When a service member is killed in action or dies of a service-related injury, their spouse is often eligible for a range of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits. Among these benefits is VA disability compensation.
However, what happens if the veteran received VA disability compensation at the time of death? Will their spouse continue to receive this benefit?
The answer is not always clear. In some cases, the VA may continue to pay the spouse if they are determined to be the primary caregiver.
However, the VA disability compensation payments may stop in other cases once the veteran dies.
It is crucial to speak with a VA representative to understand your situation.
What Are VA Disability Benefits?
The VA disability benefits program provides monthly payments, healthcare, and other benefits to veterans who cannot work due to a service-connected disability.
You may be eligible for these benefits if you were injured or became ill while serving in the military. The VA will also award benefits to veterans who develop a disability after leaving the military.
To qualify for VA disability compensation benefits, you must have a qualifying disability. The Veterans Administration defines a VA disability as an illness or injury that has caused you to lose the use of one or more body parts or that has caused you to be unable to do your job.
You must also have been discharged from the military under other than dishonorable conditions.
If you are a veteran considering applying for VA disability compensation, it is crucial to understand the process and how to apply. The VA offers various resources to help veterans apply for and receive these benefits.
What is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, and How Would I Qualify?
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a monthly benefit payment to the spouse or children of a veteran who has died due to military service.
DIC is a monthly benefit paid out by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It is a monthly payment designed to provide financial assistance to the spouse or children after the veteran dies after military service.
The payment amount varies depending on the veteran’s age and the number of dependents.
To qualify for DIC, you must meet specific eligibility requirements. These requirements include being the spouse of a service member who died due to military service, unmarried and under 18 years old, or between 18 and 23 years old, and attending school full-time.
Additionally, you must have depended on the veteran at their death.
How the VA Defines a “Veteran’s Surviving Spouse”
When a veteran dies, their surviving spouse may be entitled to benefits from the VA, including dependency and indemnity compensation and a death pension.
To be considered a surviving spouse, the individual must have been married to the deceased veteran at the time of death, and the marriage must have lasted at least one year.
The VA defines “surviving spouse” very narrowly; sometimes, a person not legally married to a veteran may be considered a surviving spouse. For example, if the veteran had a child with someone other than their legal spouse, that person may be considered an eligible surviving spouse.
Same-Sex Married Couples
While the surviving spouse is eligible for certain benefits, what happens if the veteran is married to someone of the same sex? Does the VA consider same-sex married couples a “surviving spouse?”
The answer to this question is not entirely clear. The VA does not have regulations explicitly addressing same-sex married couples regarding survivor benefits.
However, several federal courts have ruled that the VA must provide these benefits to same-sex couples. In one case, the court ruled that the VA must provide survivor benefits to a same-sex couple even if they were not legally married.
So, what does this mean for same-sex couples married to veterans? Unfortunately, at this time, it is unclear. The VA has not yet released any official guidance on this issue.
However, it is likely that they will soon be required to provide these benefits to all married couples, regardless of their gender.
Who is Eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation?
Veterans and their spouses may be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) if they die from a service-related injury or disease. The spouse must have married the veteran at the time of death.
- How do I qualify for DIC? The veteran’s death must be the result of one of the following:
- A service-related injury or disease
- An accident while on active duty
- An illness caused by exposure to a toxic substance while on active duty
- A service-related injury or disease that resulted in death while the veteran was a prisoner of war or interned in a foreign country
- A death that occurred within five years of discharge from active duty
What is the 5-Year Rule for VA Disability?
The “5-Year Rule” is a general guideline used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the United States to assess the stability of a veteran’s disability status.
This rule suggests that if a veteran’s disability has been rated at a certain level for five years, the VA is less likely to reduce the disability rating unless there is strong evidence of significant improvement in the veteran’s condition.
In other words, if a veteran’s disability has been consistently rated for five years, it’s presumed by the VA that the disability is stable.
Remarriage and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Generally, a surviving spouse is not eligible for VA DIC benefits if they remarry before age 55. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
For example, remarriage after age 55 may be valid due to the death or permanent VA disability of the veteran’s former spouse.
Additionally, a surviving spouse who has not remarried may still be eligible for DIC if they raise the veteran’s child(ren).
Dependents and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Children of military service members who die in the line of duty or from a service-related injury or illness also may be eligible to receive benefits through DIC. The surviving child must be unmarried, under 18, or between 18 and 23, and attending school full-time.
Parents of military members who die in the line of duty or from a service-related injury or illness may also be eligible to receive DIC.
What is a Service-Connected VA Disability?
A service-connected disability is a physical or mental impairment incurred or aggravated in the line of duty while on active military duty.
Veterans with service-connected VA disability ratings of at least 10% are eligible for various benefits, including monthly VA disability compensation, healthcare, and education assistance.
The VA benefits can be valuable, providing financial assistance to help veterans live independently.
The application process for VA disability compensation benefits can be complex, so you must seek assistance from a qualified VA benefits lawyer if you consider applying.
Are Surviving Spouse VA Disability Compensation Payments Continued After a Veteran’s Death?
When veterans die, their spouses may be entitled to continued payments through the VA Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP). The SBP is a monthly annuity payment that helps provide financial security for a spouse after the death of their military loved one.
The service-connected survivor benefits can help a surviving spouse maintain their standard of living after the death of their loved one.
