Introduction to DIC Benefits for Widows
First a word of encouragement and thanks. Military families deserve to be protected by DIC benefits for widows after the loss of a loved one. Many widows of veterans were caretakers of their former spouse for long periods of time throughout their last few years. We have worked with so many widows that we understand the grief of losing a disabled spouse. Many widows of veterans were also the rock of the family when the veteran was serving across the county or globe, at training, or served during a war or even natural disaster. We want to thank you for all you have done to support our veterans and we are very sorry for your loss!
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits are available to widows who lost their spouse to a service-connected disability. Mental and physical disabilities are both eligible causes of death for DIC benefits for widows. A veteran’s death can be service-connected in many different ways, which will be discussed later in-depth. But before you craft a legal argument, you need to get past the first two major requirements in the next section.
Two Major Requirements to be Eligible for DIC Benefits for Widows
Requirement #1: The Veteran Must Have Been Your Spouse at Death
To qualify for DIC benefits you must prove that you are a spouse of a veteran. There are a number of different ways in which you can do that. In order to be considered a qualifying spouse you must either be married to the veteran or be in what is called a “deemed valid marriage” to the veteran. “Deemed Valid” is determined by common law marriage standards regardless of whether you reside in a common law marriage state.
How you prove you were the spouse of the veteran:
- First, to qualify you have to show you are either married to the veteran for a year or holding yourself out as married to the veteran for a year in that deemed valid marriage.
- Second, you have to show that you continuously lived or cohabited with the veteran for the length of your marriage.
- Third, you must demonstrate you have not remarried since the death of the veteran.
Of course, as so often is the case with the law there are exceptions. For example, you may be able to prove an exception for the continuous cohabitation rule if you can show you were living apart for medical reasons or you had a reason to live apart with no intention to desert each other. Another example would be marital discord, where for certain reasons the widow and the veteran may have not been able to get along at points in their marriage and they did not live together.
Requirement #2: The Veteran Must Have Died From Service-Connected Conditions
The veteran must have died from a service-connected condition. But that doesn’t mean they needed to be rated for the exact cause of death. If the veteran’s service-connected disability was a contributory cause to the veteran’s passing, the widow may be eligible for DIC benefits.
For example, suppose a veteran was service-connected for diabetes, hypertension, and ischemic heart disease from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. These three service-connected disabilities destroy many different systems of the body. Therefore, there are many, many conditions that could qualify for DIC benefits for widows. If those conditions contribute to the veteran’s death, the widow is likely to receive Vietnam veterans DIC disability compensation.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Payment Amounts
- $1,283.11 Basic monthly rate (38 U.S.C. 1311(a)(1))
- $272.46 Add this amount if at the time of the veteran’s death, the veteran was in receipt of or entitled to receive compensation for a service-connected disability rated totally disabling (including a rating based on Individual Unemployability) for a continuous period of at least 8 years immediately preceding death AND the surviving spouse was married to the veteran for those same 8 years.
- $317.87 Add the following allowance for each dependent child under age 18.
- $317.87 If the surviving spouse is entitled to Aid and Attendance benefits, add $301.
- $148.91 If the surviving spouse is entitled to Housebound, add $141
- $270.00 If the surviving spouse has one or more children under the age 18 on the award, add the 2-year transitional benefit
Frequently Asked Questions: DIC Benefits for Widows
Are DIC benefits for widows taxable?
No. Widows will not be taxed for receiving DIC benefits. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits are exempt from taxes.
Did the veteran need to die from a service-connected condition?
Yes. To be eligible for DIC benefits for widows, the veteran must have passed away from a service-connected condition. Many widows think they are not eligible because they don’t understand how secondary service-connected conditions work. Many veterans die from secondary conditions or complications that stem from their direct service-connected disability.
What if I’m not sure the condition was service-connected?
If you are not sure if your ex-spouse’s death was from a service-connected condition, you can reach out to a DIC veteran widow benefits attorney at Woods & Woods to talk about your claim. We have service-connected many claims where the widow and the VA did not initially understand the pathology of the disease or condition that resulted in the veteran’s death. We often work with doctors to better understand how the veteran’s death could have been related to one of their service-connected conditions.
Can I receive extra monthly benefits for my children?
Yes. It is important to keep in mind that monthly DIC benefits for widows can generally be increased to compensate for a veteran’s qualifying children. If you are eligible to obtain DIC benefits for widows, your dependent children may qualify you for monthly compensation beyond just the standard DIC benefits.
