Survivors of veterans who have passed away may be eligible for burial benefits, pension, or Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). The only people who are considered survivors for VA benefits purposes are a spouse, child under the age of 18, or dependent parents.
WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?
Survivors benefits are not automatically awarded to survivors after the veteran passes away. Survivors must affirmatively file for benefits and provide evidence showing they are entitled to them, even if the veteran was receiving VA benefits prior to death.
This is a modest monthly pension for widows/widowers who have very low income. It is income-based, so any other income will be subtracted from the amount of the pension to determine initial and ongoing eligibility. Typically, this benefit is for survivors of veterans who did not die of a service-connected disability or have a VA disability rating during their lifetimes.
This is a modest payment made to a survivor or executor of the veteran’s estate who paid for burial expenses. The amount of benefits changes based on the veteran’s service-connected rating before death or those who died of a service-connected condition. The veteran can also apply to pre-qualify for burial in a veteran’s cemetery while still alive.
Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC).
This is a higher monthly payment for a surviving spouse, minor or disabled child, or dependent parent of a veteran who had a service-connected rating during their lifetime, or died of a condition that the VA determines to be service-connected.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?
Be aware that there is a deadline of one year after the veteran’s death to apply for VA Survivors Pension and non-service connected burial benefits. There is no deadline to apply for DIC or service-connected burial benefits, but if you apply within one year of the veteran’s death, you will be paid back to the date of death. Always submit the death certificate and your marriage certificate with any of these claims.
WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE TAKING ACTION?
The cause of death listed on the veteran’s death certificate becomes crucial when applying for Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and service-connected burial benefits. If the cause of death does not match any of the disabilities the veteran was receiving disability compensation for prior to death, the VA will likely deny the claim. Remember that the VA will not automatically pay you any VA benefits after the veteran dies — you must apply and be found eligible for the benefits. Be aware that the rates of pension and compensation for survivors is much lower than those paid to veterans (see VA website for current rates).