To be eligible for the SBP, a veteran’s or active duty member’s death must meet one of the following conditions:
- occur while on active duty;
- occur while in the reserves;
- be caused by an injury or illness that happened while on active duty or in the reserves;
- be caused by an illness or injury that was made worse by serving in the military;
- happen during inactive duty training; or
- result from an act of terrorism.
The SBP is available to eligible surviving spouses who are unmarried and were married to the veteran or active duty member at their death.
The SBP is also available to former spouses who were married to the serviceman or woman for at least ten years when they were not legally separated.
The amount of the SBP annuity payment depends on several factors, including the age of the deceased veteran at their death and the amount of their retirement pay.
The VA offers information about the SBP on its website, including an overview of the plan, how to apply, and frequently asked questions.
Eligible spouses should visit the VA website to learn more about this critical benefit and how it may help them after the death of their military spouse.
How Would I Prove My Loved Ones Service-Connection Medical Condition Caused Their Death?
If you are a veteran and have a service-connected medical condition that you believe caused your death, your loved ones may be able to receive VA benefits.
To prove that your death was related to your service-connected medical condition, your loved ones must provide evidence of how it impacted your life.
Evidence might include medical records, doctors’ or family members’ testimony, and other relevant information. The Department of Veterans Affairs has issued a presumptive condition list to expedite VA disability claims.
VA Presumptive Conditions List
In December 2016, the VA released a new presumptive service-connected conditions list for veterans. The list includes many medical conditions related to Agent Orange, Burn Pits, and Camp Lejeune water contamination exposure.
Veterans with these conditions will automatically be given VA disability compensation benefits without proving that their illness is connected to their time in the military.
The new list includes many serious illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems. It also lists several mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Other cancers, diseases, and conditions on the list include:
- Acute and chronic leukemia
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Brain tumor
- Breast cancer
- Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
- Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)
- Cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol abuse
- Cleft lip and cleft palate
- Colorectal cancer
- Congenital heart disease
- Congenital talipes equinovarus (clubfoot)
- Esophageal and intestinal atresia
- Esophageal cancer
- Gastric cancer
- Hallerman-Streiff syndrome
- Hip dysplasia
- Hirschprung’s disease (congenital megacolon)
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Hydrocephalus Hypospadias
- Imperforate anus
- Kaposi’s sarcoma
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Neural tube defects
- Pancreatic cancer
- Poland syndrome
- Prostate cancer
- Pyloric stenosis
- Renal cell carcinoma
- Severe combined immunodeficiency disease (SCID)
- Syndactyly (fused digits)
- Tracheoesophageal fistula
Veterans’ advocates welcomed the release of the presumptive service-connected conditions list. They hope it will help reduce the number of veterans who go through the lengthy and often frustrating process of applying for VA disability benefits.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination, Surviving Spouses, Health Care Services
In the early 1980s, Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was contaminated with toxic chemicals, including benzene and trichloroethylene (TCE). These chemicals were linked to many serious health problems, including cancer and leukemia.
For many years, the military covered up the extent of the contamination and the number of people who had been affected. It wasn’t until 2012 that the full extent of the contamination was made public.
Hundreds of thousands, including now-deceased veterans, surviving spouses, and dependent children, were exposed to these dangerous chemicals. Many have since developed severe illnesses as a result.
The government has finally begun to recognize the extent of the damage done by Camp Lejeune’s water contamination. It has started awarding military members and their families VA disability compensation benefits, including health care benefits.
However, many people are still waiting for their benefits to be approved. If you or someone you know has been affected by Camp Lejeune’s water contamination, please get in touch with a lawyer specializing in VA disability law.
You may be entitled to benefits to help you pay for your medical care and other expenses. You may qualify for a Camp Lejeune lawsuit.
Exposure to Toxic Chemicals in Burn Pits at Overseas Military Bases
According to the VA, 400,000 veterans may have been exposed to toxic chemicals in burn pits at overseas military bases. These pits incinerate trash, including plastics and hazardous materials, often producing harmful emissions.
Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are especially at risk. These countries had some of the largest burn pit operations where military men and women were on active duty for wartime service.
The effects of exposure to these toxins can be devastating and include respiratory problems, cancer, and neurological damage. In many cases, veterans have had to wait years for an accurate diagnosis, as the VA has only recently begun to track the health effects of burn pits.
Veterans exposed to these toxins deserve the best care, and the VA must do more to identify and treat those affected. Congress must also act to ensure that all veterans affected by burn pits receive the care they deserve.
When a Veteran dies from exposure to toxic chemicals in burn pits at overseas military bases, their spouse may be eligible for VA disability benefits.
These benefits can provide financial assistance to help cover the costs of medical care and other expenses related to the death of the Veteran.
Tax-Free Monetary Benefit
VA disability compensation is available for a service-connected condition. The tax-free monetary benefits help cover the costs of your medical condition.
All these benefits are considered taxable income by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), but one significant exception is VA’s dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) payments.
DIC payments are made to the surviving spouse or children of a service member who died from a service-connected VA disability. These payments are not considered taxable income.
Payments are a valuable benefit for surviving spouses, who may already be dealing with many other financial challenges after the death of their loved one. DIC payments can help ease the burden and provide some much-needed financial stability.
You may be eligible for survivors’ VA disability benefits if you are a surviving spouse who lost a loved one from a service-connected medical condition. These VA disability benefits can help you and your family cope with the financial challenges that come with the death of a loved one.
The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation program can financially assist surviving spouses and dependent children.