatty tissue around the kidney. Cancer may be found in 1 or more nearby lymph nodes.

Stage IV—cancer has spread:

Causes

Kidney cancer can be caused by a number of environmental and genetic factors. For the purposes of this blog post, we will focus on the environmental factors. Such factors include:

  • smoking
  • sustained misuse of over-the-counter NSAIDS
  • occupational exposure to certain chemicals

Chemicals that have been found to be high risks for kidney cancer include trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, benzidine, cadmium, herbicides, and vinyl chloride.

Agent Orange Exposure 

Agent Orange, an herbicide used in Vietnam under Operation Ranch Hand, contained an extremely toxic byproduct: 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), which was later discovered to be carcinogenic in humans. TCDD has been described as “perhaps the most toxic molecule ever synthesized by man. Prolonged exposure to this dioxin resulted in serious health problems.

The VA has recognized certain diseases as having been caused by exposure to Agent Orange, and will grant presumptive service-connection for these diseases as long as the veteran can prove that he/she was in Vietnam between 1962 and May of 1975. However, renal cell carcinoma is not on this list. Therefore, in order to win these kinds of cases with the VA, it would be profitable to obtain a medical expert’s opinion that the kidney cancer was as likely as not caused by exposure to Agent Orange. 

Camp Lejeune

In the early 1980s, it was discovered that two on-base water supply systems at the Marine Corps Base in Lejeune, NC, were contaminated by TCE (a metal degreaser) and PCE (a dry cleaning agent). Other compounds such as benzene and vinyl chloride were also contaminating the water supply. These water supplies were contaminated between August of 1953 and December of 1987.

In order to consider a claim for service-connection for a disease caused by contaminated water, the VA requires proof that the veteran was stationed at Camp Lejeune between the dates that the water was contaminated. The VA also requires a medical opinion that the disease was as likely as not caused by the contaminated drinking water.

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by Mary Klements, Veterans Advocate
August 22, 2014

Veteran’s Guide to Exposure to Radiation and Magnetic Fields (Part Two)

Part Two: Ionizing Radiation

Since the discovery of atomic energy, it has become common knowledge that ionizing radiation is harmful to humans. While this sort of radiation does not cause giant mutant ants or other monstrosities depicted in low-budget science fiction films in the 1960’s and 1950’s, ionizing radiation is mutagenic and exposure to it can be disastrous to the body.

The VA and Ionizing Radiation

The VA lists several different methods a serviceman may have been exposed to ionizing radiation. This includes service members in Japan during the Fukushima incident in Japan in 2011, “Atomic Veterans” who participated in the testing and implementations of nuclear weapons, Coastguardsmen who were stationed at LORAN (Long Range Aids to Navigation) stations from 1942 to 2010, and veterans who have been exposed to radiation-based medical treatments.

Occupationally, the VA recognizes that servicemen who served on nuclear vessels, or worked on these ships in shipyards were also exposed to radiation. Others who worked as X-ray or dental technicians, or worked to clean up nuclear waste, were also likely exposed.

The VA recognizes many presumptive disease with regards to exposure to ionizing radiation. These include: Cancers of the bile ducts, bone, brain, breast, colon, esophagus, gall bladder, lung (including bronchiolo-alveolar cancer), pancreas, pharynx, ovary, salivary gland, small intestine, stomach, thyroid, urinary tract (kidney/renal, pelvis, urinary bladder, and urethra, leukemia (except chronic lymphocytic leukemia), lymphomas (except Hodgkin’s disease), and multiple myeloma.

Other illnesses that the VA admits MAY be related to ionizing radiation, but does not automatically presume these diseases are service-related: all other cancers, non-malignant thyroid nodular disease, parathyroid adenoma, posterior subcapsular cataracts, and tumors of the brain and central nervous system.

Other health risks associated with ionizing radiation

While the VA has not formally recognized the connections, there are many other health effects seen in those exposed to radiation, including reproductive problems and infertility, uterine myoma, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, thyroid disease, cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, cataracts, kidney disease, and even hypertension. Often, these problems do not surface for years after the original exposure, and as such, the VA may fight against service-connection. Some scientists estimate that just as many radiation-exposed people die from non-cancer related illnesses caused by ionizing radiation than those who die from cancers.

No matter the route of exposure, it is clear that veterans exposed to ionizing radiation suffer from a slew of dangerous health effects.

