Introduction to DIC Benefits Eligibility & Rules for Widows
There are several different rules that the VA has established regarding eligibility for DIC or Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits. A five-year rule, a ten-year rule, and a one-year rule as well as when a veteran’s death is the result of a service-connected condition.
The ten and five year rules are pretty straightforward… Any veteran who was entitled to a totally disabling service-connected condition continuously for ten or five years before their death will be eligible for DIC benefits.
The one-year rule is somewhat different, it establishes that if a veteran was a prisoner of war, and was receiving a totally disabling service-connected condition at least one year prior to death is eligible for DIC Benefits.
The fourth rule regarding eligibility for DIC is when a veteran’s death results from a service-related condition. In this case it must be proven that a service-connected condition was the principal or primary cause of death. Also that service-connected condition needs to have contributed substantially and materially to the veteran’s cause of death or was the “aggregator to the primary or contributed to cause of death.
In addition, a spouse did not have to be service connected for any conditions at the time of death in order to make you eligible for DIC Benefits, but there are two things that must be proven to the VA in order to be eligible for DIC Benefits. That there was a service connection of the condition that resulted in the veteran’s death, then you’re going to have to show the VA that the same service-connected condition caused the veteran’s death. If the veteran dies in service, you are eligible for DIC benefits.
Finally, even though there is no time limit to file for DIC benefits, it is critical that you file a Form 21P-534 as soon as possible to preserve the earliest effective date. If you get the application in within one year then the claim will relate back to the veteran’s death. If you do it at any point in time after the one-year, then the date of your claim will become the claim date.
Ten Tips on How to Get DIC Benefits
DIC Tip #1: The Surviving Spouse should apply as soon as you can.
When you apply for DIC benefits, you preserve your effective date. This is the date your benefits start. For example, if a veteran died in December 2016, you applied in December 2018, were approved in March 2019, you should receive those missing months of payments dating back to December 2018. If you are denied, appeal the denial and win, you should receive a lump sum check of missing back pay to December 2018. There are lots of rules on effective dates and some exceptions may allow you to go back even further for back pay. For example, if the above widow would have filed within a year after the veteran’s death, the effective date would have been December 2016. The second widow who filed within one year received two more years of back pay. File as soon as you can after the veteran’s death.
DIC Tip #2: Use strong medical evidence.
Strong medical evidence is how you win DIC claims. For example, a DIC benefit appeal lawyer at Woods and Woods will regularly consult with doctors for DIC claim appeals. The doctor will write a statement linking the veteran’s death to service. Linking a veteran’s death to service can be a lot more complicated than many people realize. For example, the death certificate may not state the exact service-connected disability. But you can use doctors reports to link the cause of death to the veteran’s service-connected disability.
DIC Tip #3: A denial is not the end of the road.
If you are denied DIC benefits on the initial application, don’t let that discourage you from obtaining what’s yours. Our VA benefits appeal lawyers would like to remind you that a very large number of DIC claims are initially denied. The VA makes lots of mistakes and regularly denies legitimate claims. Don’t give up, appeal the VA’s bad decision. Do not let your appeal period lapse or you could lose your effective date, which determines the amount of backpay you would receive on a VA disability appeal.
DIC Tip #4: Be patient.
The current VA application and appeal timeline is long and everyone has to wait their turn. While the backlog of cases has decreased from a high of 611,000 claims, the wait times have yet to reflect that decrease. Congress has passed bill after bill to help wait times, but very little progress has been made. You are going to need patience through the entire VA process. Veterans and dependents regularly become very aggravated during the VA appeals process timeline because it take so long. Hang in there and go with the flow. The VA is likely to make mistakes during your DIC benefits claim, but know you can always fight VA mistakes through the appeals process.
DIC Tip #5: Use medical experts.
Medical experts can provide incredible evidence to prove DIC claims. For example, we have proved many cancer-related DIC claims to exposure from toxic chemicals at military bases. We have done so through diligent medical research and working with an oncologist who writes a report linking the cancer to the particular type of chemical the veteran was exposed to while in the service. The use of VA disability medical experts is how we win many of our DIC claims.
DIC Tip #6: A service-connected death is not always straightforward.
Not sure if your veteran spouse’s death is service-connected? Reach out to Woods and Woods. Our legal team can research and see what help is available to you. Widows of veterans are often under the impression that the veteran had to die while serving abroad in a theater of war – that is not true. DIC benefits are much more broad than that.
DIC Tip #7: DIC benefits could extend to active-duty car wrecks.
We used a car wreck as an example to show how you can service-connect many deaths that don’t on the surface seem to be service-connected. When many widows first contact our veterans disability benefits lawyers, they fail to see the service-connection. Linking service and cause of death can be done liberally, thanks to the VA’s own laws. Many Regional Offices deny DIC claims because they don’t understand the law either. Believe it or not, the VA’s laws are very favorable to veterans and their family members. What matters is how you apply the law.
DIC Tip #8: DIC benefits apply to active-duty and training deaths.
Widows that lost a veteran from active-duty or training accidents are both eligible for DIC benefits. Believe it or not, the VA regularly denies straightforward DIC claims for widows too. Sometimes there just isn’t any rhyme or reason to why the VA denies a DIC benefits claim. Generally what we see is the VA examiner misapplied the law or simply ignored the law. If this happened to you, appeal your DIC benefits claim denial.
