If you are the surviving spouse of a veteran, you have made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States and everyone living here. While there is nothing that can ever truly compensate you for that sacrifice, there may be some benefits to which you are entitled as a result of your status as a surviving spouse. To give you some idea that those are, an Indianapolis veterans benefits attorney at Frank & Kraft explains what veterans benefits you are entitled to as a surviving spouse.
Are You a Surviving Spouse?
The first step in determining if you are entitled to any VA benefits as a surviving spouse is to make sure that the VA considers you to be a surviving spouse. The VA will consider you to be a surviving spouse if at least one of the following is true:
- You were married to the veteran for at least a year.
- You were married for any length of time and your spouse died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.
- You married the veteran within 15 years of his or her discharge from service, and the injury or illness that caused the veteran’s death started in military service, or was made worse by service.
- You were married to the veteran before January 1, 1957.
- You had a child with the veteran, and
- you were living with the veteran until his or her death, or
- you were separated, and the separation was not your fault.
VA Benefits for a Surviving Spouse
As you may already know, there are numerous benefits available to veterans, each with its own set of eligibility guidelines and application procedures. You may also already know from experience that navigating the application process for any VA benefit can be confusing and time consuming. Given the complexity of the eligibility guidelines for most benefit programs, and the frequency with which they change, it is always best to consult with a VA benefits attorney to determine if you are, indeed, eligible for a specific benefit. As a surviving spouse, some of the more common VA benefits to which you may be entitled include:
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (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. To be eligible, a surviving spouse must have been:
- Married to a Servicemember who died on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, OR
- Validly married the Veteran before January 1, 1957, OR
- Married the Veteran within 15 years of discharge from the period of military service in which the disease or injury that caused the Veteran’s death began or was aggravated, OR
- Was married to the Veteran for at least one year, OR
- Had a child with the Veteran, AND
- Cohabited with the Veteran continuously until the Veteran’s death or, if separated, was not at fault for the separation, AND
- Is not currently remarried (NOTE: A surviving spouse who remarries on or after December 16, 2003, and on or after attaining age 57, is entitled to continue to receive DIC.)
- Survivors Pension — also be referred to as Death Pension, is a tax-free monetary benefit payable to a low-income, un-remarried surviving spouse and/or unmarried child(ren) of a deceased Veteran with wartime service. To be eligible as a surviving spouse, you must meet a yearly income requirement that is set by Congress each year and your deceased spouse must meet the following service requirements:
- For service on or before September 7, 1980, the Veteran must have served at least 90 days of active military service, with at least one day during a war time period.
- If he or she entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally he or she must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty with at least one day during a war time period.
- Was discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions.
- Home Loans – surviving spouses may be able to participate in a home loan guaranty benefit and other housing-related programs to help you buy, build, repair, retain, or adapt a home for your own personal occupancy.
- Aid and Attendance OR Housebound – veterans and survivors who are eligible for a VA pension and require the aid and attendance of another person, or are housebound, may be eligible for additional monetary payment through this program. These benefits are paid in addition to monthly pension, and they are not paid without eligibility to Pension.
Office of Survivors Assistance
The Veterans Administration has a special program, the Office of Survivors Assistance, that is dedicated to providing assistance and support to survivors. They have a “Frequently Asked Question” on their website where you can find answers to some common questions.
Contact an Indianapolis Veterans Benefits Attorney
For more information, please sign up for one of our upcoming FREE seminars. If you have additional questions or concerns about veterans benefits for a surviving spouse, contact an experienced Indianapolis veterans benefits attorney at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.
Mr. Kraft assists clients primarily in the areas of estate planning and administration, Medicaid planning, federal and state taxation, real estate and corporate law, bringing the added perspective of an accounting background to his work.
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