Will my VA disability payments pass to my spouse upon my death?

| Heidi H.

This is a common question we hear from our disabled veterans in regards to their VA disability payments. Veterans are concerned that upon their passing, their benefits will cease to exist and will not transfer on to their spouse. While it is true that most disability benefits will cease upon the veteran’s death, there are circumstances which permit the surviving spouse to continue to receive the veteran’s disability payments. One of the benefits available to the veteran’s surviving spouse is what is known as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or “DIC”.

Dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) is a monthly payment made to a survivor because of a service connected death.

To be entitled to DIC benefits:

(1) the veteran died on active military service; or

(2) the veteran had a service-connected disability that was either the principal or contributing cause of death; or

(3) the veteran died from a non-service connected injury or disease and was receiving, or entitled to receive, VA compensation for a service-connected disability rated totally disabling for at least (a) 10 years before death, (b) at least 5 years after the release from active duty preceding death, or (c) at least 1 year before death, if the veteran was a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999.

How does my surviving spouse apply for benefits?

Assuming the veteran’s circumstances meet one of the three circumstances referenced above, a surviving spouse needs to complete VA Form 21-534. There is no deadline for the filing date; however, it is in the best interest of the surviving spouse to file for DIC benefits within one year from the veteran’s date of death.

Who qualifies as a “surviving spouse”?

  • Must be married for at least one year
  • Must be continuous cohabitation
  • Must be the veteran’s spouse at the time of death
  • Must provide proof of a valid marriage
  • Has not remarried, nor has held himself/herself out as a spouse of another

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