About Surviving Spouse Benefits
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
What Is DIC?
DIC is a monthly benefit paid to eligible survivors of a military service member who died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training,OR
- veteran whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease, OR
- veteran whose death resulted from a non service-related injury or disease, and who was receiving, or was entitled to receive, VA Compensation for service-connected disability that was rated as totally disabling for at least 10 years immediately before death, OR since the veteran’s release from active duty and for at least five years immediately preceding death, OR for at least one year before death if the veteran was a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999.
Who Is Eligible?
- The surviving spouse if he or she:
- validly married the veteran before January 1, 1957, OR
- was married to a service member who died on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, OR
- 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, OR
- was married to the veteran for at least one year, OR
- had a child with the veteran, AND
- cohabited with the veteran continuously until the veteran’s death or, if separated, was not at fault for the separation, AND
- is not currently remarried.*
Note: A surviving spouse who remarries on or after December 16, 2003, and on or after attaining age 57, is entitled to continue to receive DIC.
The surviving child(ren), if he/she is:
- not included on the surviving spouse’s DIC
- unmarried AND
- under age 18, or between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending school.
Note: Certain helpless adult children are entitled to DIC. Call the toll-free number below for the eligibility requirements.
The surviving parent(s) may be eligible for an income-based benefit. See our fact sheet, Parents’ DIC.
How Much Does VA Pay?
The basic monthly rate of DIC is $1,195 for an eligible surviving spouse. The rate is increased for each dependent child, and also if the surviving spouse is housebound or in need of aid and attendance. VA also adds a transitional benefit of $295 to the surviving spouse’s monthly DIC if there are children under age 18. The amount is based on a family unit, not individual children. Benefit rate tables, including those for children alone and parents, can be found on the Internet at http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Rates or call the toll-free number below.
How Should a Claimant Apply?
Claimants should complete VA Form 21-534 Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by a Surviving Spouse or Child.
What Is Death Pension?
Death pension is a benefit paid to eligible dependents of deceased wartime veterans.
Who Is Eligible?
You may be eligible if:
- the deceased veteran was discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions, AND
- he or she served 90 days or more of active duty with at least 1 day during a period of war*, AND
- you are the surviving spouse or unmarried child of the deceased veteran, AND
- your countable income is below a yearly income limit set by law.
*Note: Anyone who enlists after September 7, 1980, generally must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty. Service from August 2, 1990 to present is considered to be a period of war (Gulf War) in addition to other periods of war such as World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Income Limits ( effective December 1, 2008)
If you are a...
Your yearly income must be less than...
Surviving spouse with no dependent children
Surviving spouse with one dependent child
(Add $2,020 to the limit for each additional child)
Housebound surviving spouse with no dependents
Housebound surviving spouse with one dependent
Surviving spouse who needs aid and attendance with no dependents
Surviving spouse who needs aid and attendance with one dependent
Surviving child (no eligible parent)
Note: Some income is not counted toward the yearly limit (for example, welfare benefits, some wages earned by dependent children, and Supplemental Security Income)
How Much Does VA Pay?
VA pays you the difference between your countable income and the yearly income limit which describes your situation (see chart above). This difference is generally paid in 12 equal monthly payments rounded down to the nearest dollar. Call the toll-free number below for details.
Note: Certain expenses (i.e., medical expenses, education expenses, or expenses related to the last illness or burial of the veteran or a dependent) paid by you are taken into consideration when arriving at your countable income.
How Can You Apply?
You can apply by filling out VA Form 21-534, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by Surviving Spouse or Child. If available, attach copies of dependency records (marriage & children's birth
A claim for death pension by any class of dependent is ALWAYS also a claim for DIG, as well as for any available accrued benefits. Accrued benefits would include any claim (whether formal, informal, or inferred) that was pending and unresolved at the time of the veteran's death, or any recurring benefit that was due but not paid at the time of the veteran's death (such as when a claim was approved but the veteran died before the initial check was issued, or when the initial check was issued but the veteran died before negotiating it). If more than one class of dependents applies, the order of precedence for accrued benefits is (1) surviving spouse and (2) children (in equal shares). If accrued benefits are authorized, they may not be paid for any retroactive period exceeding two years prior to the month of the veteran's death.
CHAMPVA for Dependents of Totally Disabled Veterans
In addition to the special benefits for veterans, VA will also provide health care insurance coverage for the dependents or survivors of certain totally disabled (whether rated 100% or by reason of individual unemployability) veterans under the Civilian Health and Medical Program.
