Death benefits for families are available through the VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program. DIC is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to eligible surviving spouses and dependent children of disabled veterans. In addition, parents of the disabled veteran can be eligible. Remember, VA disability ends when the veteran passes away. As a result, the DIC program is a valuable benefit families must understand.
To be eligible for DIC, the surviving spouse or dependent child must meet certain criteria. We will examine how each family’s situation is different, and how to see if you are eligible.
VA Dependency and Indemnity: Service-Connected
Families have the most straightforward claim when a service-connected issue caused the death. For example, a veteran with service-connected cancer dies because of the cancer. This claim is straightforward. The family is eligible for DIC.
In addition, service members who die on active duty receive the same coverage. The family is eligible for DIC because of the death being on active duty. However, what if the issue is not service-connected? And what if the veteran has already separated service?
VA Dependency and Indemnity: Non Service-Connected
Death because of non service-connected issues makes receiving dependency and indemnity compensation more difficult. However, the VA does award DIC in specific instances. These cases vary greatly and rely on the veteran meeting specific criteria.
VA Dependency and Indemnity: 5 Year 10 Year Rules
In the event of a non service-connected death; the VA requires that the veteran was 100% P&T or TDIU P&T for the 10 years preceding their death. If so, the family is eligible for DIC.
However, the VA only requires 5 years if the veteran has been P&T since they separated active duty. In addition, the VA only requires 1 year if the veteran is a former POW.
The surviving spouse must also meet eligibility requirements before the VA awards dependency and indemnity compensation. Typically, the marriage must have started with-in 15 years of the veteran leaving active duty. However, a marriage that lasted at least one full year preceding death is also eligible.
Alternatively, the spouse is eligible if they have a child with the veteran. This is regardless of how long they were married. However, the spouse using a child to qualify must have lived with the veteran until the veteran passed. If the spouse and veteran were separated at the time of death; the spouse must not have been at fault.
DIC eligibility is typical of all VA claims. Most rules have an exception, and the rules are difficult to understand. We always encourage veterans and their families to apply and force the VA to make a decision.
Dependent Child Eligibility
Each dependent child can be eligible, but each child must meet certain criteria. The child must be under 18 (Or under 24 if enrolled in school full-time). In addition, the child cannot be married.
Establishing Eligibility After Death
DIC is one of the few programs where the surviving family can establish eligibility for their veteran after the veteran passes away. For example, the veteran suddenly passes away from cancer. At the time of death, the family realizes that the cancer stemmed from active duty service. If the family can prove the cause of death stems from active duty service; they are eligible for DIC. This is true even if the veteran never filed for VA disability.
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