Continuous Cohabitation and DIC Survivor Benefits

Continuous Cohabitation and DIC Survivor Benefits

Continuous Cohabitation and DIC Survivor Benefits

Marriage vows are for better or for worse, and in most marriages, spouses experience plenty of good and bad. Traditionally, spouses live together throughout a marriage, known as cohabitation, though living apart is not as rare as it used to be. If the divorce rate is any indication, it is a safe assumption that many married couples go through periods of physical separation, breaking their continuous cohabitation. Separation gives both individuals time to cool off and think when things aren’t working out in a marriage.

The Veterans Administration addresses continuous cohabitation – or, living together without a break – in the rules for eligibility for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). As outlined below, the VA usually breaks down this concept situationally. The VA recognizes four situations that could lead to a claimant applying for DIC benefits after the death of a veteran:

  • Legally Married and Cohabitating
  • Not Legally Married and Cohabitating
  • Legally Married and Not Cohabitating for Reasons Unrelated to Marital Discord
  • Not Legally Married and Not Cohabitating

It is important to remember that every DIC eligibility case is unique. Even if you think you don’t qualify for DIC benefits because of your cohabitation arrangement, it is worth speaking to attorney and filing a claim anyway. Even if you do not qualify for DIC benefits, if you had children with the veteran, your children may qualify. When proving continuous cohabitation in the VA survivor benefits process, trust an experienced VA disability attorney to guide you.

Legally Married and Cohabitating

If both these things were true at the time of the Veteran’s death, DIC eligibility is relatively straightforward, assuming the marriage itself was a qualifying event (i.e., legally binding). There must be a marriage between the claimant and the veteran for at least one year prior to death. Or the claimant and veteran had a child. Additionally, the claimant cannot have remarried, with few exceptions, and their income must meet certain requirements.

Not Legally Married and Cohabitating

Eight states recognize common-law marriage. Meaning a couple may live together and hold themselves out as a married couple, though not legally wed, yet the state will consider them to be legally married. Usually, under federal law, if the couple was common-law married under state law, they are legally married for purposes of Social Security and other government benefits. The requirements vary in each jurisdiction. For DIC benefits, the common-law marriage must be a qualifying relationship in the same way as a traditional marriage. If a couple is not legally married but they have a child together and continuously cohabited until the veteran’s death, the claimant may be eligible for DIC benefits.

Legally Married and Not Cohabitating for Reasons Unrelated to Marital Discord

Usually, this category includes spouses who are living separately for commercial or medical reasons. These days, living apart for reasons other than marital discord is becoming more common, especially among couples who marry later in life or who have children from previous marriages.

These separations can be totally logistical or can have an emotional component. IIf there is any evidence that the parties separated for emotional reasons,a VA claims examiner usually denies DIC benefits. This may be because they were in marital counseling at the time.. On appeal, a VA disability attorney must prove the spouses were not estranged.

Furthermore, there may be marital discord. If it’s found to be the fault of the veteran, not the claimant, the claimant can still be eligible.

Not Legally Married and Not Cohabitating

Unmarried, physically separated couples typically do not qualify for DIC benefits. Separated, but not divorced, spouses could be eligible for DIC survivor benefits. If the spouse that courts considered at fault for the separation (the spouse who intended to leave) was the veteran. The claimant cannot have been at fault for the separation to be eligible for DIC benefits. The VA often considers circumstantial evidence to come to a decision on this point.

The facts and circumstances at the time of divorce or separation are all that matter. The spouses may reconcile after one of them abandons the marriage. However, for DIC purposes, the VA considers the couple still unmarried.

Reach Out to Dedicated Attorneys

An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a disability claim. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact the Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box to your right. We are here to represent veterans nationwide.

This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.