There are a lot of benefits for widows and widowers of veterans. A surviving spouse may even have access to money that they were not receiving prior to the death of the veteran.
In this article about benefits for surviving widows of veterans:
- Three Types of Benefits for Surviving Spouses
- Accrued VA Benefits for Widows
- If My Husband was a Veteran, Should I Get Accrued Benefits?
- What is a Substitution Claim? Is it Better than an Accrued VA Claim?
- What Is a Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) VA Claim?
- Can I Start a Disability Claim for my Uncle, Mom, or Neighbor?
- What forms do I fill out?
Three Types of Benefits for Surviving Spouses
The different kinds of benefits involve different application requirements and result in different payouts. Some are more flexible than others. Others pay out as single benefits to cover specific costs while others payout monthly for the life of the surviving spouse. We break down the three main types here.
Accrued VA Benefits for Widows
Accrued benefits are some of the most restrictive of benefits. You have to apply for accrued benefits within one year of the veteran’s death. In that timeframe, the necessary documentation, forms, and claims have to be submitted. If there were any other claims in progress or outstanding, they are all wiped out and only the accrued benefits claim is left standing.
The amount of the claim (known as the entitlement) is limited to whatever claims were pending at the time of the veteran’s death. If new evidence regarding Agent Orange, for example, comes out or if you find new documents while cleaning out his things, you can’t add that to the claim. It is a one-shot, one application, closed claim. Once you file it (and remember it has to be within a year of death) the claim is closed until it is approved or denied.
If the claimant has past-due benefits from before December 2003, the rules change and the actual benefits may be different. It is strange to talk about 2003 rules in 2019, but some cases with the VA can take a long time. If there were denials and errors in the effective date, this rule could come into play.
If the veteran dies while your claim is in process with the VA, you can’t add anything to it with the accrued benefits claim. The benefit amount will be equal to the total amount of past-due benefits that would have been or should have been awarded to the veteran.
If My Husband was a Veteran, Should I Get Accrued Benefits?
You might be eligible to receive benefits through an accrued benefits claim if you meet the right criteria. It isn’t always the best claim for all situations, but it becomes the right claim if:
- Your claim was pending at the time of death, but all of the documentation was in the hands of the VA. This is possible because it takes a long time to get a claim resolved. If the VA hasn’t made a decision yet and the veteran dies before the decision is made, an accrued claim might be the right option.
- The beneficiary of the claim died before the check was awarded. This sounds rare, but it happens more than you’d think. If a husband veteran died and the wife dies before the check for his claim is sent, the dependent children or even the dependent parents would work on the claim.
- If there are no next of kin or beneficiaries and a person dies before the benefits were paid, it can even go to whoever was the last person that paid for the veteran’s medical care. That person would then be regarded as the responsible guardian and beneficiary of the veteran.
What is a Substitution Claim? Is it Better than an Accrued VA Claim?
A substitution claim is better than an Accrued claim, but technically it is a type of accrued claim. If someone was already working on benefits and their loved one passed away, a substitution claim keeps them from starting all over again. Like a relay race, the new substitute stands in the place of the deceased veteran. The same claim continues onward and you don’t have to start your VA benefits approval timeline all over again.
The additional benefit of a VA Substitution claim is that you can add new evidence to the claim. If new benefits for deceased veterans are approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs, those can be added to this claim. It is not a closed claim, so when you are cleaning out old closets and grieving the loss of your spouse, some of those documents you come across might be helpful. With a simple accrued benefits claim this would not be the case.
What Is a Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) VA Claim?
A dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) claim is paid to survivors of military service members who died in the line of duty or eligible survivors related to a deceased spouse whose death was related to a service-connected illness or condition they acquired during active duty. While it is sad to work on the claims of widows, widowers, or surviving children of veterans, this is our favorite one because it often helps the survivors more than the other types of death benefit claims.
Instead of being a one-time payment, the DIC claim is a monthly check given to the surviving dependent for the rest of his or her life.
The monthly base rate for a widow is $1,437.66. If surviving parents are depending on the deceased vet, the parents can receive that much or even more based on their home health care needs. Children, including those who are 18-23 and still in school or adult children that fulfill special criteria are also eligible to divide the monthly reward.
These applications can get started any time after the death of someone that served in military service, but you’ll want to get them started as soon as you are able. Only the accrued and substitution claims have to be filed within a year of death. A DIC claim can be filed at any time.
Can I Start a Disability Claim for my Uncle, Mom, or Neighbor?
Anyone can get a claim started, but due to privacy and the information we will be working with, some connection to the deceased member of the active military will be required in the process. Beneficiaries of the claim can be the veteran’s surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren if the direct children have already passed away. If you have helped a veteran by covering their last illness and burial expenses, you can also file for an accrued claim to be reimbursed for those expenses.
If you are unsure of what is available to you or your friend, your best bet is to call an expert and explain your case.
What forms do I fill out?
Here are several forms you will need to accrued, substitution, or DIC claims.
Woods and Woods has helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case.
All of our attorneys are VA-certified. Call us and join the thousands of veterans we have helped to receive the VA disability benefits they deserve.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The VA defines DIC (Dependency and Indemnity Compensation) as “a tax-free monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of military Servicemembers who died in the line of duty or eligible survivors of Veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease.”
Apply for accrued or substitution claims within one year of the veteran’s death. DIC claims can be started at any time but the sooner the better so that you can start receiving benefits.