VA Disability Benefits — Survivor Claims

If you are a family member or loved one of a deceased military servicemember or veteran, certain VA Disability benefits may be available to help make ends meet after your loss.

Children, surviving spouses, and in some cases dependent parents may all qualify for VA Disability Survivor benefits, if certain requirements are met.

Losing a loved one is tough. Bluestein Attorneys is here to help.

To find out more about the different types of VA Disability Survivor claims, and to learn more about the requirements involved in accessing these benefits, just click the corresponding row below.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a benefit available to eligible survivors of military service members who either died in the line of duty or died as a result of a service-connected disability. DIC may also be available where the veteran died of a non service connected condition in certain situations.

DIC is available were a service connected disability either caused death or contributed to the death. The veteran need not have been service connected for the cause of death in order for DIC to be available. The qualified survivor can raise the issue of service connection for the first time in connection with a DIC claim.

DIC will also be awarded if either of these criteria apply:

  • The veteran was receiving or entitled to receive compensation for a disability at the 100% level for at least ten years prior to death. This also includes a 100% rating under TDIU.
  • Also, DIC will be awarded if the veteran was receiving or entitled to receive compensation for a disability at the 100% level for five continuous years since discharge from active duty.
  • Finally, DIC will be awarded if the veteran was receiving or entitled to receive compensation for a disability at the 100% level for one year and the veteran was a POW.

Surviving spouses, child(ren), and dependent parent(s) of veterans may be eligible for DIC as well.

  • Spouse: In order to qualify for DIC, a surviving spouse must meet one of the following requirements:
    • Married to a service member who died on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training OR validly married the veteran before January 1, 1957
    • Married the veteran within 15 years of discharge from the period of military service in which the disease or injury that caused the veteran’s death began or was aggravated
    • Was married to the veteran for at least one year

Additionally, you must show you cohabitated with the veteran continuously until the veteran’s death or, if separated, was not at fault for separation, AND are not currently remarried.

For surviving spouses that remarried, there are special rules for whether or not DIC is available, and whether or not DIC can be reinstated if the marriage ended.

  • Child: In order to qualify for DIC, a surviving child must meet the following requirements:
    • Not included in surviving spouse’s DIC
    • Unmarried
    • Under age 18 or between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending school
    • OR became permanently incapable of self support prior to age 18.
  • Dependent Parents: The following parents of a deceased veteran may qualify for DIC benefits:
    • Biological
    • Adoptive
    • Foster parents – must have stood in the relationship for at least one year prior to veteran’s last entry into active service.

In addition, surviving parents must have an income below a certain level to qualify for DIC.

Survivor Pension is a tax-free monetary benefit available for a deceased veteran’s un-remarried, low-income surviving spouse and/or a deceased veteran’s unmarried surviving children.

In order for a veteran’s survivor to be eligible for the Pension benefit, the veteran must have met the following requirements:

  • A veteran who served on or before September 7, 1980 must have served at least 90 days of active duty service, with at least one day during a wartime period.
  • A veteran who served after September 7, 1980 generally must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which he was ordered to active duty, with at least one day of service during a wartime period.
  • The veteran must have been discharged from service in other than dishonorable conditions.

In addition, the same income limitations apply as with the veteran’s pension.

Due to the length of time that it can take the VA to process veterans’ claims, unfortunately sometimes a veteran may pass away while he has a claim pending.

When this occurs, his survivors can seek his “accrued benefits” – any monthly benefit that was “due and unpaid” based on evidence in the veteran’s file at the time of his death.

When a veteran dies, accrued benefits owed to the veteran are payable in full to the veteran’s surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, the accrued benefits will be paid to anyone also entitled to receive DIC. For veterans who died on or after October 10, 2008, the survivor can request substitution rather than accrued benefits.

Accrued benefits are different than death benefits, because they are benefits that were due to the veteran at the time of his death. If a veteran passes away with a pending claim or pending appeal before the VA, his survivor(s) can file an accrued benefits claim to obtain the benefits that would have been due to the veteran had his claim been decided while he was alive.

Accrued benefits claims must be filed within one year of the individual veteran’s death. However, if the claim is denied, it can be re-opened at any time. If a family member files for DIC or death pension for a deceased veteran within one year of the veteran’s death, the VA must also consider that to be a claim for accrued benefits.

For veterans who die on or after October 10, 2008, with a pending claim or appeal the qualified survivor can request to substitute himself or herself in the place of the veteran. Substitution allows the qualified survivor to “step in the shoes” of the veteran, and process any pending claim to completion. The request to substitute must also be filed within one year of death, and removes the requirement to file a new claim for accrued benefits. When a qualified survivor is substituted for the deceased veteran, he or she is not limited to the evidence in the file at death. Rather, he or she can add any new evidence to the claim.

Need Help With VA Disability Survivor Claims?

At Bluestein Attorneys, our SC Veterans’ Advocates team isn’t just passionate about helping military servicemembers and their families access the benefits their service entitles them to — we’re veterans ourselves. We understand the unique stress and pressure that comes with military life, and we’re ready to fight for your side every step of the way.

Request your FREE VA Disability consultation with Bluestein Attorneys: give us a call at (803) 779-7599 or fill out the form on this page.

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