In a recent blog I discussed Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits; however, I only went into the basics. Here, I will be exploring eligibility of these benefits in more detail – especially as they relate to surviving children and parents.
Let’s start by first reiterating that a DIC benefit is a monthly benefit paid to an eligible survivor. Unfortunately the definition is not quite that simple. As previously stated, the most common DIC benefit is seen is with the surviving spouse. There are other circumstances; however, where individuals can be recipients of DIC benefits. The following information will provide a basic synopsis of eligible recipients. Generally, dependents of veterans are not entitled to all benefits administered by the VA; yet, some benefits are available based upon the “relationship” the dependent had with the veteran. Primarily, eligibility criteria for DIC must be met and falls into three different groups: spouse, child, and parents.
- Surviving Spouse – eligible provided he/she was married to the veteran for at least one year prior to the veteran’s death; or, has a child with the veteran; or, the veteran left the military due to a service-connected disability; the marriage was within 15 years of the discharge; co-habitated with the veteran; and, has not remarried prior to age 57. [See Part I]
- Surviving Children – must be independent of the surviving spouse, unmarried, and under the age of 18. The exceptions include those aged 18 to 23 who are pursuing an approved course of education (in layman’s terms – going to school full-time), or, those incapable of supporting themselves due to a permanent disability.
- Surviving Parents – must provide evidence of financial dependence on the deceased veteran before becoming eligible for DIC.
How much does this amount to? Again, that depends on the status of the surviving recipient and current economic criteria as outlined by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Basically, the amounts for each category are determined by using specific formulas.
- Surviving Spouse – the monthly benefit received is based upon a current base rate that can change or fluctuate from year to year. Otherwise payment is based on the veteran’s pay grade at the time of death. Higher amounts may be paid under circumstances that are beyond the scope of this blog.
- Surviving Children – like with many government benefits, the amount per child decreases with each additional child. Simply put, the more dependent children in the household, the less per child received.
- Surviving Parents – monthly benefits fluctuate by income and can range from as little as $5 to more than $600 per month.
As a final note, retroactive or accrued benefits are the cash benefits due to the veteran due to the date they applied for s/c disability compensation and the date they were finally awarded disability compensation. Sometimes a veteran may die prior to receiving the lump sum of back payment. Surviving spouses or children who meet the DIC requirements can apply to receive any retroactive sum payment for s/c disability that was due the deceased veteran.
In closing, the VA does provide other monetary benefits – specifically, the Survivor Benefit Plan or SBP. There are strict regulations or what is known as an “offset of SBP when attempting to combine both benefits. For more information, refer to CRS Report RS22804, Veterans Benefits: Pension Benefit Programs.