If you’re the surviving spouse or child survivor of a Veteran who died from a toxic exposure-related condition, you may qualify for VA benefits—including monthly benefits through the VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Program.
These benefits can provide much-needed financial support and peace of mind for those who have lost a loved one due to service-related illness or injury.
Thanks to historic new legislation called the PACT Act, VA has expanded the list of health conditions that VA assumes are service-related.
This means that the survivors of Veterans who died from these conditions can now qualify for benefits. These newly-covered conditions include all reproductive cancers, all respiratory cancers, all head cancers, and many other illnesses.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the PACT Act and its impact on VA benefits for toxic exposure survivors and dependents.
We’ll explain the VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Program and the eligibility requirements for survivors. We’ll also provide a detailed list of the newly-covered health conditions and explain the application process for benefits.
Whether you’re a survivor seeking support or an advocate for veterans and their families, this information can help you understand the recent changes to VA benefits and how they may benefit you or someone you know.
Benefits for Surviving Spouses and Children: VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Program
If you’re the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who died from a service-related injury or illness, you may be eligible for VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits.
DIC is a tax-free monthly payment that provides financial support to eligible survivors. The amount of DIC you receive depends on various factors, such as the veteran’s military service and cause of death.
To qualify for DIC, you must meet certain requirements. You must be the surviving spouse, child, or parent of a veteran who:
- Died while on active duty, or
- Died from an injury or disease related to military service, or
- Was totally and permanently disabled as a result of military service, and died from any cause
In addition to meeting the above requirements, you must also meet other criteria, such as:
- Being unmarried (unless you remarried after age 57)
- Being under a certain income limit
- Not being dishonorably discharged from military service
If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for DIC by submitting a completed VA Form 21P-534EZ, “Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits” to the VA.
The application process can be complex, and it’s important to provide all the required documentation to support your claim.
PACT Act Expands Health Conditions Covered by VA Benefits
The PACT Act (Providing Assistance for Veterans Exposed to Toxic Substances Act) is a historic piece of legislation that expands the list of health conditions that the VA assumes are service-related.
This means that veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their military service and developed certain illnesses may now be eligible for VA benefits, including disability compensation and healthcare.
The PACT Act was signed into law in January 2021, after years of advocacy by veterans’ groups and lawmakers.
The Act requires the VA to conduct a review of scientific evidence on toxic exposure and health outcomes, and to make determinations on whether certain conditions should be considered service-related.
The Act also provides funding for research into the long-term health effects of toxic exposure, and establishes new rules for processing claims related to toxic exposure.
Under the PACT Act, the VA has expanded the list of health conditions that are presumptively service-related for certain veterans who were exposed to toxic substances.
These conditions include:
- All reproductive cancers
- All respiratory cancers
- All head and neck cancers
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Chronic B-cell leukemia
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
- Soft tissue sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
It’s important to note that the expanded list of health conditions is not limited to these specific illnesses.
Veterans who were exposed to toxic substances and developed other health problems may still be eligible for VA benefits, but will need to provide evidence of a connection between their illness and their military service.
Overall, the PACT Act represents a major step forward in recognizing and compensating veterans and their families for the long-term health effects of toxic exposure.
If you believe you or a loved one may be eligible for VA benefits related to toxic exposure, it’s important to consult with a VA disability benefits specialist or other qualified professional to explore your options.
How to Apply for VA Benefits
If you’re a surviving spouse or child survivor of a veteran who died from a toxic exposure-related condition, or a veteran who was exposed to toxic substances during your military service and developed a service-connected disability, you may be eligible for VA benefits.
Here’s a general overview of the steps you can take to apply for benefits:
- Gather your documentation: You’ll need to provide various documents to support your application, such as military service records, medical records, and proof of income. You may also need to provide information about your spouse or parent’s military service, including dates of service, branch of service, and discharge status.
- Determine your eligibility: Use the VA’s benefits eligibility tool to determine which benefits you may be eligible for. You can also consult with a VA disability benefits specialist or other qualified professional for guidance.
- Submit your application: You can apply for benefits online, by mail, or in person at a VA regional office. Be sure to provide all the required information and documentation to support your claim. You can also track the status of your application online.
- Wait for a decision: The VA will review your application and documentation, and make a decision on your claim. This process can take several months or more, depending on the complexity of your case and the volume of claims being processed.
- Appeal if necessary: If your claim is denied or you disagree with the VA’s decision, you can appeal the decision. You’ll need to provide additional evidence or arguments to support your claim. The appeals process can be lengthy and complex, so it’s important to seek guidance from a qualified professional.
It’s important to note that the application process can be complex, and it’s easy to make mistakes or overlook important details.
Working with a VA disability benefits specialist or other qualified professional can help ensure that your application is complete and accurate, and can increase your chances of a successful outcome.
The PACT Act represents a significant step forward in expanding VA benefits for survivors and dependents of veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their military service.
By adding new health conditions to the list of presumptive service-connected disabilities, the VA is providing greater support and recognition to those who have suffered the long-term effects of toxic exposure.
If you’re a surviving spouse or child survivor of a veteran who died from a toxic exposure-related condition, or a veteran who developed a service-connected disability as a result of toxic exposure, it’s important to explore your eligibility for VA benefits.
Understand More About the Claims Process and Disability Benefits.
If you have interest in learning more about the claims process and disability benefits, be sure to check out our ebook The Road to VA Compensation Benefits below.
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