DIC Tip #9: Many DIC claims have one glaring issue.
Many DIC benefits claims are single-issue: whether or not the veteran’s cause of death is considered service-connected. While that sounds simple, it’s not. If the veteran was service-connected for hypertension, but died from a heart attack, that death could be service-connected. If the veteran died from a drug overdose and was service-connected for PTSD or depression, that may be considered service-connected.
DIC Tip #10: Talk to a DIC benefit lawyer for free.
Get qualified legal assistance when applying, there’s no cost. Ask questions and have them answered for free. Learn your rights as the widow of a veteran. We can’t stress how important it is to have support during this tough time in your life. Don’t let the VA push you around.
FAQ: How To Get DIC Benefits
Who can receive DIC benefits?
DIC benefits are available to widows of veterans and dependents of veterans.
How much do DIC benefits pay monthly?
The current DIC benefits basic monthly pay rate is $1,283.11. There are extra monthly benefits for each child left behind. Widows of veterans can also receive Aid and Attendance benefits. There are also extra benefits available to widows of veterans that were considered permanent and total at the time of their death.
Where can I get help applying for DIC benefits?
You can get free help applying for DIC benefits by reaching out to Woods and Woods. There is never a fee to have a Woods and Woods DIC benefit lawyer help with your application.
How long do I have after the veteran’s death to file a DIC claim?
There is no time limit for filing a DIC benefits claim after a veteran’s death. Some widows don’t file a DIC claim for decades after the death of a veteran. Remember, we highly suggest you file a claim within one year of the veteran’s death to preserve your effective date.
Did I have to be married to the veteran at death?
Yes. If you divorced the veteran before death, you are not eligible for DIC benefits.
Can I appeal a DIC benefits denial?
Yes. Widows of veterans that were denied can appeal for up to one year from the date of the denial. If you were denied, we highly suggest you have a conversation with a DIC benefits appeal lawyer. The VA appeals process is complicated, lengthly, and confuses most military families. A DIC benefit appeal lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and what options to appeal are available to you.
Can I afford a DIC benefit appeal lawyer after a denial?
Yes you can! There is never an upfront payment for getting a DIC benefit appeal lawyer at Woods and Woods. You only pay if the DIC claim appeal is successful. The fee is a percentage of back pay and case expenses. We will never touch your future DIC benefits – they are yours.
How long do DIC benefits last?
Widows of veterans can receive DIC benefits until their death. Once eligible, DIC benefits do not have an expiration date.
Can I get DIC and Social Security Benefits?
Yes. Widows and dependents of veterans can receive both DIC and Social Security benefits at the same time.
Let a DIC Benefit Appeal Lawyer Review Your Case for Free
Since 1985, Woods & Woods has been zealously representing America’s bravest disabled men, women, and their families. Our VA disability compensation lawyers have been honored to help thousands of veterans and their families obtain the benefits they deserve.
Woods & Woods is a family-owned and operated law firm. We understand what military families go through after the loss of a loved one. We have personally seen what veterans and their widows go through when fighting the VA. You don’t have to do this alone, a DIC benefit appeal lawyer at Woods & Woods can help you through the entire VA process.
After the loss of a veteran spouse, you probably have a lot of questions about your DIC benefits claim. There is never a charge to talk to a DIC benefit appeal lawyer about your claim. There is never an obligation to hire a DIC benefit appeal lawyer at Woods & Woods just because you called and asked questions. Our staff is always happy to answer your questions and help you understand the DIC claim process.
Free Help Applying
The DIC veteran widow attorneys at Woods & Woods never charge for help with your DIC application. Our law firm has helped thousands of military families obtain VA disability benefits at no cost with the application alone. Is there a catch? No. We know you’re going to be happy with our service and recommend us to other veterans and their family members. We fully believe you can do well by doing good.
We Appeal DIC Denials
If you were denied, a DIC benefit appeal lawyer at Woods & Woods can fight the VA for you. When you hire Woods and Woods, you always get an experienced DIC benefit appeal lawyer. Your DIC benefit appeal lawyer will handle the entire claim for you. Your DIC benefit appeal lawyer will take care of all the paperwork, deadlines, evidence, briefs, lay statements, and anything else needed for your case. There’s a reason so many former clients recommend Woods & Woods to their friends and family, it’s because your DIC benefit appeal lawyer at Woods and Woods actually cares about you and your claim. We become close to many of our clients, laugh with them, and cry with them when guiding them through the VA disability process.
You Only Pay if the Appeal is Successful
If you hire a DIC benefit appeal lawyer to fight your DIC denial, you won’y pay a penny unless we win! Your DIC benefit appeal lawyer will never ask for money upfront or bill by the hour. Your DIC benefit appeal lawyer at Woods and Woods will not charge for phone calls either. Our fee is a percentage of the backpay and case expenses only if the DIC appeal is successful. If your DIC benefit appeal lawyer is not successful in overturning your DIC denial, you pay Woods and Woods nothing. We have made it easy for widows who lost a veteran spouse to obtain tough legal representation.