Are DIC benefits for widows available to same-sex partners?
Yes. If you were in a same-sex marriage and your spouse died from a service-connected condition, you might be eligible for DIC benefits for widows. Years ago the VA did not allow same-sex partners to obtain DIC benefits for widows, but that has changed.
Are there income limits for DIC benefits?
No. The VA will not consider income or assets when determining a widow’s eligibility for DIC benefits. Where many widows get confused is that pension benefits do have income limits. DIC benefits are compensation, not pension, and therefore have no income limit.
Can I receive DIC and SSDI benefits at the same time?
Yes. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and DIC benefits for widows can be received at the same time. Widows who wish to receive both must apply for each separately. Each benefit has its own rules and regulations. Some widows are approved for one and denied the other benefit. Woods & Woods can assist widows with both DIC and SSDI claims.
What if the veteran died from VA medical malpractice?
If the veteran died from VA medical malpractice in the treatment of their service-connected conditions, you may be eligible to receive DIC benefits for widows. Unfortunately, too many veterans die from medical mistakes in VA facilities. Widows who lost their spouses in certain circumstances may be eligible to receive DIC benefits and file a VA medical malpractice claim. Proving negligence by a VA medical provider can be difficult. If your family lost a veteran from medical malpractice, we highly recommend you talk to a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) lawyer soon because you have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit. Woods & Woods can assist with both claims.
How to Link Service-Connected Conditions to Cause of Death for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Benefits
Below are examples of how widows win DIC claims where the veteran had service-connected disabilities, but they died of related illnesses. The exact cause of death does not need to be the exact condition that was service connected. Remember, if the veteran’s service-connected disability was a contributory cause to the veteran’s passing, the widow may be eligible for DIC benefits. Here are some examples of situations in which DIC benefits for widows are approved:
Asthma & Breathing Problems
Asthma and breathing problems are service-connected conditions that often result in death from heart problems or COPD. If the veteran was service-connected for asthma or breathing problems and died from heart problems or COPD, you might be eligible for DIC benefits for widows. Asthma and breathing problems are often what leads to death from heart problems or COPD. Widows can win Dependency and Indemnity Compensation claims that link these conditions together.
Cancer Treated With Chemo or Radiation
Cases where the veteran dies from cancer are often approved by the VA. But the VA often denies DIC benefits for widows when the veteran dies from chemo or radiation related conditions. For example, many veterans who treated cancer with radiation or chemo often die from stroke, blood problems, heart issues, kidney issues, and liver issues. If the veteran died from stroke, blood problems, heart issues, kidney issues, and liver issues from chemo or radiation treatment, the widow may be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits.
If the veteran was service-connected for Chron’s Disease and passed from complications from Chron’s disease, the widow may be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. DIC benefits for widows are available to veteran’s that passed from complications like anemia related conditions and colon cancer.
Diabetes causes many heath issues because diabetes prevents cells from regenerating. Diabetes is known for slowly destroying many of the body’s systems. If the veteran was service-connected for diabetes, you can service-connect many different reasons for a veteran’s death. Diabetes is one of the service-connected conditions that can be linked to multiple causes of death for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefit claims.
Exposure to Contaminants
Untold numbers of veterans were exposed to toxic chemicals at military bases and while serving abroad. The toxins at Camp Lejeune and Agent Orange are probably the best known toxic exposure cases. But what many widows don’t know is that hundred of bases are polluted and exposed thousands of veterans to cancer causing chemicals. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits are available to widows who can prove their veteran spouse died from cancer that was caused by a polluted military base.
GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
While veterans don’t generally die from GERD, they die from GERD complications. DIC benefits for widows are available if the veteran was service-connected for GERD and died from esophageal cancer. Study after study has linked GERD to esophageal cancer. Many Dependency and Indemnity Compensation claims for esophageal cancer are wrongly denied by the VA. If this happened to you, we highly suggest you appeal to receive DIC benefits for widows.
You would be surprised how many veterans are service-connected for hepatitis. Widows who lost their veteran spouse from hepatitis complications are eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits. DIC benefits for widows are often awarded if the veteran was service-connected from hepatitis and died from liver cancer or liver failure. Hepatitis destroys the liver over time and liver cancer or liver failure are often the cause of death for veterans with hepatitis.
