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What Are Veterans’ Survivor Benefits?

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides several types of benefits for the millions of veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The family members of these veterans are also eligible for certain benefits, both during their loved ones’ lives and after they pass away.

If you are the surviving spouse, child, or parent of a deceased military veteran, you may be eligible for survivor benefits from the VA. You could also receive benefits for other services, like healthcare. It is important to know what types of benefits you may qualify for—and how to apply for them.

Death Pension

As the surviving family member of a deceased veteran, you are likely eligible for a death pension. This benefit is paid to the surviving spouse and eligible children of a veteran who meets the following criteria:

  • The veteran had honorable wartime service.
  • The veteran’s death was not related to his or her service.

To receive a death pension, a surviving spouse must have been married to the veteran for at least one year before the death. This requirement is waived if the spouse and the veteran had a child together during or before their marriage. Death pensions are also based on income, and the VA will not award these benefits to veterans’ spouses with very high incomes.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

If you are the loved one of a veteran who passed away on or after January 1st, 1957, you may qualify for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). This monthly benefit is paid to the surviving spouse, children, or parents of veterans who either died while on active duty or active or inactive duty for training, or in relation to a military-related disability.

In certain cases, DIC may also be paid to survivors of veterans who did not die as a result of a military-related disability. To be eligible for this benefit, the VA must have rated the veteran as totally disabled due to a condition caused by his or her military service.

The veteran must also meet one of the following criteria:

  • The veteran was rated as totally disabled continuously for 10 years before his or her death.
  • The veteran was rated as totally disabled from the date of his or her military discharge and for at least five years before his or her death. 
  • The veteran was rated as totally disabled at least one year immediately before his or her death and was a former prisoner of war.

Death Gratuity

You may also be eligible for a death gratuity if your loved one died on active duty or active or inactive duty for training. The VA may also grant a death gratuity if your loved one died within 120 days after his or her release from active duty, as long as the death was caused by a military-related disability. 

The VA provides death gratuity benefits to the surviving spouse or child of a deceased veteran. If the veteran did not leave behind a surviving spouse or child, his or her parents or siblings may be eligible if they were designated as the next of kin.

Aid & Assistance

If you receive DIC or a death pension from the VA, you may also be eligible for Aid & Assistance benefits. You are also eligible for this compensation if you require regular assistance from another person to eat, dress, bathe, or perform other daily tasks. These benefits are typically awarded to survivors who are physically or mentally incapacitated.

Survivor Benefit Plan

The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is an optional plan that military veterans can pay into. If your deceased loved one opted into this insurance, you may be eligible for a monthly payment or annuity. SBP benefits may be awarded to a surviving spouse, children, or disabled dependent. 

Healthcare Benefits for Veteran Survivors

As the surviving spouse or child of a military veteran, you may be eligible for health insurance through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). This program covers the cost of medically necessary services provided by a VA-authorized medical professional, such as the following:

  • Inpatient and outpatient services
  • Family planning and maternity 
  • Mental health services
  • Hospice care
  • Prescription medicines
  • Skilled nursing care
  • Transplants

You may be eligible for CHAMPVA if you do not qualify for TRICARE, an insurance program for active duty, National Guard, and Reserve members, retirees, and family members. Your loved one must have also met one of the following criteria:

  • Your loved one died from a VA-rated disability related to his or her military service.
  • Your loved one was rated permanently disabled by a military-related condition at the time of his or her death.
  • Your loved one died in the line of duty and misconduct was not responsible for his or her death.

Burial Benefits

If your loved one is eligible to be buried in a national cemetery maintained by the VA, you can apply for benefits from the National Cemetery Administration. The VA will provide perpetual care, a burial flag, a government headstone or marker, opening and closing of the grave, and a Presidential Memory Certificate at no cost to your family. As a spouse or dependent, you may also be eligible for burial in a VA national cemetery.

How to Apply for Veteran’s Survivor Benefits

There are many benefits programs available to the survivors of deceased service members, from pensions and health insurance to loans, no-fee passports, and education and training benefits. To apply for these benefits, you can either:

  • Visit the VA website and complete the online application
  • Print out the application and mail it to the VA
  • Bring your completed application to a VA regional office and submit it in person

Veterans' Survivor Benefits

Consult with an Attorney About VA Benefits

Recovering fair benefits from the VA can be a very challenging process. The VA often denies claims on grounds like lack of evidence or perceived ineligibility, but it is possible to successfully appeal these decisions. In these situations, it is important to have an attorney on your side who is knowledgeable of veterans’ rights and can help you and your family navigate the complex process.

Our Camp Lejeune water contamination attorney has experience helping military members and their families prepare applications and assess options for compensation. We are ready to represent you during an appeal if necessary. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case and learn more about your next steps.