It’s hard living with a disability from being a veteran. The VA knows it’s even harder if your parents are dependent on you, so they created the Dependent Parent Program.
As a veteran with a disability, you know how tenuous your finances are. If your parents become financially dependent on you, your VA disability benefits might be stretched to the limit.
Fortunately, the VA increases benefits for qualified dependents. In the case of parents, the VA disability dependent parent program can provide additional benefits ranging from around $40 to nearly $300 based on the number of dependent parents and your VA disability rating.
In This Article About The VA Dependent Parent Program:
- What is the VA Disability Dependent Parent Program?
- Are VA Disability Dependent Benefits the Same as VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)?
- Who Qualifies for the VA Dependent Pay?
- How Much is VA Dependent Pay?
- Applying for the VA Disability Dependent Parent Program
- Is There a Dependent Parent Income Limit?
- What Happens if the Parents’ Income Exceeds the Conclusive Dependency Threshold?
- When Should a Veteran File a Dependent Claim?
- What Happens if a Veteran Files a Dependent Claim After Filing the Disability Claim?
- The Value of the VA Disability Dependent Parent Program
What is the VA Disability Dependent Parent Program?
The VA disability dependent parent program is a benefit that is paid to disabled veterans with a disability rating of at least 30% for parents who are dependent on the veteran. The VA is vague about the types of situations that qualify veterans to claim parents as dependents. Instead, the VA uses phrases like “financially dependent,” “caregiver,” and “direct care” to describe the relationship between the veteran and the veteran’s parents.
However, some examples of the situations where a veteran may receive additional disability benefits for dependent parents include:
- Dementia: If a parent has dementia and you live with your parents to take care of them, they may qualify as a dependent.
- Mobility: If you spend a significant amount of time caring for your parents because one or both of your parents use a wheelchair or scooter, they may be dependents even if they do not live in your home.
- Home care: When your parents are confined to your home or their home due to medical issues and you provide substantial time and effort helping them, they might be dependents.
- Assisted living: If your parents are in a residential facility that you pay for, they may be dependent on you.
- Financial dependence: When parents’ income is below the statutory threshold or their expenses exceed their income and assets, you may be eligible for VA dependent pay even if they do not have any major medical problems.
Are VA Disability Dependent Benefits the Same as VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)?
No, the VA disability dependent parent program is different from VA DIC for parents. A few of the differences include:
- Veteran’s status: To be eligible for VA DIC, the veteran must have died. To be eligible for the VA disability dependent parent program, the veteran must be alive and receiving VA disability benefits with a disability rating of at least 30%.
- Parents’ statuses: To qualify for VA DIC, the parents need to fall below a predetermined income and net worth and be the parents of a deceased veteran. To qualify for VA dependent benefits, the parents need to fall below a statutory income and net worth and must be dependent on a veteran with a VA disability rating of at least 30%.
- Application: The deceased veteran’s parents apply for VA DIC. The disabled veteran applies for additional benefits for dependent parents.
- Payments: VA DIC is paid to the parents, while additional compensation for dependents is paid to the veteran with the veteran’s monthly disability payments.
- Rates: VA DIC uses different rate tables than the tables used to determine additional compensation for dependent parents. Moreover, VA DIC rates vary with the parent’s income while the VA dependent pay varies with the veteran’s VA disability rating and number of dependents.
Who Qualifies for the VA Dependent Pay?
A veteran can receive VA dependent pay based on the number of people who depend financially on the veteran including parents. The VA includes biological parents, stepparents, and adoptive parents in the definition of “parents.” The VA also recognizes foster parents or other relatives who acted as the veteran’s parents for at least one year prior to the start of the veteran’s active duty.
The VA has three categories that define who qualifies as a VA dependent:
- Spouse: Anyone with whom you have a marital relationship including a same-sex spouse or a common-law spouse.
- Children: Unmarried children who are under 18, between 18 and 23 and attending school full time, or over 18 and disabled. The VA includes stepchildren and adopted children.
- Parents: Parents who are dependent on you for care and fall under predefined income and net worth thresholds.
How Much is VA Dependent Pay?
The amount of VA dependent pay varies with the number and nature of dependents and your VA disability rating. Roughly speaking, the VA disability dependent parent program for one parent is about $40 per month for a veteran with a 30% disability rating. With a VA disability rating of 100%, VA dependent pay for two parents is about $280 per month.
The money for the dependent parent program is a tax-free addition to your VA disability benefit and your other dependent pay. After you add in a spouse and child, your VA disability benefit might increase by several hundred dollars per month. To learn more about the VA dependent pay for your specific situation, use our free VA disability benefits calculator.
Applying for the VA Disability Dependent Parent Program
When you want to add children or a spouse as a dependent for your VA disability benefits, you can apply electronically using the VA’s eBenefits web portal. Here, you can submit forms and documentation of disability or school attendance.
