If you are a veteran who is receiving disability compensation, and you support family members financially, you may be qualified to apply for dependent benefits: i.e. benefits that will pay you a small sum more to cover for the some of the costs of those dependents. The most common type of dependents which rely on veterans are the spouse and children of the veteran. However, dependents can also be the parents of the veteran or stepchildren of the veteran. A more detailed discussion on how to determine whether your children or parents will qualify for dependent benefits can be found here. For more information on benefits based on marriage can be found here. Knowing your rights and whether you qualify for these benefits is important in ensuring you are receiving the deserved compensation in order to take care of yourself and your family.
The 30% Rule:
38 USCS § 1135 states, in part that “any veteran entitled to compensation … whose disability is rated not less than 30 percent, shall be entitled to additional monthly compensation for dependents ….” This means that in order to be eligible to receive dependent benefits for your children, you must have a combined disability rating of at least 30 percent. When you hit this number, you are eligible to file a VA Form 686-c requesting authorization for your dependents and beginning your claim to receive compensation based on how many dependents you have. Normally, when you receive an overall rating at or above 30%, the RO will notify you of your possible eligibility to file for Dependent benefits. (The notification is often listed on your Notice of Action).
Determining the Effective Date of Dependent Benefits be?:
Pursuant to 38 C.F.R. § 3.410(b)(ii), an award of additional compensation payable to a veteran based on a dependent will be effective on the date notice is received of the dependent’s existence, if evidence is received within one year of the Department of Veterans Affairs request. What this means is that once you are eligible to apply for dependent benefits, it is important to file Form 686-c as soon as possible, in order to notify the VA that you have dependent’s and in turn preserve your effective date to receive the compensation.
There is also a statute which may allow a veteran to receive a start date for their dependent benefits to the same effective date pertaining to the 30% disability rating. Specifically, 38 U.S.C.S. § 5110(f) states, “an award of additional compensation on account of dependents based on the establishment of a disability rating in the percentage evaluation specified by law (30 Percent or greater) for the purpose shall be payable from the effective date of such rating; but only if proof of dependents is received within one year from the date of notification of such rating action.” This regulation is important because it allows for you to recover any lost compensation for your dependents if you are granted an earlier effective date, which helps to alleviate the grueling timeframe filing a VA claim can take. If you have dependent children or parents that were alive and eligible on the effective date of your qualifying disability, or you were legally married on that date, then you may be able to obtain increased compensation for those dependents based on the same effective date.
Important Considerations to Remember:
If you have dependent children, increased compensation is normally paid for a child until they reach 18 years old. However, the VA will pay veterans for their dependent children until age 23 if the children are attending an accredited high school or college program. If you claim a spouse as dependent then the VA will only pay benefits for them for as long as the marriage lasts. It is important to remember that if you claim someone as a dependent, and that status changes, it is important to notify the VA as soon as possible so you can prevent yourself from becoming liable for an overpayment. A common occurrence where this can happen is the death of a child or spouse, or a divorce from a spouse occurs.
In the ever complicated are of disability compensation, there are several rules which can add to the dollar amount a veteran is eligible to receive. If you have dependents then Dependent compensation is an important entitlement you should be sure to take advantage of.
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