Am I Automatically Entitled to DIC Benefits?
In his second Inaugural Address, which he delivered just 41 days prior to his assassination, President Abraham Lincoln vowed “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” Today, that commitment is evident in available Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits.
Monthly DIC cash benefits increased once again in 2020. The minimum benefits for a qualifying widow with no dependents and a pay grade of E-1 to E-6 is $1,340.14. For qualifying widow with no dependents and a pay grade O-10 Special Capacity it is $3,070.75. That money is tax-free.
However, it is not easy to obtain these benefits. Claimants must do more than show that their loved one died during a period of military service. A dedicated Veterans Administration benefits attorney greatly increases your chances of getting the benefits you need and deserve.
Confederate bullets killed thousands of Union soldiers instantly, or almost instantly. However, Lincoln was not just envisioning veterans killed in the war. Some Union Veterans died many years later as a direct or indirect result of a combat wound. Disease and other non-combat conditions claimed almost as many victims as enemy action. Furthermore, what of the soldiers killed in “friendly fire” incidents?
To address all these issues, the VA has two basic DIC eligibility rules. Applicants qualify for benefits if: :
- The servicemember died while on active duty, whether during deployment or during training; or
- An injury or disease related to military service killed the Veteran.
The first scenario is relatively straightforward. Generally, applicants need only establish a temporal connection. If a Veteran was killed in a car crash while s/he was on active duty, DIC benefits are probably available. If the car crash occurred while the Veteran was on leave, that might be a different issue.
A More Complex Scenario
The second scenario, however, can be much more complex. According to the Code of Federal Regulations. The code determines subsequent death related to military service if the service connected injury was the “immediate or underlying cause of death or was etiologically related thereto.” Etiological means causing or contributing to the development of a disease or condition.
Generally, when people succumb to illness or injury after many years, there is never a singular cause. For example, assume one of the aforementioned Civil War Veterans contracted a very bad case of dysentery. The Veteran survived, but the disease permanently weakened his body. A few months after he returned home, he developed an infection, and his body was not able to fight it off.
Generally, as long as the applicant can prove that the cause of death was aggravated by the service-related illness or injury, DIC compensation is available. Attorneys often partner with doctors or medical examiners to obtain the evidence they need.
Even if a Veteran’s death had nothing to do with military service, DIC benefits might still be available. In these situations, applicants must establish that the Veteran:
- Was 100% disabled for 10 years prior to his or her death, or
- Displayed no willful misconduct during the fatal incident, and
- Had been disabled for five years, or
- Was totally disabled for one year prior to death, and
- Was a former POW.
Willful misconduct is not the same thing as negligent. If the VA ruled that Sally was 100% disabled in 2013 and she was partially at fault in a fatal car crash in 2019, her survivors are probably eligible for DIC benefits.
In all these situations, the burden of proof is “at least as likely as not”. That is one of the lowest standards of evidence in American law.
Contact Assertive Attorneys
DIC benefits are available following most kinds of service-related deaths. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact Cameron Firm, PC at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box to your right. We are here to represent Veterans nationwide.