However, if you want to add a parent as a dependent for your VA disability benefits, you can only apply by mail. The VA requires you to fill out VA form 21P-509, Statement of Dependency of Parents. This form requires full disclosure of your parents’ income and assets so the VA can determine if you are eligible to receive dependent pay. You and your parents will sign this form before submitting it by mail.
Is There a Dependent Parent Income Limit?
No. However, a monthly income below $400 for a single parent and $660 for a parent and a spouse automatically qualifies the veteran for the VA disability dependent parent program as long as they are dependent on the veteran for their care. The spouse of the parent does not need to be the biological or adoptive parent of the veteran because the VA recognizes that a parent of a veteran may remarry and still qualify.
If the parent has other family members living in the parent’s household, the monthly income threshold for conclusive dependency is raised $185 for each additional person. So, for example, if a veteran’s parents live with the veteran’s grandmother, the maximum monthly income to conclusively qualify would be $745 rather than $660.
The income that is counted includes all sources of income including:
- Wages or salary
- Contributions by other family members
- Social security benefits
- Pension benefits
- Insurance benefits
- Dividends and proceeds from the sale of stock
- Interest income
- Business income, including rent and farm income
Here is a video explaining how the VA combined ratings table works from one of our Veterans Disability Lawyers.
What Happens if the Parents’ Income Exceeds the Conclusive Dependency Threshold?
A veteran can still qualify for VA dependent pay if the parents’ income exceeds the monthly maximum. When the parents earn too much to automatically qualify, the VA will evaluate the case based on whether the parents’ expenses exceed their income and assets. This usually occurs because the parents have high medical expenses. However, the evaluation is not limited to this specific situation.
Thus, if a veteran’s parents earn more than $660 per month, they would not automatically qualify. However, VA form 21P-509 also asks the parents to list their qualified expenses. If these expenses exceed the income, the veteran might still qualify for VA dependent pay. The expenses that the parents can list include:
- Home repairs and maintenance
- Medical care
To completely evaluate the parents’ financial state, they must also list their assets including bank accounts, stocks, bonds, and real estate. Assets that are not required to be disclosed include the parents’ residence, automobile, and personal property. Most of what they need to disclose is shown on their income tax return.
The VA takes this information and determines whether the parents’ income is below the statutory threshold after it is reduced by their expenses or if their assets are insufficient to cover their basic needs. For example, if a disabled veteran’s parents make $2,000 per month but have $3,000 per month in expenses due to a parent’s dialysis, the veteran might qualify for the VA dependent parent program. This would increase the veteran’s VA disability payment so the veteran can assist the parents with their needs.
When Should a Veteran File a Dependent Claim?
The earlier a veteran files a dependent claim, the better the outcome can be. If you file your dependent claim with your disability claim, the VA will be able to evaluate both your disability claim and your dependent claim together and your VA dependent pay should be included in your first VA disability check.
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When you file your dependent claim with the disability claim, the VA uses your original filing date to begin calculating benefits, and it sometimes takes years to evaluate claims after you file. As a result, this first check might include a substantial amount of VA disability back pay for dependents.
Filing a dependent claim with the disability claim is most feasible for married veterans with unmarried children who can be included in the original filing. As mentioned above, the window for claiming dependent children in a VA disability claim is quite wide since veterans can claim VA compensation for dependents in college until they turn 23 years old.
The effective date is one of the most important parts of your VA disability claim. This video explains the importance of your effective date from an experienced VA disability lawyer.
What Happens if a Veteran Files a Dependent Claim After Filing the Disability Claim?
In some situations, filing a dependent claim with the disability claim is not feasible. For example, you might need to file a separate dependent claim if you get married, have children, or become a caregiver for a parent after you file your disability claim. Dependent claims that are filed with your disability claim will be paid from your original filing date, resulting in substantial VA retro pay for dependents if you are granted a VA disability rating of 30% or higher.
In certain circumstances, you might not file a dependent claim until after the VA has already approved your VA disability claim. If you file your dependent claim within one year after the approval of your original claim, it will reach back to your original filing date. However, if you file more than one year after approval, the filing date of the dependent claim will be used, and you might only receive a small amount of VA back pay for dependents.
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The Value of the VA Disability Dependent Parent Program
VA disability is intended to compensate you for your lost capacity to work due to service-connected disabilities. When you are financially responsible for a spouse, children, and parents, you are entitled to apply for additional compensation. This lowers the financial pressure on you and ensures that your family can be taken care of.
Call our VA disability team for free to discuss the additional disability pay that you are entitled to under the VA dependent parent program. We assist veterans regardless of where they are located or whether they were deployed.
If you file your dependent claim within one year after the approval of your original claim, it will reach back to your original filing date.
Yes, she will have to qualify with specific income and net-worth thresholds, but she still qualifies as a dependent parent.