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:
- The surviving spouse must have had a valid marriage to the deceased veteran
- The current income of the surviving spouse must not exceed the DIC income
According to the VA, a valid marriage constitutes of three elements:
- Valid legal marriage and/or dissolution of other marriages
- 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.
- 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:
- If a surviving spouse remarries after age 55, he/she may retain eligibility for certain VA benefits under Public Law (PL) 107-330.
- 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.