Posted by Gregory M. Rada | July 24, 2022 | State Veteran Benefits
If you are the surviving spouse, surviving child, or surviving parent (as defined by the VA) of a veteran who died due to a service-connected injury or illness, you may qualify for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits.
You may also qualify if the veteran was totally disabled (100% rating or individual unemployability) for the last 10 years of their life, or totally disabled for the last 5 years of their life beginning from when they were discharged from active duty. Finally, survivors are also eligible when a veteran was a former POW and was rated as totally disabled for at least 1 year prior to their death.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits are a tax-free benefit for the surviving family members of a deceased veteran. DIC benefits are paid monthly to eligible survivors of:
The surviving spouse, surviving child, or surviving parent of a veteran may be eligible for VA DIC benefits.
VA defines a surviving spouse as the person who is the spouse of the veteran at the time of their passing. In addition, the surviving spouse may have to meet the following additional requirements:
The VA recognizes common law marriages as long as the veteran and spouse met the requirements for their place of residence.
VA defines a surviving child as an unmarried biological child, adopted child, or stepchild of a veteran. In general, the child must be under the age of 18, but can be between the age of 18 and 23 if they are pursuing a course of education. A surviving child can also be over the age of 18 if they were determined to be permanently incapable of self-support (helpless child) before reaching the age of 18.
Grandchildren do not qualify as a surviving child unless the veteran legally adopted the grandchild.
A parent will meet VA’s definition of a surviving parent in very limited circumstances. VA defines a surviving parent as a person who had (1) a parental relationship to the veteran, and (2) was financially dependent on the veteran.
To make a claim for DIC benefits, complete and submit a VA Form 21P-534EZ to the VA. You’ll want to also submit to the VA a copy of the death certificate and any evidence that you have indicating the cause of death should be service connected.
If the veteran had been rated as totally disabled for the 10 years preceding their death, the VA will grant VA benefits without issue. Remember, “totally disabled” not only means veterans who had a 100% rating, but also veterans who had a total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU or IU).
DIC claims can become more difficult when you have to prove that a service-connected condition was the cause of death. An easy fact scenario is where a veteran’s lung cancer is service connected and the veteran passes from the lung cancer. A more difficult scenario would be where a veteran passes from non-service-connected brain cancer, and you need to prove that the brain cancer was caused by chemical exposure from military service.
The more difficult cases usually involve having to hire a medical expert to link the cause of death to military service. A good VA benefits attorney should help you find the right medical expert to win the DIC claim.
DIC benefit rates vary based on when the veteran passed, and whether you are a surviving spouse or surviving child.
As of the date of this post, if you are the surviving spouse of a veteran who died on or after January 1, 1993, your basic DIC monthly rate is $1,437.66. You may also be eligible for additional allowances depending on certain factors.
Possible additional monthly amounts include:
If you are the surviving widow of a veteran who passed before January 1, 1993, the VA will determine your monthly DIC benefits depending on the veteran’s pay grade and entitlement to any additional allowances that might apply to you.
If you are the surviving child of a veteran, you are eligible for DIC benefits at the following monthly rates:
Applying for DIC benefits can be frustrating, especially during a time of intense mourning. The VA tries to decide DIC claims fairly, but they don’t always get it right. Common reasons that DIC claims are denied are:
If your initial DIC benefits claim is denied, you can appeal that decision. However, you will need to submit additional evidence that goes to the reason that VA denied your claim. An experienced VA benefits attorney will:
DIC claims can be difficult, especially when a veteran’s cause of death is not clearly related to the military or a service-connected condition. That is why it is important to hire an attorney who can help you develop the medical evidence needed to win your claim. For more information on how I might be able to help you win your DIC benefits claim, schedule a free consultation with me.
Gregory Rada is an Air Force veteran that helps veterans nationwide receive the benefits to which they are entitled. He works with all his clients one-on-one from the start of their case to the end and never hands them off to case managers or paralegals. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.