When a veteran passes away and leaves behind a family, the government allows for the surviving spouse and children to receive tax-free monthly benefits, known as dependency and indemnity compensation.
This compensation isn’t automatically awarded. In order to receive benefits, the surviving family members must submit an application to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and meet a number of eligibility requirements. Unlike other type of veterans’ benefits, dependency and indemnity is paid regardless of the applicant’s income or assets.
To see if you or a family member qualify for dependency and indemnity compensation, review the following lists of eligibility factors and evidence requirements, as well as information on how much compensation you can expect and how to get started on your application.
Eligibility for spouses
In order for a surviving spouse to be eligible for dependency and indemnity compensation, the following requirements must be met:
- The surviving spouse was married to a servicemember who died during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training; or
- The surviving spouse and veteran were married before Jan. 1, 1957; or
- The surviving spouse married the veteran within 15 years of discharge from the period of service in which the disease or injury that was the cause of death began or was aggravated; or
- The surviving spouse and veteran were married for a minimum of one year; or
- The veteran and surviving spouse had a child together; and
- Either lived with the veteran continuously until the veteran’s death, or, if separated, was not at fault for the separation; and
- The surviving spouse is not currently remarried.
Eligibility for a surviving child
For a surviving child of a veteran, the eligibility requirements are much simpler. To be eligible, the surviving child must:
- Not be included in the surviving spouse’s dependency and indemnity compensation, and
- Be unmarried, and
- Either under the age of 18, or between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending school.
For either a surviving spouse or a surviving child, the following evidence requirements must also be met:
- The veteran died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training; or
- The veteran died from an injury or disease that was related to his or her military service; or
- The veteran dies from a non service-related injury or disease, but was receiving, or entitled to receive, VA compensation for service-connected disability that was rated as totally disabling
- For at least 10 years immediately prior to death; or
- Since the veteran’s release from active duty and for at least five years immediately preceding death; or
- For at least one year before death if the veteran was a former prisoner of war who died after Sept. 30, 1999.
How to apply
Surviving family members have several options for applying for dependency and indemnity benefits:
- Online at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website
- Complete and mail or fax VA Form 21-526EZ “Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits” to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Claims Intake Office
- Apply in person at a VA regional office
- Apply with the help of an accredited VA attorney, representative or agent
In addition to the completed application, surviving family members must also submit the following forms of evidence:
- Discharge or separation papers (DD214 or equivalent)
- Service treatment records, if they are in your possession
- Medical evidence (hospital and doctor reports)
How much compensation you can expect
Dependency and indemnity compensation is tax-free and paid monthly. The amount of benefits you will receive are as follows:
- If the veteran’s death occurred on or after Jan. 1, 1993, the surviving spouse will receive 1,283.11 per month.
- If the Veteran’s death was before Jan. 1, 1993, then the amount the surviving spouse will receive is dependent on what the veteran’s pay grade was while they were in the military. Benefits start at $1,283.11 for E-1 pay grade and begin to increase at E-7 and above. For W-1 and O-1 pay grades, benefits start at $1,354.93 and increase with each pay grade increase.
- If at the time of death the veteran received, or was eligible to receive, compensation for a service-connected disability rated totally disabling for a continuous period of at least 8 years immediately preceding death during which the veteran and surviving spouse were married, an additional $272.46 per month will be awarded.
- For each dependent child under the age of 18, $317.87 per month is added.
- If the surviving spouse qualifies for aid and assistance, an additional $317.87 is given.
- If the surviving spouse qualifies as “housebound,” the benefit increases by $148.91 monthly
- If the surviving spouse has one or more children under the age of 18, an additional the transitional benefit of $270.00 is added to the monthly benefit.
If you qualify for dependency and indemnity compensation, a VA accredited veterans attorney can help ensure you and your loved ones receive the benefits to which you are entitled.