Veterans Benefits for Widows
Losing a loved one can be extremely difficult for a Veteran’s family members. This loss can also cause financial distress especially if the veteran was the sole provider. So, do widows of veterans get benefits?
Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers several monetary benefits for widows and surviving spouses of wartime veterans. These include dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC benefits), survivors pension, and burial benefits.
We will be discussing the requirements that must be met to be eligible for these benefits as well as three types of these monetary benefits available through the VA.
Who is a Surviving Spouse?
The VA has criteria in place to determine who a surviving spouse is. There are several requirements that a surviving spouse must meet to be eligible for DIC. The requirements are as follows:
- A surviving spouse must have married a service member who died on active duty, active duty training, or inactive duty training, or
- Married the deceased Veteran before January 1, 1957, or
- Married the veteran at least one year before the veteran’s passing, or
- Had a child with the veteran and lived with the Veteran until their death. It is important to note that during the marriage, there must be no separations unless the surviving spouse was not responsible for the separation.
A surviving spouse must have married a veteran who died due to a service-connected injury or disease, and the marriage must have begun within 15 years of the veteran’s discharge in which caused the disability.
There is also a strict criterion for remarried surviving spouses. Usually, a remarried spouse is not eligible for DIC benefits; however, in some cases, eligibility would depend on the date of remarriage. Spouses who remarry after age 57 and remarried on or after December 16, 2003, can still be eligible to receive DIC benefits.
What is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)?
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, or DIC for short, is a monthly benefit that can be paid to survivors of service members who were killed on active duty and for survivors of veterans who died from service-connected disabilities or had a 100 percent disability rating for a period of time before death. This benefit is also tax-free.
Is DIC The Same As Veteran’s Benefits?
Veterans’ disability compensation is not the same benefit as DIC. After a veteran has died, the veteran’s benefits are not continued for the surviving spouse to collect. A surviving spouse should apply for DIC benefits if the veteran’s death was caused by their already-service connected disability if they meet the above criteria. If the veteran died due to a service-connected disability or died in the e of duty, then the process of claiming DIC benefits should be simple.
Is DIC the Same as Survivors Pension?
While the eligibility of DIC benefits is based on the Veteran or service member’s service-connected disability, Survivors Pension is not. Survivor’s Pension is a tax-free monetary benefit that is payable to a low-income, unmarried surviving spouse of a deceased veteran with wartime service. The pay rate for this benefit has been set by Congress. This pension benefit comes as a monthly payment.
Survivor’s Pension carries is own set of eligibility requirements for the deceased veteran as well as the surviving spouse. The deceased Veteran must have met the following service requirements:
- For service on or before September 7, 1980, the Veteran must have served at least 90 days of active military service, with at last one day during a wartime period.
- If the Veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, they must have served a total of 24 months or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty with a least one day during a wartime period.
- The veteran must have been discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions.
The eligibility requirements for the surviving spouse is as follows:
- The surviving spouse’s income must be below the income limit that is listed in the Survivor’s Pension Rate Table, and
- The surviving spouse’s net worth meet the limit set for the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA) established by Congress for Medicaid, and
- The surviving spouse must be unmarried. Please note that if you were remarried after the veteran passed and the marriage ended before November 1, 1990, this requirement does not apply.
It’s important to note that surviving children may also be eligible for survivor’s pension. Unmarried children must meet one of the following requirements to qualify:
- Be under age 18 years of age
- Be under age 23 and attending a VA-approved school
- Be unable to care for themselves due to a disability that occurred before the age of 18
What are Burial Benefits?
The VA has burial allowances that are paid at a flat rate. This allowance helps cover eligible Veterans’ burial and funeral costs and are paid at the maximum amount allowed by law. These benefits can also cover expenses like gravesites and headstones. In 2014, VA regulation changed to help simplify the program and now, eligible surviving spouses are paid automatically for this benefit upon notification of the Veteran’s death.
The good news is that the surviving spouse does not have to file a claim for this benefit or fill out any applications.
Eligibility for this benefit is as follows:
- The Veteran must have a discharge other than dishonorable.
- The Veteran’s death must have been a result of a service-connected disability, or
- The Veteran must have been receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of their death.
- A veteran who has died while hospitalized by the VA or while receiving care under VA contract is eligible.
- A veteran who died under the following circumstances is eligible:
- Under proper authorization and at VA expense
- To or from a place for the purpose of examination, treatment, or care
- The Veteran must have had an original or reopened claim for VA compensation or pension at the time of death.
- The Veteran died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home.
- The veteran was entitled to received VA pension or compensation at the time of death, but instead received full military retirement or disability pay.
Do Surviving Spouses Have Access to Health Care Coverage?
Surviving family members may be eligible for comprehensive health care coverage through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). This program helps cover medical supplies and services for surviving spouses and children who don’t qualify for coverage under TRICARE.
According to the VA, surviving spouses and children must meet the following requirements to qualify:
- Be the spouse or child of a veteran who has been rated permanently or totally disabled for a service-connected disability, or
- Be the surviving spouse or child or a veteran who died from a VA-related service-connected disability, or
- Be the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who was at the time of death rated permanently and totally disabled from a service-connected disability, or
- Be the surviving spouse or child of a service member who died in the line of duty, not due to misconduct. Though, family members who meet the last requirement generally qualify for TRICARE.
Have Questions About VA Benefits for Widows?
If you have questions about VA survivor benefits for widows or are struggling to obtain these benefits following the death of a spouse, contact the team at Hill & Ponton today. Our veterans’ disability lawyers are knowledgeable about VA forms, processes, and appeals. We are available to guide United States military veterans and their family members through the VA claim process.