Honoring Their Legacy: Children’s Path to DIC Benefits

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Losing a parent is a profound experience that leaves a void that is felt deeply, and this includes parents who served in the military. 

The VA designed Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits to help children of veterans with financial stability and contribute to your education and well-being.

We’ve created a useful guide to walk you through every step, including: 

  • Am I Eligible? We’ll cover who’s eligible, so you can ensure you get support.
  • How Do I Apply? We’ll guide you through making the process simpler.
  • How Do I Maximize My Benefits? Get the full range of support, including additional allowances you may be entitled to.
  • Your Questions Answered We’ll cover the most common questions from children

Let’s get started and talk about everything you know to get the benefits you need.

Eligibility Criteria: Qualifying as a Child Beneficiary 

Understanding if you are eligible to receive DIC benefits as a child of a deceased veteran involves clarifying a few key criteria.

Here’s a straightforward breakdown to help see if you qualify:

Your Relationship to the Veteran

You must be the biological child, adopted child or stepchild of a veteran who died due to a service-connected injury or disability.

Age Limits/Restrictions

  • Generally, eligibility for DIC extends until you’re 18 years of age. However, if you’re between 18 and 23 years old, you can remain eligible by attending a VA-approved school full-time.
  • If you have a disability that occurred before 18 years of age that makes you incapable of self-support, there are no age limits for receiving DIC benefits.
  • You must be unmarried.

Educational Status

As mentioned above, if you are between 18 and 23 years old and attending a VA-approved institution full-time, you can maintain DIC benefits. This includes high schools, vocational schools and colleges.

Navigating the DIC Application Process for Children

Applying for DIC benefits may seem like a huge task, but breaking it down can make it more manageable.

Here’s the steps to start this process:

Step 1: Gather Necessary Documents

Before you apply, you’ll need a few documents:

  • Your parent’s military discharge papers (DD214 or equivalent), showing their service and discharge status.
  • Your birth certificate, to prove your relationship to the deceased veteran.
  • The death certificate of your parent confirming their passing.
  • If applicable, documentation of your school enrollment or proof of your disability.

Step 2: Fill Out the Application

The main form you’ll be utilizing for DIC benefits is VA Form 21P-534EZ, Application for DIC, Death Pension and/or Accrued Benefits, which you can find on the VA’s website. 

Fill it out carefully and provide all requested information and documentation.

Step 3: Submit Your Application

You have a couple of options to submit your application to VA:

  • Online: Through the VA’s official website, which is often the fastest method.
  • Mail: Send your completed form and all necessary documents to the VA’s claims intake center.
  • In-Person: Visit a VA regional office if you prefer to submit your documents directly.

Step 4: Wait for a Decision

After you submit your application, there will be a waiting period while the VA reviews your claim.

This can take several months to over a year, depending on the complexity.

You can check the status of your application by logging into your account on the VA’s website or by calling the VA directly.

Need Additional Help?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process, it’s totally understandable. 

A VA-accredited representative or a veteran service organization (VSOs) can help you fill out the form and gather documents, often at no cost to you.

If you have filed for benefits and believe you were wrongfully denied, sometimes having a VA-accredited law firm on your side can be beneficial.

Contact Hill & Ponton for information about how we can help you in your fight to secure the benefits you deserve.

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What are the DIC Benefits for Children?

The loss of a parent who served in the military can have profound effects on a child’s life, not only emotionally but also in terms of future security and opportunities.

Recognizing this, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) extends a range of benefits aimed at supporting the children of deceased veterans.

These benefits are designed to alleviate financial burdens and provide educational and health care assistance.

Below, you will find a detailed list of benefits that children of deceased veterans may be eligible for, highlighting how the VA seeks to honor the sacrifice of veterans by caring for their families.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for Children

  • Monthly DIC Payment: Eligible children receive a tax-free monetary benefit paid monthly. The rate is adjusted annually for cost of living and varies depending on the number of dependent children. Current rates can be found on the VA website here.
  • Educational Assistance (DEA – Chapter 35): Provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition or who died while on active duty or as a result of a service-related condition. This benefit covers tuition, books, supplies, and a monthly housing allowance for up to 36 months of education benefits.
  • Healthcare (CHAMPVA): For children who do not qualify for TRICARE, the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) may cover a portion of medical costs. This includes hospital stays, outpatient services, mental health care, prescriptions, and skilled nursing care.
  • Burial Benefits: Includes burial in a national cemetery and a government-furnished headstone or marker. Eligible dependents may also receive a burial flag and a Presidential Memorial Certificate to honor the deceased veteran’s service.
  • Survivors’ Pension: Children of deceased wartime veterans may be eligible for the VA Survivors’ Pension, a tax-free monetary benefit, if they meet certain income criteria and are under 18, or under 23 if attending a VA-approved school, or at any age if permanently incapable of self-support due to a disability before age 18.
  • Commissary and Exchange Privileges: Eligible children have access to military commissaries and exchanges, offering the opportunity to purchase goods and services at potentially lower prices than the civilian market.
  • State Benefits: Many states offer additional benefits for the children of deceased veterans, including educational scholarships, tuition waivers, and special grants for higher education. Check your local VA offices for more information.
  • Counseling and Support Services: Bereavement counseling is available to help children deal with the loss of a parent. These services can offer significant emotional and psychological support during a difficult time.

Can Adopted Children or Stepchildren Receive DIC Benefits?

Yes. Adopted children, stepchildren and biological children are eligible for DIC benefits, provided they meet other eligibility criteria.

Maximizing Your DIC Benefits

Receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits as a child of a deceased veteran is an important step toward securing your well-being.

Here’s some important tips to make the most out of the benefits available to you:

Understand the Full Scope of Your Benefits

  • Educational Assistance: Beyond monthly DIC payments, you may also be eligible for education benefits, including scholarships and programs that are designed to assist with tuition, books and living expenses.
  • Healthcare: There are various healthcare options available through the VA, such as CHAMPVA, which provides coverage to dependents of veterans who are permanently disabled or who died due to service-connected conditions.

Stay Informed About Changes

Benefits and eligibility have changed in the past and have the potential to change again. 

Keeping up-to-date with the latest information ensures you won’t miss out on adjustments that could impact your benefits.

Maintain Eligibility

For those who are 18 to 23 years of age, maintaining full-time student status at a VA-approved institution is critical.

Be prepared to submit proof of enrollment and academic progress.

What Happens to My Benefits If I Take a Break From School?

If you take a break from school, your benefits may be paused.

It’s important to communicate with the VA about any changes in your educational status to understand how your benefits might be affected.

Seek Out Additional Resources & Support Services

Many organizations offer support, scholarships and programs specifically for children of veterans. 

These can compliment your DIC benefits and provide more opportunities.

Some of them include: 

  • Fisher House Foundation – Scholarships for Military Children: This program is funded by Fisher House Foundation, providing scholarships to the children of military members. Over the years, it has awarded millions in scholarship funds to support the education of military children. More details can be found on their website.
  • Our Military Kids: This national nonprofit organization offers extracurricular activity grants to children and teens of deployed National Guard, Reserve, or post-9/11 combat wounded, ill, or injured veterans. These grants are designed to support the children’s well-being and confidence. You can learn more about their mission and the support they provide on their website.

Cassandra Crosby, an Accredited Agent and claims advocate for Matthew Hill & Shelly Mark’s teams, reviewed the information provided in this post.

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