You may be eligible for monthly VA benefit payments if you are the surviving spouse or child of a service member who was killed while on active duty or died from a service-connected disability or had a 100 percent disability rating for a period of time before their death. There are different categories of benefit payments. Let’s take a look at the two main survivor benefit programs Dependents Indemnity Compensation—D.I.C—and Accrued Benefits.

As you would expect there are very specific requirements which must be met to qualify for tax-free D-I-C benefits. The deceased veteran must have passed away while on active duty—and this includes for training—or their death must have been caused by a service-connected disability. Additionally, D-I-C benefits may be awarded if the service member passes away and has been receiving compensation for totally disabling service-related conditions for at least ten years or for at least five years since discharge from active duty. If a widowed spouse has remarried before the age of 57, they are not eligible for Dependents Indemnity Compensation. Furthermore, there are some additional requirements that must be met regarding the marriage and the ages of children, so it is best to consult with an accredited VA attorney. Parents of veterans who died as the result of a service-related injury or disease may also be eligible to receive a tax-free monthly D-I-C benefit if their income is below a certain level.

It is a common misconception that when a veteran passes away their claims for disability benefits dies with them. This is not true. Accrued Benefits may be available to the survivor of a service member who dies while their claim for disability benefits is pending. Survivors of veterans who died on or after October 10, 2008, are allowed to take the place of the deceased VA claimant. If the claim is then approved, the survivor will be awarded the cash benefits due to the veteran between the date they applied for disability compensation and the date they were finally approved. Sometimes, the lump sum of back payments can be substantial.

There are time limits for filing for these VA death benefits, so you should consult with a specialist in VA disability law as soon as possible. You can call us at Cuddigan Law for a free evaluation of your situation.

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska