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VA Benefits For Spouses And Dependents Of Disabled Veterans

Posted on March 30, 2023 in

Many veterans are aware that because of their service they are entitled to a whole host of VA benefits such as healthcare, disability compensation, education benefits, VA backed home loans, and more. However, many veterans are unaware that their service also potentially opens up a slew of benefits for their children, dependent parents, and spouses.

Increased Compensation For Veterans With Dependents

When a Veteran has a service connected disability rating of 30% or more, the VA will provide additional compensation for each qualifying dependent. A qualifying dependent includes:

  • The veteran’s spouse
  • The veteran’s children under the age of 18, including step children and adopted children
  • The veteran’s children between the ages of 18 and 23, if the child is in school
  • Dependent parents.

Additionally, if the veteran’s spouse is in need of the aid and attendance of another due to disability, the Veteran may be entitled to additional compensation based upon that fact. Our Stone Rose Law VA disability calculator can help veterans determine how much additional compensation they may be entitled to receive.

How To Apply For Increased Compensation Based On Dependents

Fortunately, the process for adding dependents to a veteran’s disability award is quite simple. The fastest and easiest way is to add the dependents through the veteran’s or eBenefits account, uploading the appropriate marriage, birth, or dependency documentation. A veteran may also submit a paper form VA form 21-686c to add a spouse or children or a VA form 21-509 to add a dependent parent.

BEWARE: With children, the VA will typically automatically remove the dependents when the child turns 18 or 23, depending on if proof of school enrollment is provided. However, veterans who get divorced MUST advise the VA using form 21-686c as soon as possible to avoid overpayments of benefits.

CHAMPVA Benefits For Spouses And Dependent Children

While most veterans are aware that their service-connected disability affords them access to VA medical care (depending on the disability percentage and conditions being sought), few are aware that their spouses and children may be entitled to free health insurance coverage through a VA program called the Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA). Eligibility for CHAMPVA requires one of the following to be true:

  • The veteran is rated permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability or disabilities (including TDIU);
  • The veteran died on active duty, in the line of duty;
  • The veteran died from a service connected disability

Importantly, CHAMPVA eligibility requires that spouses not be eligible for TRICARE (which is the health insurance used by active duty servicemembers, retirees, and their families).

CHAMPVA has low deductibles and low co-pays and is widely accepted by most physicians and practices that accept tricare or medicare/Medicaid. Thus, this benefit can be huge for families!

Dependents Education Assistance Program

Dependents’ Education Assistance, aka chapter 35 benefits, offers education and training funds to eligible spouses and children of disabled veterans rated permanent and totally disabled.

This program, available to spouses and children under the age of 26, will provide a monthly stipend to assist eligible dependents with the cost of a degree or certification program, on the job training, apprenticeship costs and more.

Eligibility for Dependents’ Education Assistance

For dependents to qualify for DEA, the following conditions must be met:

  • Spouse or child under 26 of a veteran who is permanently and totally disabled due to a service connected condition or conditions;
  • Spouse or child under 26 of a veteran who died in the line of duty;
  • Spouse of children under 26 of a veteran who was a prisoner of war or is missing in action; or
  • Spouse or child under 26 of a veteran hospitalized for a service-connected permanent and total disability that results in their discharge.

Those eligible for DEA could receive up to 45 months of education benefits if they began using them before August 1st, 2018. After that date, those eligible can receive up to 36 months of benefits.

In most cases, an application for DEA is not necessary as entitlement will be established when the veteran receives a permanent and total 100% disability rating. However, for benefits to actually be distributed, the veteran or eligible dependent must fill out VA form 22-5490 – application for DEA benefits.

Dependency And Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

DIC is payable to the surviving spouses and children under the age of 18 – including step and adopted children – of a veteran who passed away under certain conditions or circumstances, which include:

  • The veteran died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty for training, in the line of duty; or
  • Veteran passed away due to a service-connected condition; or
  • Veteran was receiving VA disability compensation for 10 years for a permanent and total disability (including TDIU) for:
    • 10 years prior to their death; OR
    • Since release from active duty and for a period of at least 5 years prior to death; or
    • At least one year prior to death for a POW who died after 9/30/1999

Eligibility is established upon a showing that the veteran’s cause of death was service connected – i.e., that the principal or main contributor to the death was the service-connected disability.

Additionally, spouses must generally be married to the veteran for at least 1 year prior to the veteran’s death.

Survivor’s Pension

Surviving spouses of veterans who pass away from non-service-connected conditions, or that aren’t eligible for DIC may be eligible for a tax-free VA survivor’s pension. Eligibility requires:

  • That the veteran have served at least 90 days of active duty, with one day during a wartime period, for service before 9/7/1980; OR
  • For service on or after 9/7/1980, the veteran must have served 24 months or the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty with at least one day during a war time period.

Unlike other benefits, survivor’s pension has income limitations and offsets. The number of benefits is the difference between your countable income and the pension limits set by congress. Additional benefits may be provided for pensioners in need of aid and attendance of another due to disability.

Accrued Benefits and Substitution Claims

It is not secret that VA claims processing takes time. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for veterans to pass away while their VA claims are pending. In certain circumstances, an appropriate individual can “substitute” in for the deceased veteran and pursue their claim. In other circumstances, a veteran’s spouse can obtain the “accrued benefits” if a favorable claim decision is rendered after a veteran pass away. However, there are strict timelines. An application for accrued benefits or substitution MUST be received by the VA within one year of the Veteran’s passing.

Applying for DIC, Survivor’s Pension, or Accrued Benefits

Fortunately, the VA has made the process of applying for death benefits as easy as possible for the surviving spouses. First, regulations prescribe that an application for Social Security Death Benefits ALSO serves as an application for DIC or survivor’s pension. Thus, it is important for surviving spouses to file these applications as early as possible.

However, to apply for these benefits directly from the VA, the VA has created form 21p-534EZ. This singular application form is an application for DIC, survivor’s pension, and accrued benefits. If entitlement to both DIC and survivor’s pension is shown, the VA will automatically award the benefit that provides the surviving spouse the highest benefit amount.

VA Burial Benefits

Additionally, the veteran’s surviving spouse may be entitled to a nominal amount to assist with burial expenses, headstones, and gravesite care. Spouses, after they pass, may be eligible to be buried in a national ceremony with their spouse.

Has Your Claim For Survivor’s Benefits Been Denied

During stressful times like the death of a loved one, there are so many moving parts and pieces that must be attended to. At Stone Rose Law, we are here to assist you during this difficult time and may be able to help overturn the VA’s denial of your survivor’s benefits. Give the knowledgeable attorneys at Stone Rose Law a call at 480-498-8998.