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by Chris Amidon, Veterans Advocate
August 21, 2014

Suicide, Depression, and the VA: The Sad Truth & Navigating the Disability Process

With the recent death of actor and comedian Robin Williams, once again the issues of mental health, depression, and suicide are making a resurgence in our national discourse. In the last few hours, I have watched countless programs discussing these issues in every way imaginable, from a listing of the signs and symptoms of depression, to descriptions of someone who may be on the brink of suicide, to the perils of drug and alcohol abuse, and the list could go on and on. However, none of the discussions have centered on the veteran population specifically.

The sad truth is that as many as 22 veterans commit suicide every day. The sad truth is that the problems with mental health care through the VA healthcare system are rampant, and there is much work to be done in this regard.

As a veterans advocate, I am keenly aware that depression and suicide is very real and has great impact not only on veterans, but also on their families and loved ones. So I wanted to write this blog to provide veterans with some helpful insights for navigating through the VA disability process.

  1. Depression is very real and should be recognized and treated accordingly. Keep a diary of your symptoms and talk to your doctors about the symptoms. Suffering in silence is not the answer.
  2. Ask your friends and family members to keep a list of your symptoms (along with the frequency), and discuss with your doctors. Sometimes friends and family can provide valuable and unique insight into your situation. When you’re the one suffering, it’s hard to see the forest past the trees.
  3. If you have filed a VA disability claim for mental health, you should know that the VA will rate your disability according to the severity and frequency of your symptoms. For example, if you suffer from suicidal ideation or near-continuous panic or depression affecting your ability to function, you may be entitled to a 70% disability rating. However, the only way that the VA will know about the severity and frequency is if this is documented in your medical records. It will also help to have lay statements from your friends and family members to submit in support of your claim.
  4. Depression is frequently caused by chronic pain. If you are service connected for a physical condition that has resulted in depression, you should consider filing for secondary service-connected benefits.
  5. It is common for veterans with PTSD to suffer from depression, which then results in substance abuse. If you develop secondary conditions as a result of the substance abuse, those may also be secondarily service-connected.
  6. If you are in crisis or know a veteran or family member who is, it is never too late to reach out and get help. The Veterans Crisis Line is a great resource for veterans and their families, and is available via phone and the web.

The sad truth is that it actually takes tragic events of this magnitude in order for these issues to come to light. However, it is my hope that the newfound attention will somehow bring much needed help to veterans and their families. The charge for real change should start today.

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by Attorney Leslie Gaines
August 20, 2014

BAD MEDICINE—VA C&P exams

So you feel your C&P exam did not go well. What to do now? You left your C&P exam and you have a bad feeling about it. What can you do? You, as a veteran, have a few outlets to examine.

First of all, let’s not panic. To start, before you leave the VA facility, make sure you have the name of your doctor. If you do not want to ask the doctor as you are leaving, inquire at reception or with one of the nurses. “I just want to make sure I have his name correctly; was that Dr. Bob Smith? Was Smith with an “I” or a “Y”?” Even if you just get the last name of the doctor, you’ll be able to compare this name to the one on your C&P exam. You would be shocked to learn a lot of times that the person that saw you is not the doctor that signs off on the C&P report.

As soon as you are able, write down your impressions of the exam and what you think went wrong. It is so much easier to get these feeling down now than trying to recreate them at a later time. Here are some questions to try to help formulate your impressions:

  1. What do you feel went wrong?
  2. Was it the way the examiner treated you?
  3. Did the examiner ask competent questions relating to your disability?
  4. Was the examiner interested in your answers?
  5. Did you feel your examiner has his/her own agenda?

Use these questions as a guideline to fill out your own rebuttal to submit to the VA.

Next, you are entitled to know about the examiner who performed your exam. This is why you asked for the name of your doctor. Did you have an examiner who is a specialist in your field? For example, a general practitioner should not be giving a PTSD exam.

So how do you find out if your examiner is a specialist in your field? Well, now you need to ask for a copy of your C&P exam. You may not be able to get one right away, but the C&P exam should be available within a few weeks. You can always check for the posted copy on your on-line ebenefits account, or call the office in which you had your exam and ask them how to go about getting a copy.

If you have the name of your examiner, you can google him to see if there is anything on line about him. Or you can request a FOIA for his/her Curriculum Vitae. This will help you ascertain your examiner’s competency.

