Dependency & Indemnity Compensation, more commonly known as DIC, is a monthly tax-free cash benefit paid to eligible survivors and/or dependents of service members – in other words, those killed while on active duty, involved in active duty training, or in-active duty training. There are, however, several other ways in which dependents can be considered eligible for DIC benefits.
As with most everything related to the VA, proving eligibility for any type of benefit is not as clear-cut as it sounds. There are many factors to be considered such as the actual definition of “active duty” and then…what qualifies an individual as a dependent who may or may not be eligible for compensation? Whether it is a spouse or child – according to federal regulations – active duty is defined as full-time service in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force or Coast Guard. There is more to this basic definition; however, for now this will suffice.
In reality…who is truly eligible? The answer is not necessarily conclusive since many other factors and criteria must be considered that may or may not support the claim. As previously stated, the eligibility of the veteran is determined by the specific circumstances of his/her death or disability compensation rating. It should be noted; however, that the most difficult situation to address is in regards to veterans who died as a result of a “non-service” related injury.
In examining the criteria for recipient eligibility, it was found that dependents are not “generally” entitled to all benefits administered by the VA; however, there are benefits available that are dependent upon the relationship with the now-deceased veteran.
The most common DIC benefit seen is for “surviving spouses”. In order for a surviving spouse to be eligible to receive continued benefits he/she has to
- have been married to the veteran for at least one year prior to the veteran’s death, or
- have had a child with the veteran, or
- have been married to the veteran who has left the military due to a service-connected disability, and the marriage was within 15 years of the discharge;
- have co-habitated with the veteran for the duration of the marriage unless a period of separation incurred that was not the fault of the surviving spouse; and
- has not re-married before reaching the age of 57.
What happens when a surviving spouse receiving DIC benefits wants to re-marry? The law states that provided the surviving spouse has not re-married prior to December 16, 2003, and on or after reaching the age of 57, the DIC benefits will continue. In summation, the age differences for remarriage of a surviving spouse may result in a decrease of his/her benefits should he/she remarry.
The ramifications or remarriage and DIC benefits for surviving children will be explored in more detail in my next blog.