The surviving spouse of a service member who dies in the line of duty or who died from a service-related injury or illness may be able to receive VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC). Those who are at or below a certain income and net worth limit may also be eligible for the VA Survivors Pension.
However, the VA does not permit attorneys, financial planners, or any other person to charge a fee for any services provided in helping a military widow apply for compensation. The VA warns survivors of veterans to avoid organizations that misrepresent themselves in order to provide financial products and services, and warns that “these organizations may charge substantial fees for products and services that may not always be in claimants’ best long-term interests.” (va.gov)
At Robert B. Goss, we’re disabled veterans and family members of servicemen, so it’s important to us to protect survivors of veterans from dishonest practices. Below are the situations in which a widow or widower can apply for these benefits.
In order to be eligible for VA DIC, one of the following must be true:
- You married the veteran or service member before January 1, 1957, or
- You married the veteran or service member within 15 years of discharge from the period of military service during which the qualifying illness or injury started or got worse, or
- You were married to the veteran or service member for at least 1 year, or
- You had a child with the veteran or service member, aren’t currently remarried, and either lived with the Veteran or service member without a break until his or her death or, if separated, weren’t at fault for the separation
You’ll also need to provide evidence showing that one of the following is true for the veteran or service member:
- The service member died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, or
- The veteran died from a service-connected illness or injury, or
- The veteran didn’t die from a service-connected illness or injury but was eligible to receive VA compensation due to a total disability rating for a certain period of time
If the veteran’s eligibility was due to a rating of total disability (unable to work), the veteran must have had this rating:
- For at least 10 years before their death, or
- Since their release from active duty and for at least 5 years immediately before death, or
- For at least 1 year before death if the veteran was a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999
VA Survivors Pension
A VA Survivors Pension offers monthly payments to qualified surviving spouses who meet certain income and net worth limits set by Congress. You must not have remarried after the veteran’s death, and the deceased veteran must not have received a dishonorable discharge. If both of these conditions are true, you may be eligible for this benefit if at least one of the following is also true:
- The veteran entered active duty on or before September 7, 1980 and served at least 90 days on active military service, with at least one day during a covered wartime period, or
- The veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980 and served at least 24 months or the full period for which he or she was called or ordered to active duty (with some exceptions), with at least one day during a covered wartime period, or
- The veteran was an officer and started on active duty after October 16, 1981, and had not previously served on active duty for at least 24 months
If you fulfill the above qualifications, your yearly family income and net worth must meet certain limits set by Congress.
As of December 19, 2019, net worth is the total of your or your beneficiary’s assets and annual income. You should report all of your net worth. The net worth limit to qualify for a Survivors Pension as of December 1, 2019, is $129,094. The limit will increase by the same percentage as Social Security cost-of-living increases.
Who Can Help You Apply for These Benefits
Remember, no one is permitted to charge you for help applying for VA benefits as the survivor of a veteran. The VA recommends you work with your VA regional office, an attorney accredited by the VA, or a Veterans Service Officer.