Veterans with service-connected hypertension often die from heart disease or stroke. Widows can win Dependency and Indemnity Compensation claims if the veteran was service-connected for hypertension and died from heart disease or stroke. The VA often fails to approve these claims, even though research has shown an indisputable link between hypertension and conditions like heart disease or strokes.
Leg Problems/Varicose Veins
Veterans often have leg problems and varicose veins from their military service. Veterans were regularly required to stand for long periods of time, march, drill, and other intensive activities that can lead to leg problems and varicose veins. Leg problems and varicose veins are a known cause of stroke and pulmonary embolism. Widows can win Dependency and Indemnity Compensation claims if the veteran died from pulmonary embolism or stroke and was service-connected for leg problems or varicose veins.
Meds for Service-Connected Pain Condition
Veterans with service-connected pain conditions often die from liver issues, kidney problems, and accidental overdoses. Opioid overdose deaths may pass the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation requirements if the veteran was prescribed the medication at the time of death. Other veterans may damage their kidney or liver from acetaminophen taken for pain relief as well. DIC benefits for widows are available if you can prove the veteran took these medications for pain and that was the cause of death. We warn you, the VA regularly and wrongly denies these claims. If this happened to you, appeal the VA’s decision.
Veterans with service-connected mental conditions regularly pass from physical impairments like heart problems, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, failure to take medications, failure to seek treatment, and suicide. Linking mental conditions to physical conditions can be difficult to do in many cases. Our veterans disability benefits lawyers often consult medical doctors in these cases. The doctors write reports that we use for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation appeals. These reports detail how the veteran’s service-connected mental condition ultimately was the causation behind the death.
Rhinitis & Sinusitis
Rhinitis and sinusitis can both be linked to obstructive sleep apnea and heart problems. If a veteran was service-connected for rhinitis and sinusitis, then dies from sleep apnea or heart problems, the widow may be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits.
Serious Mental or Physical Conditions
Serious mental and physical conditions often lead to suicide in veterans. Many veterans with serious mental and physical service-connected conditions see no way out of their current situation and take their own lives. Depression can take hold of a veteran with serious mental and physical conditions. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits can be obtained by widows of veterans that committed suicide because of service-connected conditions. The VA often denies suicide DIC claims because the DRO viewed the case in the wrong light. DIC benefits for widows are often obtained on appeal in these situations.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Veterans that had a traumatic brain injury in the service are regularly diagnosed with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s later in life. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits for widows are available if the veteran was receiving traumatic brain injury veterans benefits, develops Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, then dies from Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s complications.
Parkinson’s or Alzheimers’s
DIC benefits for widows are available if a veteran was service-connected for Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s at their time of death and died from Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s complications. Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s destroy several systems in the body at the same time. The VA will accept many different causes of death for a widow of a veteran with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
Get Help With Your DIC Benefits for Widows Claim
Since 1985, Woods & Woods has successfully represented thousands of clients. Our understanding and caring staff have helped many widows through very dark times in their lives. Unfortunately, we meet most of our clients while they are going through very rough times. The last thing most widows want to deal with during the grieving process is the VA. While your family is dealing with the loss of a loved one, we can take care of the VA for you.
If you have not yet filed an application for DIC benefits for widows, we can help. Woods & Woods never charges widows for help with their application. If you obtain DIC benefits for widows on the initial application you owe Woods & Woods nothing. We are proud to report we have helped thousands of veterans and widows obtain VA disability benefits through their application at no cost. But the VA isn’t always fair and they don’t approve the majority of claims forcing veterans and widows to appeal – you probably already know this from other friends who applied and were turned down.
We know that many widows are going through tough financial times after the loss of a disabled veteran. Years of medical bills and now the loss of a veteran’s VA disability benefits can be devastating to your finances. Woods & Woods VA disability compensation lawyers never ask for money upfront if you choose to hire us for your appeal. We only charge a fee if we win your appeal. Our fee is a percentage of backpay and case expenses only if we win. Woods & Woods VA benefits appeal lawyers will never touch your future benefits – they are yours!
We also offer free legal consultations on DIC benefits for widows. We can talk about your claim and see what is the best course of action for you to take to obtain Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits. There is no obligation to hire the VA accredited and certified disability attorneys at Woods & Woods just because you had a legal consultation. You will never pay our law firm for phone calls and questions. If you need assistance, just click the link below.