VA Benefits Available to Surviving Spouses
VA Surviving Spouse Benefits
The surviving spouse (widow or widower) of a veteran may be eligible for Veterans Administration (VA) benefits. Types of VA surviving spouse benefits include Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), death (survivors) pension, housebound pension and Aid & Attendance.
Continue to scroll down to obtain information on the benefits that are available to the surviving spouses of deceased veterans. Here you can learn about benefits such as:
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
- Survivors Pension
- Burial Benefits
- Funeral Reimbursement
- Accrued Benefits
- Home Loan Guaranty
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
DIC is a monthly benefit paid to eligible survivors of a military service member who died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, or:
- when the veteran's death resulted from a service-related injury or disease, or
- when the veteran's death resulted from a non service-related injury or disease, and who was receiving, or was entitled to receive, VA Compensation for service-connected disability that was rated as totally disabling for at least 10 years immediately before death, or since the veteran's release from active duty and for at least five years immediately preceding death, or for at least one year before death if the veteran was a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999.
The basic monthly rate of DIC is $1,437.56 for an eligible surviving spouse. The rate is increased for each dependent child, and also if the surviving spouse is housebound or in need of aid and attendance. VA also adds a transitional benefit of $356.16 to the surviving spouse's monthly DIC if there are children under age 18. The amount is based on a family unit, not individual children. An allowance of $356.16 a month is also available if the person receiving DIC needs aid and attendance.
The surviving children of a deceased veteran may also be eligible for VA benefits if the veterans son or daughter:
- is not included on the surviving spouse's DIC
- is unmarried and
- is under age 18, or between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending school.
The Survivors Pension is a tax-free, monetary benefit for un-remarried surviving spouses of wartime veterans. It is a needs-based benefit for widows and widowers of any age. To receive the benefit, the surviving spouse must have countable income below a yearly limit set by Congress. The current annual income limit is $9,896 for a surviving spouse with no dependent children, and $12,951 for a surviving spouse with one dependent child (add $2,523 for each additional child).
Surviving spouses qualify if they have not remarried after the veteran’s death, the veteran was not dishonorably discharged, and the veteran satisfies one of the following requirements:
- Entered active duty on or before September 7, 1980 and served at least 90 days with at least 1 day during a covered wartime period
- Entered active duty after September 7, 1980 and served at least 24 months with at least 1 day during a covered wartime period
- Veteran was an officer who began active duty after October 16, 1981 and hadn’t served on active duty for at least 24 months
Surviving spouses who qualify for a survivor pension may receive an additional monetary benefit if they are substantially confined to their immediate premises because of permanent disability.
Surviving Spouse Aid & Attendance
Aid & Attendance is a special, tax-free pension for veterans and surviving spouses who need long-term care, either at home or in a care facility. It is a monthly monetary benefit that includes the VA’s Survivors Pension.
To qualify for the benefit, the surviving spouse must need help with some of the daily tasks of living, like bathing and dressing. According to a 2010 national survey of veterans and family members, 16.3 percent of surviving spouses needed help with personal (daily living) care. Home care can be provided by a friend, family member or professional caregiver.
The benefit can also be used to help pay for adult day care, board and care, assisted living and skilled nursing home care.
The maximum Aid and Attendance benefit for a surviving spouse is $1,793.82 per month ($21,525.84 per year).
If you’re a veteran and your discharge was not dishonorable, you are probably eligible for burial in a national veterans cemetery. If you’re buried in a private cemetery, your family may be entitled to a veteran’s burial allowance. You can receive military funeral honors and memorial items whether you’re interred in a veterans cemetery or a private one.
Military Funeral Honors and Memorial Items
Almost all veterans can receive military funeral honors at no cost. They are also usually eligible for free memorial items including:
- Headstones, markers, and medallions
- Burial flag
- Presidential Memorial Certificate
Burial in National and State Veterans Cemeteries
Eligibility for burial in a VA national or state cemetery is typically open to the following individuals:
- Veterans of the armed forces
- Service members who died while on active duty
- A veteran’s spouse
- A veteran’s minor child
If you’re a veteran or the spouse of one, your Nevada County Veterans Services Office can assist you with applying a pre-need application with the VA to learn if you qualify for burial in a VA national cemetery. If you do, you’ll get a pre-need decision letter confirming your eligibility. This will make it much easier on your family when they schedule your burial. Normally, the process to schedule a burial starts with verifying the deceased's eligibility.
Arlington National Cemetery
Eligibility for burial at Arlington National Cemetery is stricter than for other national cemeteries. Only active duty, military retirees, former prisoners of war, and recipients of the Purple Heart and other top awards may be buried at Arlington.