You can always request another C&P exam. The VA is not required to provide another one, but it doesn’t hurt to ask, and often, very often, you can get another one.

If you have seen your own doctor for the same issue for which you are getting a C&P, ask your own doctor to fill out a DBQ for your disability. The VA is required to examine your own doctor’s opinion on your disability, and give it as much weight as they would give their own examiner.

All the above listed examples allow you to formulate your own rebuttal to a C&P exam that made you uncomfortable. You are not powerless against the VA and do not have to swallow a negative C&P like bad medicine.

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by Lora Wentzel, Veterans Advocate
August 19, 2014

Veteran’s Guide to Exposure to Radiation and Magnetic Fields (Part One)

Veterans are often exposed to radiation from many different sources. A Nuclear Technician on a submarine might be the first thing that comes to mind, but what about an Electronics Technician? Radarman? An Infantryman? A dental technician? There are many ways a veteran could have been exposed to radiation, and several different types of radiation with different effects.

Most of us know or at least suspect that radioactivity has harmful effects on the body. However, we get confused by all the surrounding jargon. There are two main types of radiation: non-ionizing radiation and ionizing radiation. In general, radiation is when invisible waves “radiate” from a source. Some radiation is solely comprised of these waves, and is referred to as “non-ionizing radiation.” Examples of non-ionizing radiation can be found everywhere-from extremely low frequency (ELF) antennas to microwaves to radar. Some radiation contains subatomic particles, and is referred to as “ionizing radiation.” Ionizing radiation has so much energy that it liberates subatomic particles from atoms, and moves them at a high speed through your body, often with disastrous results.

Non-ionizing Radiation

While ionizing radiation can be very dangerous, there are studies that have shown non-ionizing radiation can cause health issues as well. While there is no conclusive proof, several studies have shown that there is a chance exposure to non-ionizing radiation, especially extremely low frequency fields, can be harmful to humans.

Neurological Disorders

Parkinson’s Disease has been shown to correlate with occupations that involve chronic exposure to magnetic fields, and a higher rate of Amytrophic lateral sclerosis is associated with all electrical occupations.

Cancer

One study showed that children exposed to large amounts of ELF magnetic fields suffered from leukemia at twice the rate of those who did not. Another found workers exposed to higher amounts of occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields had higher rates of acute nonlymphoid leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia, and those with the highest exposure had an elevated risk of brain cancers.

Reproductive problems

Studies with animals have shown that exposure to non-ionizing radiation can lead to decreased fertility in both males and females, and one study has shown that exposure to magnetic fields can induce miscarriages.

Chronic exposure to non-ionizing radiation is not typically recognized as a source of disability by the VA. However, there is no conclusive evidence showing that there are no health risks involved, especially at the levels servicemen are likely exposed to. The amount of non-ionizing radiation created by the RADAR or ELF Antennas on an aircraft carrier is likely much greater than typical exposure in the home or civilian occupations. It is clear that more research needs to be done.

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by Chris Amidon, Veterans Advocate
August 18, 2014

The VA is Issuing the Wrong Sort of Flags to Veterans

On June 11th, veterans seeking medical care, (many attending PTSD therapy groups) at VA Mission Valley Health Care Clinic in San Diego watched in horror as 20 men with automatic weapons, dogs, and full black combat gear without nametags rushed the entrance of the facility. Some veterans, their PTSD understandably triggered by this, opted to rush home without attending their group. Others were angry, but the federal officers, who were with Homeland Security, refused to identify themselves or explain their actions. After one veteran took a photograph of the officers, he was threatened with a $10,000 fine if he did not delete the picture.

The exercise, by the Federal Protective Service, a law enforcement group under the DHS that oversees the “safety” of federal buildings, called the exercise a “presence deterrence exercise.” No other explanation was given, and a quick googling of “presence deterrence” revealed no previous uses of the phrase, so the purposes are unclear, as is exactly whose presence is being deterred.

Are VA healthcare facilities likely targets of terrorist threats? Or are they practicing for something else? Many veterans believe that the FPS is practicing to respond to veterans who are “disruptive,” or argumentative, or even protesting the VA’s healthcare procedures.

