Losing a spouse is never easy. Having a security net to provide compensation after the passing of a loved one eases this burden. If you’re a recipient of Veterans disability benefits, you might be wondering whether these continue to your spouse when you die.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Explained
- What Happens to Benefits if Your Spouse Remarries?
- Steps to Make Sure Your Spouse Receives Your VA Benefits
The good news is many surviving military spouses receive Veterans disability compensation. This benefit is known as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). It’s a monthly benefit intended to assist military spouses and dependents financially in this time of need. However, certain conditions are necessary for this benefit to apply. In this guide, we’ll break down DIC and how to qualify.
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Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Explained
The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free monetary benefit that’s provided monthly. The DIC pays a different amount year over year, so you’ll need to check with the latest benefit information for an exact estimate. This compensation is typically around $1,100 per month.
The amount received as compensation increases per child if you have other dependents. DIC benefits are permanent for surviving spouses. It lasts the entire life of the surviving spouse except in the case of remarriage. For surviving children, DIC benefits last until the age of 18. If the child is still in school, these benefits might go until age 23.
DIC isn’t available to every Veteran spouse, however. You need to meet the eligibility criteria established by the VA.
For the Veteran, you’ll need to prove one of the following:
- The Veteran died while on active duty or active duty for training
- The Veteran died from a service-connected illness or injury
- The Veteran was eligible for VA compensation due to a disability
Similarly, the spouse also needs to meet one of the following criteria:
- Married the service member or Veteran before January 1, 1957
- Married the service member or Veteran within 15 years of their discharge
- Were married to the service member or Veteran for a minimum of 1 year
- Share children with the service member or Veteran and are not currently remarried
Along with Veteran death benefits, this compensation is a helpful safety net for providing ongoing support to military families. Including these benefits in your end-of-life planning checklist is an effective way to ensure your spouse and surviving loved ones have the help they need when the time does come.
What Happens to Benefits if Your Spouse Remarries?
Dealing with the loss of a partner is never easy. After grieving, many partners are finally ready to remarry. What happens to these VA benefits if your spouse chooses to remarry after your death?
In general, DIC benefits no longer apply after remarriage. Benefits are no longer given to these partners unless the remarriage ended in divorce, death, or annulment. These benefits also continue if the spouse remarried on or after reaching the age of 57.
When in doubt, contact the VA office. Your local office is the only one who looks at your specific situation to determine what options are available. In the case of remarriage, benefits usually don’t continue except in the few instances outlined above.
Steps to Make Sure Your Spouse Receives Your VA Disability Benefits
How do you ensure your spouse receives your benefits after you pass on? It’s important to talk to your partner about these benefits and what to expect from this process. These benefits might play a role in what you choose to include in your will, so start this process early. Preparation is always key.
1. Talk to your spouse
Your first step is to talk to your spouse. Though it is often challenging to talk about death, especially for close family members, this is an essential conversation. Talk to your spouse about his or her plan after you pass away. What funds will they need? How can you both prepare today?
When talking to your spouse, educate them about the DIC benefits. Many people aren’t even aware these VA benefits pass on to a partner and any children after death. You want to make sure your spouse is aware of his or her options so they can take action when needed. As mentioned earlier, preparation is essential.
2. Familiarize yourself with the DIC Application form
Next, go over the DIC application form with your spouse. These forms are found online on the VA website, and your local VA office can also help you find them. These forms are commonly referred to as DIC application, but you might also hear them as Form 21-534.
After the passing of a military spouse, a VA Casualty Assistance Officer might complete this form for you. Your spouse can also complete the form online. Familiarizing yourself and your spouse with these forms helps them stay prepared in case of an unexpected death. You might wish to keep copies of this form with your will or in a safe place at home.
3. Learn how to report a casualty
In addition to the form above, your spouse will also need to report the passing to the VA. This might happen before filling out the DIC application, but it also might happen after. This is also the form needed to prepare for a military funeral, so make sure both you and your spouse are familiar with it.
The Casualty form is Form 1300, and it is available at your VA office or online. Your spouse needs to submit this with the DIC application. Again, storing a copy of this form with your will or other end-of-life documents simplifies the process for your family.
4. Pay attention to the deadline
There are deadlines for your spouse to receive these benefits. Your spouse should apply for these benefits as soon as possible after your passing. They have until a year after your death to apply. If they apply within a year, benefits are paid retroactively from the date of the veteran’s death.
That being said, if your spouse doesn’t apply within a year, it’s unlikely your spouse is eligible for any missed compensation. Instead, the start date is whenever the VA grants the application.
5. Research other benefits
Research any other benefits your survivors might qualify for. Along with DIC, you might also be eligible for benefits like the Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA), Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA), or other burial benefits.
You never know what might be out there. To learn more about your specific situation, contact your local VA office. They assess your specific benefits to see what you and your survivors might qualify for. Don’t leave benefits on the table! They could make a world of difference for your spouse once you’re gone.
6. Create a plan together
Last but not least, work together to create a plan. Now that you know how much compensation comes with these benefits, you can plan for the future. Do some math to budget just how much your spouse needs for monthly expenses. How will these benefits fit into their financial needs and goals? What dependents need care?
By taking the time to work together to create a plan, you both know what to expect. The future isn’t always black and white. Do what you can today, so you’re no longer afraid of tomorrow.
Planning for Your VA Benefits
After your service to this country, you’re entitled to many benefits. When you pass on, these benefits might pass to your spouse or children. Depending on your situation, your spouse could receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation from the VA. This is a powerful benefit, and it helps many families in need.
Now that you’ve reviewed more about the program and the qualifications, you’re ready to prepare. Taking the time today to consider these options with your spouse prepares them to take these steps on their own when you’re no longer here. We can’t always control the future, but we do have the freedom to take matters into our own hands today.