You may be eligible for Veterans burial allowances if you’re paying for the burial and funeral costs and you won’t be reimbursed by any other organization, like another government agency or the Veteran’s employer. You must also meet all of these requirements:
- You’re the Veteran’s surviving spouse (Note: We recognize same-sex marriages.), or
- You’re the surviving partner from a legal union (a relationship made formal in a document issued by the state recognizing the union), or
- You’re a surviving child of the Veteran, or
- You’re a parent of the Veteran, or
- You’re the executor or administrator of the Veteran’s estate (someone who officially represents the Veteran)
The Veteran must not have received a dishonorable discharge, and one of these circumstances must also be true:
- The Veteran died as a result of a service-connected disability (a disability related to service), or
- The Veteran died while getting VA care, either at a VA facility or at a facility contracted by VA, or
- The Veteran died while traveling with proper authorization, and at VA's expense, either to or from a facility for an examination, or to receive treatment or care, or
- The Veteran died with an original or reopened claim for VA compensation or pension pending at the time of death, if they would’ve been entitled to benefits before the time of death, or
- The Veteran died while receiving a VA pension or compensation, or
- The Veteran died while eligible for a VA pension or compensation at time of death, but instead received full military retirement or disability pay
- The Veteran had been getting a VA pension or compensation when they died, or
- The Veteran had chosen to get military retired pay instead of compensation
Note: The VA will also provide an allowance for the cost of transporting a Veteran’s remains for burial in a national cemetery.
The VA does not provide can’t get burial allowances if the individual died:
- On active duty, or
- While serving as a member of Congress, or
- While serving a federal prison sentence
A claim for survivor pension by any class of dependent is ALWAYS also a claim for DIC, as well as for any available accrued benefits. Accrued benefits would include any claim (whether formal, informal, or inferred) that was pending and unresolved at the time of the veteran's death, or any recurring benefit that was due but not paid at the time of the veteran's death (such as when a claim was approved but the veteran died before the initial check was issued, or when the initial check was issued but the veteran died before negotiating it). If more than one class of dependents applies, the order of precedence for accrued benefits is (1) surviving spouse and (2) children (in equal shares). If accrued benefits are authorized, they may not be paid for any retroactive period exceeding two years prior to the month of the veteran's death.
This is a health insurance program available to totally disabled veterans and their dependents or to dependents of veterans who died from service-connected disability. There are no premiums associated with this insurance, however co-pays for services must be paid. For eligibility under this program, the veteran-sponsor must be one of the following:
- Be rated permanently totally disabled from service-connected disability;
- Have died on active duty, in line of duty;
- Have died from a service-connected disability; or
- Have been rated service-connected and permanently totally disabled at the time of death from any cause not willful misconduct,
Eligible persons include the veteran's spouse or surviving spouse, minor children under age 18. children between the ages of 18 and 23 who are attending an approved school, and children over age 18 who have been determined to be permanently incapable of self-support ('helpless').
Dependents of retired or other military personnel who are eligible for health care coverage under TRICARE (formerly called CHAMPUS) are not eligible for coverage under CHAMPVA. With the implementation of the CHAMPVA for life program, begun October 2001, persons who turn age 65 do not lose eligibility to the CHAMPVA program as long as they continue to carry the Medicare Part B coverage.
Claimant's who have insurance coverage other than Medicare Parts A & B, will have to complete the required form to inform CHAMPVA. A that time CHAMPVA will pay as a tertiary provider. CHAMPVA will cover most health care services and supplies that are considered medically or psychologically necessary. In general, a covered person under CHAMPVA may seek treatment from any licensed health care provider at any licensed medical facility, including from many VA medical facilities. CHAMPVA administration, including applications and claims, is centralized to the VA Health Administration Center, Denver, Colorado.
The CHAMPVA Meds By Mail Program allows eligible CHAMPVA members to obtain their prescriptions via a mail order pharmacy service at no cost to the beneficiary (co-payments are waived). To participate in Meds By Mail, have a physician write a new prescription for a 90-day supply plus refills (not to exceed one "1" year) Attach the original prescriptions to a completed Meds By Mail order fon-n and mail to the Cheyenne, Wyoming CHAMPVA processing center.
Factors that impact CHAMPVA eligibility for a spouse include:
- Termination of marriage (as of midnight on the effective date)
- Marriage annulment (as of midnight on the effective date)
- Remarriage of a surviving spouse (as of midnight on the effective date)
- Eligible for TRICARE or TRICARE For Life
Factors that impact CHAMPVA eligibility for a CHILD include:
- Reaching 18 years of age or age 23 if a full-time student (as of midnight on the birth date)
- No longer a Full-Time student after age 18 (as of midnight on the birth date)
- Marriage (as of midnight on the effective date)
- Eligibility for TRICARE (as of midnight on the effective date)
- Stepchild is no longer a member of the sponsor's household
Home Loan Guaranty
A VA-guaranteed loan offers a number of safeguards and advantages over a non VA-guaranteed loan. For example, the interest rate is competitive with conventional rates with little or no down payment required. VA-guaranteed loans are made by private lenders, such as banks, savings and loan associations, and mortgage companies. As with any loan, you must apply directly to the lender. Your real estate broker can assist you in finding a lender.
When the loan is approved, VA will guarantee part of it. The amount of VA's guaranty usually depends on the size of the loan. This guaranty protects the lender against loss up to the amount guaranteed by VA. The largest guaranty that VA can give is an amount equal to 25% of the Freddie Mac conforming loan limit for single-family residences. These limits are subject to change each year.
A VA-guaranteed loan can be used to:
- buy a home, a manufactured home, or a condominium
- buy a lot for a manufactured home
- build, repair, or improve a home (including energy efficient improvements)
- refinance an existing loan
Generally, the following persons are eligible:
- veterans who were discharged since 9/16/40, under other than dishonorable conditions
- military personnel on active duty who have served a minimum period
- certain Reservists and National Guard members
- surviving spouses of certain deceased veterans