The disability benefits many veterans receive from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) terminate upon their deaths. However, in most cases, their surviving spouses will receive alternate assistance.
Most immediately, a surviving spouse should receive any accrued disability benefits that the VA had not yet paid before the veteran’s death. Widows and widowers of service members who died in the line of duty or veterans who succumbed to service-related injuries or illnesses may then apply for VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). This monetary benefit is tax-free.
The experienced VA disability attorneys at Gerling Law can help with the application process.
Am I Eligible for DIC?
Not everyone is eligible for DIC, but the guidelines cover many dependents. The VA provides specific criteria for same-sex spouses seeking DIC. Of note, benefits for same-sex spouses turn on the status of their relationship and their benefits application on September 4, 2013. Under certain circumstances, a surviving spouse may receive DIC retroactive to an earlier date.
What Happened to Your Spouse
The first requirement for DIC eligibility relates to how your spouse passed away. One of the following must apply:
- The service member died during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive-duty training;
- The veteran succumbed to a service-connected illness or injury; or
- The veteran was eligible for total disability rating (100%) compensation for a service-connected disability, though that illness or injury is not what caused the veteran’s death.
Proving the first two is relatively simple in most cases. However, if your loved one had not yet applied for disability benefits, you must demonstrate that the condition that led to death was service-connected. This process may take longer.
To prove you should receive DIC because your spouse or co-parent was totally disabled, the veteran must have had that rating:
- For at least the 10 years preceding their death,
- Since they were released from active duty and for the five years immediately before their death, or
- For one or more years before their death if they were a former prisoner of war.
Service records and disability benefits paperwork provide support for your claim. Also, for this subset of claims, you must have been married for the year preceding the veteran’s death or have had a child with the veteran before or during the marriage.
Your Relationship with the Veteran or Service Member
The VA then looks at your relationship with the service member. You must have been:
- Married to the service member or veteran within 15 years of their discharge from the military service period in which they developed the qualifying injury or illness or experienced worsening of the qualifying injury or illness;
- Married to the veteran or service member for at least one year; or
- Parenting a child you had with the service member or veteran.
Assuming you satisfy one of these limitations, one of the following must also be true:
- You cohabitated with the veteran or service member continuously until their death, or
- You were separated but not at fault for the separation.
In other words, you may still be eligible for benefits if you were not married. If you had a child together and lived together, you qualify. And if your significant other left you after you had a child together, you likely still are eligible.
It gets a little more complicated for survivors who remarried after a prior divorce or their spouse’s death. Generally, DIC benefits end when a surviving spouse remarries. But there are exceptions. If you remarried on or after December 16, 2003, and you were at least 57 years old at the time, you may receive compensation. Those who already received payments at that time can continue collecting until their death.
Additionally, those widows and widowers who were 55 years of age or older when they remarried on or after January 5, 2021, may receive or continue to receive DIC. Spouses who remarry before these designated ages will not receive benefits and will not begin or resume receiving DIC upon reaching 55 or 57.
What VA Benefits Is a Widow Entitled to Receive?
For those who successfully navigate through the eligibility criteria and believe they qualify, their main question concerns how much DIC the VA will pay each month.
In 2022, surviving spouses of service members who died after January 1, 1993, receive $1,437.66 per month. The VA pays those with one or more children under age 18 an additional $356.16 per child and a transitional lump sum of $306 for the first two years after the veteran’s death. Parents of older children who are still in school may also apply.
A few other categories of individuals may receive extra funding. If you were married to a veteran for at least the eight years leading up to their death and your spouse had a total disability or individual unemployability rating during the entire eight years, the VA will compensate you $305.28 per month on top of your base benefit.
Those surviving spouses who are themselves disabled and need help with daily activities like eating, bathing, or dressing, receive $356.16. An additional allowance of $166.85 may be added for widows or widowers who are housebound.
Spouses who qualify for DIC should also investigate whether they qualify for a burial allowance, Tricare, the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA), Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA), or a survivor’s pension. You can start by checking our free book, Gerling Law’s Guide to VA Disability Benefits.
I Need Help Figuring Out If I Qualify for Benefits
If you are planning ahead, do not spend another day wondering, Will My Wife Receive My VA Disability When I Die? Call Gerling Law today. And if you have just lost a loved one, you do not have to deal with everything alone. We know it can be overwhelming to wade through VA eligibility criteria and applications. But waiting too long may mean you lose out on necessary support.
The VA-accredited attorneys at Gerling Law understand what you are going through and will help ensure you receive all the compensation and benefits you deserve. Particularly with this kind of complicated claim, hiring an experienced VA attorney vastly increases your chances of success. As Gerling Law’s client testimonials confirm, our award-winning attorneys are dedicated to their clients as well as their community. Military spouses give so much for their country. Let us shoulder the burden for you now. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.