How to Appeal a Denied DIC Claim Under the Appeals Modernization Act

How to Appeal a Denied DIC Claim Under the Appeals Modernization Act

How to Appeal a Denied DIC Claim Under the Appeals Modernization Act


Do you have a denied DIC claim? Before 2017, some Veterans claimed the VA’s attitude about disability claims was “deny until they die.” That idea is a bit melodramatic, but not entirely misplaced. Many disabled veterans waited several years for benefits to which they were entitled because of a service-related illness or injury. The Veteran Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act (AMA) substantially changed the landscape. Now, many veterans only wait a few weeks for their day in court.


This law changed the available appeal options. The correct appeals avenue usually depends on the basis for denial. The AMA did not change the underlying law, at least for the most part. The same benefits and eligibility rules apply. However, the law did change the burden of proof. So, it is easier for a VA disability attorney to prove the veteran—or, in DIC claims, the veteran’s survivors—should be receiving benefits.


DIC Claims


DIC stands for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation and is a “tax-free monetary benefit” for spouses, children, or parents of servicemembers who die in the line of duty; or for the survivor of a veteran who died from a service-connected condition.


Each category of survivor has detailed requirements surrounding length of time of relationship to the veteran and other considerations.


Qualifying for Benefits


Surviving spouses, surviving children, and surviving parents, in that order, could qualify for DIC benefits, which are, essentially, survivor benefits. The eligibility rules are slightly different for each category of applicants.


  • Surviving Spouse: These individuals are eligible for DIC benefits if they were married to the servicemember at the time of his/her death or a judge granted a no-fault divorce. Moreover, the marriage must have lasted at least a year, the ceremony took place within 15 years of discharge, or the veteran and spouse had at least one child together.
  • Surviving Children: Biological or adopted unmarried children of veterans are eligible for DIC benefits if there’s no surviving spouse, and the child is under 18 (under 23 if attending school).
  • Or Surviving Parents: As a fallback, surviving parent(s) are eligible for DIC benefits if their incomes are under a minimum amount and they are the biological, adoptive, or foster parent of the veteran or servicemember.


The applicant must also prove a service-related illness or injury killed the Veteran, or that the Veteran received total disability benefits for at least ten years prior to death. In some cases, the time period for the required total disability rating is five years.


Denied DIC Claim Appeal Options Under the AMA


Claims examiners deny DIC claims for a variety of reasons. Sometimes claims are denied on technical grounds, such as an improper relationship between the claimant and veteran, or failure to satisfy a particular time period, such as the required ten-year period of a total disability rating necessary for some claims. Other claims are denied on substantive grounds, such as the cause of death not being a service-connected condition or injury.


It is possible for the claims examiner to make a purely technical error, such as looking at the wrong effective date for a service-connected condition or failing to consider a valid marriage certificate. Higher level review, the fastest appeals avenue, is often appropriate in these cases. Higher level review simply means the case is fast-tracked to a senior examiner. Usually, within three months, a senior claims examiner looks at the file and corrects the error.


Claims decided upon a lack of evidence, which usually focus on the service-related element, could follow one of two paths.


First, and frequently, claims examiners give denied DIC claimants a road map. The examiner may describe to the claimant what sort of missing evidence would likely lead to their claim being granted by the VA. Such claims are tailor-made for expedited supplemental claim review. A VA disability attorney obtains the new evidence, which is often a supplemental medical report, presents it, and an officer may reverse the prior decision.


Second, if the DIC claimant is in the dark about the reason for denial, an old-fashioned notice of disagreement and appeal might be the best approach. This sort of appeal, over which an administrative law judge presides, allows an attorney to make legal arguments and otherwise fully advocate for a client. This appeal usually takes more time than a fast-tracked review.


Contact Assertive Attorneys For A Denied DIC Claim 


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 on our website. We are here to represent veterans nationwide and there is no fee until you win.


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