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.
It might sound crazy, but 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 you do have a claim in process with the VA and while you are waiting the veteran passes away, 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. This happens when there is already a claim in progress and a person dies while waiting for the VA or if the claim is in the appeal process at the time of death.
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.
You can see that Accrued VA Benefits can get complicated fast. We deal with these every single day, so call us with your questions and don’t be overwhelmed by the VA.
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 onto 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 DIC claim is paid to survivors of military Servicemembers 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.
$1300 is the base rate that can go to a widow on a monthly basis. 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 that 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 any time.
If you want to review the Department of Veterans Affairs website regarding DIC, feel free to call us afterward with questions at (866)232-5777. We never charge a fee to answer your questions.
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.
An Experienced Team Can Do a Lot for Your DIC Claim
There are hundreds of pages of paperwork involved in applying for DIC. Our team works on benefits for veterans and benefits for widows/widowers of deceased Servicemembers full time. We’ll go over every page of their C-File and every other document we gather from the VA, doctors, and other professionals. Some C-Files can be thousands of pages long, detailing the history while the veteran was in active duty, any service-connected disability and other details about discharge or follow-up doctor’s visits.
We have doctors and psychiatrists that look over your claim to make sure we aren’t missing any opportunities for you to be fully compensated for your veteran’s sacrifice. We also interview family members, friends, and employers to create a complete whole-life picture of the veteran and the impact that their disability had on them. This is all done at no cost to you. We only get a minority percentage of the final settlement once you win your case.
Additional Resources that might be useful if you are seeking a DIC Disability Claim:
What is a DIC?
“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.” – From The Department of Veterans Affairs website
When Do I Apply?
Apply for Accrued or Substitution Claims within one year of the veteran’s death. DIC claims can be done at any time, but the sooner the better so that you can start receiving benefits.
What forms do I fill out?
We will fill out everything for you, but if you want to work on your Accrued, Substitution, or DIC claim on your own, you’ll need several of these forms:
These forms are all listed on the Accrued Benefits and Substitution Factsheet found here, except we have updated the links to be more accurate with the newly updated forms.
Before You Submit Your DIC Claim, Call Us
Just like a paid accountant can find more details in your tax return than the free helper at the library, letting an experienced attorney review your claim can only make your case better. You have nothing to lose except the worry that you might not have done enough to win your case. Contact our team today to make sure every detail of your disability case is covered.