The program is called CHAMPVA. For eligibility under this program, the veteran-sponsor must be one of the following:
- Be rated permanently totally disabled from service-connected disability;
- Have died on active duty, in line of duty;
- Have died from a service-connected disability; or
- Have been rated service-connected and permanently totally disabled at the time of death from any cause not willful misconduct,
Eligible persons include the veteran's spouse or surviving spouse, minor children under age 18. children between the ages of 18 and 23 who are attending an approved school, and children over age 18 who have been determined to be permanently incapable of self-support ('helpless').
Dependents of retired or other military personnel who are eligible for health care coverage under TRICARE (formerly called CHAMPUS) are not eligible for coverage under CHAMPVA. With the implementation of the CHAMPVA for life program, begun October 2001, persons who turn age 65 do not lose eligibility to the CHAMPVA program as long as they continue to carry the Medicare Part B coverage.
Claimant's who have insurance coverage other than Medicare Parts A & B, will have to complete the required form to inform CHAMPVA. A that time CHAMPVA will pay as a tertiary provider. CHAMPVA will cover most health care services and supplies that are considered medically or psychologically necessary. In general, a covered person under CHAMPVA may seek treatment from any licensed health care provider at any licensed medical facility, including from many VA medical facilities. CHAMPVA administration, including applications and claims, is centralized to the VA Health Administration Center, Denver, Colorado.
The CHAMPVA Meds By Mail Program allows eligible CHAMPVA members to obtain their prescriptions via a mail order pharmacy service at no cost to the beneficiary (co-payments are waived). To participate in Meds By Mail, have a physician write a new prescription for a 90-day supply plus refills (not to exceed one "1" year) Attach the original prescriptions to a completed Meds By Mail order fon-n and mail to the Cheyenne, Wyoming CHAMPVA processing center.
Factors that impact CHAMPVA eligibility for a spouse include:
- Termination of marriage (as of midnight on the effective date)
- Marriage annulment (as of midnight on the effective date)
- Remarriage of a surviving spouse (as of midnight on the effective date)
- Eligibility for TRICARE or TRICARE For Life
Factors that impact CHAMPVA eligibility for a CHILD include:
- Reaching 18 years of age or age 23 if a full-time student (as of midnight on the birth date)
- No longer a Full-Time student after age 18 (as of midnight on the birth date)
- Marriage (as of midnight on the effective date)
- Eligibility for TRICARE (as of midnight on the effective date)
- Stepchild is no longer a member of the sponsor's household
Home Loan Guaranty
What Is a VA-Guaranteed Loan?
A VA-guaranteed loan can be used to:
- buy a home, a manufactured home, or a condominium
- buy a lot for a manufactured home
- build, repair, or improve a home (including energy efficient improvements)
- refinance an existing loan
A VA-guaranteed loan offers a number of safeguards and advantages over a non VA-guaranteed loan. For example, the interest rate is competitive with conventional rates with little or no down payment required. VA-guaranteed loans are made by private lenders, such as banks, savings and loan associations, and mortgage companies. As with any loan, you must apply directly to the lender. Your real estate broker can assist you in finding a lender.
When the loan is approved, VA will guarantee part of it. The amount of VA's guaranty usually depends on the size of the loan. This guaranty protects the lender against loss up to the amount guaranteed by VA. The largest guaranty that VA can give is an amount equal to 25% of the Freddie Mac conforming loan limit for single-family residences. These limits are subject to change each year.
Who Is Eligible?
Generally, the following persons are eligible:
- veterans who were discharged since 9/16/40, under other than dishonorable conditions
- military personnel on active duty who have served a minimum period
- certain Reservists and National Guard members
- surviving spouses of certain deceased veterans
Note: There are certain other groups of individuals who may be eligible. For information about these groups, contact VA at the toll-free number below.
What Documents Do I Need to Provide the Lender To Receive a VA-Guaranteed Loan?
The lender will need a Certificate of Eligibility to prove that you are eligible for a VA-guaranteed loan. Certificates are issued by VA’s Loan Eligibility Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to eligible persons who apply for the certificate. The Eligibility Center can be reached by calling toll-free below. Often times, your lender may be able to access VA’s secure web site and obtain a certificate for you.
How Can You Apply?
You can apply by requesting your lender to obtain a certificate for you through VA’s secure web site OR by completing one of the following forms and submitting it to the Loan Eligibility Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
- Veteran/Servicemember: VA Form 26-1880, Request for a Certificate of Eligibility for VA Home Loan Benefits
- Surviving Spouse: VA Form 26-1817, Request for Determination of Loan Guaranty Eligibility – Unmarried Surviving Spouse
This 2013 Edition provides detailed instructions on how to submit claims for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and uses the successful "Fully Developed Claim Process" for faster and better decisions. View the Book...
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