Who is Eligible for VA DIC Benefits for Survivors?
The VA has DIC Benefits for survivors of fallen warriors, also referred to as Dependency and Indemnification Compensation. Nationwide, between 2004 and 2014, over 750,000 disabled veterans died while receiving compensation for a service-connected condition. A large percentage of those suffered premature death due to external causes, meaning a condition that was often connected to their service.
Losing a loved one is difficult no matter what, but in some instances, it can be financially damaging as well. VA disability benefits can exceed $3,200 per month for totally disabled veterans, which provides financial and emotional security for the veterans’ families. Nothing can reverse the chain of events which lead to a service-connected disability death. However, benefits are available that ease both the financial and emotional burden these families feel. These benefits are known as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, or DIC.
Three groups of individuals are potentially eligible for survivor benefits when a veteran passes away, in a particular order. First, the veteran’s surviving spouse is eligible. Second, the veteran’s surviving children, if any, are eligible. And third, the veteran’s surviving parents will be eligible.
When they contest regular disability claims, lawyers representing the VA usually challenge the extent of disability or the existence of a service-related connection. In DIC claims, these issues are usually irrelevant, because the veteran is often already service-connected. However, the VA could deny a DIC claim based on an improper relationship between the claimant and the deceased veteran. A VA disability attorney advocates for claimants in these situations, so they get the benefits they need and deserve.
The qualifications for surviving spouse DIC benefits seem rather complex. But if we break them down, they are pretty easy to understand.
A straightforward marriage to the deceased veteran usually meets the requirement. However, if the claimant and veteran did not have a straightforward marriage, other conditions can check this box. For example, if the claimant had a child with the veteran and cohabitated with the veteran continually until the veteran’s death, he or she could be considered a surviving spouse for DIC purposes. Additionally, if the spouse was separated from the veteran at the time of death, it must not be proven that it was the claimant’s fault for the separation.
Continual cohabitation does not mean being together 24/7/365. Almost all couples spend days, weeks, or even months apart. Brief “cooling off” separations are almost as common. Once again, such informal separations could last a few hours or much longer. As a rule of thumb, one or two brief separations does not torpedo a DIC survivor benefits claim.
As for divorce, most divorces are no-fault these days, and this must be the case for a claimant. Additionally, the divorced spouse cannot have remarried or be in a marriage-like relationship at the time of the DIC application, however, some limited exceptions apply.
Other conditions and combinations of conditions can satisfy the eligibility requirement. An experienced attorney will know what evidence is necessary to prove eligibility.
Unmarried children under 18, or under 23 if they are attending school, are eligible for survivor benefits if a surviving spouse does not claim benefits.
The “attending school” qualification is subject to interpretation. Acceptance, enrollment, and attendance might or might not be different things, depending on the facts and circumstances. Furthermore, the requirement’s implication is full-time attendance at school.
Surviving children, like all DIC applicants, must provide proof of a service-related death. If the single cause of death on the Veteran’s death certificate matches the Veteran’s disability, this element is straightforward. However, multiple causes of death are common. Additionally, the cause of death could be indirectly related to the disability, like a hospital infection. In that situation, a disability attorney will know what evidence is necessary to have the best chance at success.
If no surviving spouse or surviving children claim DIC benefits, the deceased veteran’s surviving parents can claim them.
Adoptive, foster (if the deceased Veteran was a foster child immediately before s/he joined the service), and biological surviving parents are eligible for benefits if their income is below certain levels. These income requirements vary, mostly depending on whether one or both parents apply for benefits.
Work with Compassionate 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.