The VA has been making lists of “disruptive” patients, and “flagging” them, effectively restricting the veteran’s healthcare. 38 CFR 17.107 describes the restrictions imposed on veteran’s who have been “flagged,” which includes restricting the hours and site when and where they will receive healthcare, forcing the veteran to be escorted by police, and terminating the veteran’s care. While the VA Manual stated that these flags should not be used “in the absence of a clear risk to safety,” many veterans claim that they were flagged simply for being vocal about poor healthcare and problems with their claims.

These flags are separated into two categories. Category I flags are for veterans who VA employees believe display “Violent or Disruptive” behavior. These flags are shared with all VA facilities. Category II flags are given to veterans who are “at risk,” typically for health reasons, including spinal cord injuries, tendency to wander, and drug-seeking behavior. These flags are only shared within a VA facility.

The VA’s Office of the Inspector General has found some significant problems with the practice, most importantly that there are significant differences between what constitutes “disruptive behavior” at different VHA facilities. Many veterans claim that they have been “flagged” simply for complaining about wait times and poor healthcare. There is no way of verifying this, as the decisions regarding who is placed on this secretive list are made by a secretive “Disruptive Behavior Committees,” without allowing the veteran to speak on his or her own behalf.

As with any population, especially one with a similar prevalence of mental illness, there are certainly patients who could be a danger to themselves and others. I don’t believe the VA created these rules specifically to silence dissent. They intended to save lives and prevent violence. However, we have seen over the years how policies developed with the best intentions by the VA can be misused, and it is typically the veteran who suffers.

If you have been “flagged” by the VA, and you believe you were not flagged for potentially violent behavior, there are policies in place to attempt to be removed from the list. The VA Handbook, specifically 1907.01, (paragraph 25e) details the procedure for a veteran to follow in order to amend their medical chart.

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by Chris Amidon, Veterans Advocate
August 13, 2014

Are you entitled to VA survivor’s benefits?

When a veteran passes, the VA does not automatically transfer the benefits to the survivors. Instead, the VA will send the known survivor(s) a notice, informing them that the benefits will cease within a certain period of time. Then the survivors should file for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).

DIC is a monthly payment made to a surviving spouse, child, or parent because of a service connected death occurring. While establishing service connection for the veteran’s death is a subject of its own, the purpose of this post is to give the finer details of eligibility for DIC. In order to grant Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits for surviving spouses, the VA has to follow detailed steps in determining who is eligible for those benefits. The basic criteria for being eligible for DIC benefits are the following:

  1. The surviving spouse must have had a valid marriage to the deceased veteran
  2. The current income of the surviving spouse must not exceed the DIC income

According to the VA, a valid marriage constitutes of three elements:

  1. Valid legal marriage and/or dissolution of other marriages
  2. Satisfies marriage dates requirements (married to the deceased veteran for at least 1 year prior to veteran’s passing). Multiple periods of marriage cannot be added up to equal the one year. However, if the original marriage took place before the delimiting date for Vietnam Era service (May 8, 1985), the marriage dates requirement would be met.
  3. Satisfies continuous cohabitation requirement. The exception to this would be if there was a child born of their relationship.

The continuous cohabitation stipulation accounts for special situations in which the veteran and surviving spouse were married, but lived apart. For DIC purposes, the VA requires that any situation in which the veteran and the spouse lived apart must be the result of mutual consent or safety on the part of the spouse. For example, if the separation was caused by misconduct on the part of the veteran, the continuous cohabitation criteria is met. But if the spouse’s misconduct was the cause of the separation, or if the spouse intended to desert or divorce the veteran while separated, the continuous cohabitation is not met, and the spouse would not be able to receive DIC benefits when the veteran passes. If there is any question as to the actual nature of the separation, the VA will ask for statements from Veteran’s family and friends who were aware of the situation.

Another factor in eligibility for DIC benefits is the remarriage issue. If the spouse remarries after the veteran passes, the surviving spouse is no longer eligible for VA benefits. There are two exceptions to this rule:

  1. If a surviving spouse remarries after age 55, he/she may retain eligibility for certain VA benefits under Public Law (PL) 107-330.
  2. If a surviving spouse remarries after age 57, he/she may retain eligibility for certain VA benefits (DIC, VA home loans, VA educational benefits) under PL 108-183

However, if the surviving spouse’s remarriage is terminated, then DIC benefits (but not pension) may be reinstated. The DIC payments would start on the first day of the month following the termination of the remarriage.

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by Mary Klements, Veterans Advocate
August 12, 2014

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