Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits are available to surviving family of service members who either passed away in the line of duty or due to a service-related condition. For example, if a military member died from cancer after routine exposure to the chemical known as Agent Orange during deployment. These tax-free benefits may be available for spouses, dependents, and parents through the VA.
Am I Eligible for DIC as a Surviving Dependent?
If you are one of the dependent children of a service member who passed away, you must be under the age of 18 to qualify for benefits. If you are enrolled in higher education, you will qualify up to the age of 23.
You cannot be married or included in the compensation of the surviving spouse. So if your father passes away in the military and both you and your mother receive compensation for it, you cannot apply for DIC benefits as well. These rules are true regardless of whether you were the biological or adopted child of the military member.
For dependents, their parent must have passed away while on active duty or during training (either for active or in-active duty). Children can also apply if the veteran died from a service-connected injury or illness. Finally, children may qualify even if the veteran did not die from a service-connected injury or illness.
In some cases, DIC benefits are issued if the veteran was rated as totally disabled for a service-connected injury or illness for a certain period of time. For example, if a former soldier dies after being hit by a car, but was 100% disabled after having their hip replaced 10 years before the car accident.
Am I Eligible for DIC as a Surviving Parent?
Parents of military members may qualify for DIC benefits if their income is below a certain threshold. Parents must be either biological, adoptive, or foster. (Foster parents are defined as those who served as the primary parent before the last entry of active service.)
The compensation from the department of veterans affairs will depend on a number of factors, including whether the parent lives with a spouse. Eligibility guidelines state that the veteran’s death must have occurred either in the line of duty or during active duty or inactive duty training.
Parents are also generally eligible if the veteran died from a service-connected injury or illness, either while in the line of duty, during inactive training, or after being discharged.
Am I Eligible for DIC Benefits as a Surviving Spouse?
There are several eligibility options that will entitle you to disability compensation if you are the surviving spouse or partner of the veteran or military member. If you were either married prior to Jan. 1, 1957, or married within 15 years of discharge (from the time of service during which the injury or illness began), you qualify for a monthly benefit. You are also eligible if you’ve been married for at least a year.
Finally, you can receive DIC benefits even if you were not technically married. If you had a child with a military member and aren’t currently remarried at the time of application, you should still fill out a VA form. Should this situation apply to you, you must show that you either lived with the military member prior to their death or that your separation from them was not your fault. (Please note that if you were 57 years or older and married on or after Dec. 16, 2003, you are also eligible to continue receiving compensation.)
Spouses are eligible if the military member died from a military service-connected injury or illness or died either in the line of duty or during training. Spouses may also be eligible if the military member was receiving compensation for total disability prior to passing away, even if the immediate cause of death was unrelated to the military.
What are the Restrictions for Total Disability?
If you are a spouse or child filing for DIC benefits under the totally disabling qualification, the military member must have had held this rating for at least 10 years before their death or for at least one year before the time of their death, providing they were a former prisoner of war after Sep. 30, 1999. Dependents or spouses can also qualify if they held this rating since their release from active duty and at least 5 years prior to their death.
For instance, if a military member suffered from a catastrophic injury during training that left both legs amputated, they may have received a total disability rating of 100 immediately upon release. They will have needed to have maintained this rating for at least 5 years until their death from any cause not related to their time in the military.
Can I Receive SBP Payments and DIC?
Some survivors of veterans are eligible to receive both a Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and DIC benefits at the same time. This compensation package is generally available to spouses who are entitled to both and were remarried after the age of 57.
Please note that a new law was passed for those who were experiencing an offset of their SBP due to DIC benefits. The regulations were passed to first reduce the offset and then eliminate it entirely by January 1, 2023.
How Can I Apply for DIC Benefits?
Eligible survivors can apply for VA benefits by filling out the appropriate forms and supplying the necessary documentation. This will typically include birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, or official adoption paperwork. If the veteran is missing and presumed dead or otherwise without an official death certificate, you can fill out equivalent forms, such as the Statement of Disappearance, to provide the necessary information.
You can apply through the VA Regional Office (RO) with the help of a VA employee or work with an accredited representative to submit all of your information. Finally, you can mail the forms and additional paperwork to the Pension Management Center in your state. Whether your child, spouse, or parent was in the Air Force, Navy, or Marine Corps, you’ll qualify for veterans’ benefits under the DIC guidelines.
Claims should ideally be made within one year of the veteran’s death. If you qualify, you’ll receive benefits from the first day of the month in which the veteran died. If you file after a year of the veteran’s death, you’ll receive benefits from the date that the form was received.
How Much Will I Receive?
The amount of tax-free compensation you receive will vary depending on everything from the type of survivor you are to the date of death to the income at the time of death. In some cases, you may not be eligible for any payments. For example, a parent making more than $15,641 per year will not qualify for DIC benefits.
It may help to know that, in general, spouses tend to receive the most, followed by children, and then parents. A child of a veteran who died after Jan 1, 1993 is likely to receive around $565 if they qualify for DIC benefits. A spouse of the same veteran would receive around $1,340.
Tips for Applying for DIC Benefits
The rules for DIC benefits can become muddled by the dates and restrictions placed on each surviving family member. It helps to have a legal expert go through the details to determine not only whether you are eligible, but also to estimate how much you’re likely to receive. Having the right professional by your side can also help you establish a service connection so you are more likely to be approved for compensation. Whether you are the parent of a military member, the spouse of a veteran, or one of their surviving children, these benefits can be a profound comfort during a difficult time.