Can A Widow Collect Veteran’s Benefits?
Suppose you are a surviving spouse of a veteran or active service member of any branch of the U.S. Military. In that case, you may be eligible for monetary benefits through the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA). These benefits are typically allocated to the widow, referred to as the survivor, as compensation for having their loved one killed in action or later dying from a disability or illness caused by their time served.
The VA offers many benefits programs to surviving spouses to provide a wide range of support. Benefits programs for survivors through the VA can include home loans, monthly pension payments, health care, and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). Added benefits are available to widows and widowers who meet specific criteria.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
The VA offers dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) to eligible spouses, children, or parents to those of a Veteran or service member that died during combat or as a result of a disability caused or made worsened by their time in active duty. DIC is a monthly payment made by the VA and is entirely exempt from all state and federal taxes.
To determine eligibility for DIC, the VA requires the surviving spouse to meet various criteria while providing clear evidence that these statements are factual. First, each eligible spouse must meet one of the following requirements,
- Married the Veteran/service member before January 1, 1957
- Were married the Veteran/service member for at least one year
- Had a child or children with the Veteran/service member and are not remarried
- Lived with the Veteran/service member up until their death or were not the cause for separation
- Married the Veteran/service member within 15 years after a said person was discharged from the Military due to an injury or illness that developed during their service or became worse during their service
The VA also requires applying surviving spouses to provide evidence that the Veteran or service member in question died while serving in active duty, training for active duty, or inactive duty training. If none of these are true, the surviving spouse must provide evidence to support the claim that the Veteran died due to a persistent injury or illness brought on by active duty or training. A surviving spouse can also be eligible to receive DIC benefits if their spouse could receive additional benefits through the VA due to a service-related disability with the highest level of impact on the Veterans’ life, typically referred to as totally disabling. The term “totally disabling” means the Veteran was unable to work for a living due to their disability.
The VA offers a Survivors Pension program for eligible surviving spouses and their dependent children who are not yet married. This benefit is only for the families of Veterans who served during wartime and died due to injury or illness because of it. Eligible surviving spouses and the Veteran in question must meet various requirements set by the VA along with specific income and net worth limits determined by Congress.
The Survivors Pension program provides a fixed monthly payment to eligible surviving spouses with the option of receiving additional funds for meeting other criteria such as having a disability or having one or more children under the age of 18.
To receive a Survivors’ Pension, the surviving spouse must not be remarried. The Veteran must have been discharged from the Military with any discharge rating other than dishonorable with evidence of this. Regarding the deceased Veteran, they must meet one of the following criteria,
- Served at least 90 days on active duty with at least one day served during a wartime period recognized by Congress, and entered active duty on or before September 7, 1980
- If the Veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, they must have served for at least 24 months or the entire length of their service agreement. Additionally, the Veteran must have served at least one day during an active wartime period.
- The Veteran was an officer and entered active duty after October 16, 1981, and previously spent the 24 months leading up to active duty, not on an active-duty mission.
As a surviving spouse looking to enroll in the Survivors Pension program, they must meet the annual family income limits and net worth limits set in place by Congress. When evaluating net worth, Congress disregards the spouse’s house, car, and most furniture within the home. Any debt owed by the surviving spouse will be subtracted from the total net worth sum.
Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
The Civilian Health and Medical Program offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) is a health insurance program for surviving spouses of a Veteran who died in combat or as a result of combat injuries or illness. This program offers a wide range of health care services for eligible surviving spouses, such as ambulance services, hospice care, mental health services, inpatient and outpatient care, prescription medications, and even transplants, to name a few. However, it is essential to note the services available to surviving spouses are dispersed when the situation is deemed medically necessary by CHAMPVA to avoid overuse of services.
To qualify for CHAMPVA, the surviving spouse must have been married to a Veteran who died from a service-related disability or married to a veteran who had a disability rating of total disabling. If neither of these is true, the Veteran must have died during active duty for reasons other than misconduct.
Surviving spouses must remain unmarried to receive CHAMPVA benefits until they reach their 55th birthday. Remarrying before turning 55 years of age will disqualify surviving spouses from receiving benefits.
If a surviving spouse does remarry before turning 55 years of age, the only way that spouse can receive CHAMPVA benefits once again is if the remarriage ends by death, divorce, or annulment.
VA Home Loans For Surviving Spouses
Receiving a home loan backed by the VA is a great way to move into a new home with a low annual income. A VA-backed home loan gives the lender ease of mind about missed, or late payments since the VA ensures that the lender is always paid on time. For a surviving spouse to be eligible for a VA-backed home loan, they first must apply and receive a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). To receive a COE for a home loan through the VA, one of the following requirements regarding the Veteran must be met,
- The Veteran is missing in action (MIA)
- The Veteran is a prisoner of war (POW)
- The Veteran died during service or from a service-related disability, and you haven’t remarried, or you remarried after turning 57 years of age.
- The Veteran had been disabled before dying, even if the disability was not the cause of death.
To file for a COE to get started on the home loan process, be sure to visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website. Applying and receiving a COE is the first step in determining veterans’ benefits for surviving spouses.
The VA Is Here To Help
The VA has many programs available to assist surviving spouses in living a comfortable life after the death of a Veteran or service family member. These programs often play a huge role in improving the lives of surviving spouses all over the country. Health care programs ensure spouses will have access to affordable and reliable care for whatever they may need. Home loan programs assist survivors in moving into a new home with interest rates and additional costs determined by what they can afford.
Pension benefits that would have otherwise been given to the deceased Veteran or service member can continue to help surviving spouses with everyday expenses that come with daily responsibilities. If you are looking for extra assistance, the VA is here to help. Start the application process today by visiting the VA website or visiting your local VA office. They are on standby to answer any questions you may have during this transitional period.
If you qualify for veteran’s benefits, you also qualify for Lifeline service. Lifeline is a federal benefit program that makes it possible for low-income consumers to receive access to free or heavily discounted communication services. Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.