Will My Wife Receive My VA Disability When I Die?

As a disabled military veteran, you may count on your VA disability benefits to support yourself and your family. Even if you have other income sources, your benefits help with living expenses like rent and groceries. But what happens to your VA disability benefits if you’re no longer alive to collect them?

Key Takeaways
  • VA disability benefits cease upon the death of the veteran, but surviving spouses and children may be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) if the veteran died in the line of duty or from a service-connected injury or illness.
  • DIC eligibility requires meeting certain conditions, such as the spouse living with the veteran until their death or demonstrating a connection like marriage duration or having a child together.
  • Additional support for surviving spouses includes the VA Survivors Pension, education and training benefits, health care programs, and home loan guarantees.

Will my wife receive my VA disability when I die? Can my ex-spouse get my VA disability if we divorce? Those are important questions to ask. After all, you want to ensure your family’s security. The short answer to these questions is no. Once you die, the VA stops paying disability benefits. However, your spouse or children may be eligible for other support, including benefits through the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation program. 

Learn about alternative support options available to your spouse and children, courtesy of Veterans Guide.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

One of the VA’s benefits they provide families after a veteran’s death is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, or DIC, which provides monthly compensation to eligible spouses or dependents of veterans who die in the line of duty or from a service-connected injury or illness. The DIC program differs from VA disability benefits and has specific eligibility requirements a spouse or dependent must meet. 

In general, one of the following must be true to qualify for DIC compensation:

  • The spouse must have lived with the veteran until the veteran’s death. 
  • If the couple was separated, the veteran’s spouse must not be at fault for the separation.

In addition, the spouse must demonstrate at least one of the following:

  • The couple were married for at least one year.
  • The couple had a child together.
  • The couple married within 15 years of the veteran’s service discharge, and during that period, the veteran’s condition began or worsened.

If the couple has divorced and the spouse later remarries, qualifying for DIC is still possible. Their eligibility depends on the day they remarried and their current age. Ex-spouses who remarried on December 16, 2003, or later and are 57 or older at the time of remarriage may qualify. Or, if the veteran’s ex-spouse is 55 or older, they may qualify if the remarriage occurred on or after January 5, 2021. 

Children may also be eligible for DIC if they meet all the following criteria: 

  • They’re unmarried.
  • They’re not included in the surviving spouse’s DIC benefits.
  • They’re under 18 or under 23 if attending school.

Spouses and dependents who qualify for DIC receive monthly tax-free compensation. The amount varies depending on their classification, when the veteran or service member died, and other factors.

Other Benefits for Spouses of Deceased Service Members

The VA takes care of spouses and dependents of service members who die during duty or succumb to a service-connected illness or injury. Aside from DIC, spouses may qualify for other benefits, including the following.

Survivors Pension

The VA Survivors Pension is available to spouses and unmarried, dependent children who meet specific income and net worth requirements. Like DIC, it provides monthly payments that recipients can use for support. A veteran must not have received a dishonorable discharge to meet initial qualification requirements. The veteran’s time in service must meet one of the following criteria:

  • The veteran started active duty on September 7, 1980, or before, with at least 90 days of active military service and a minimum of one service day during a covered wartime period.
  • The veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, with at least 24 months in active duty. At least one active service day must have occurred during a covered wartime period.
  • The veteran was an officer who entered active duty after October 16, 1981, and hadn’t previously served in active duty for the prior 24 months.

Covered wartime periods include the Gulf War, Vietnam War, Korean Conflict, and World War II. Spouses or dependants wishing to apply for a VA Survivors Pension must show an income and net worth less than the amount stipulated by Congress. That amount changes annually.

Education and Training

Spouses and children of veterans who die in action or from a service-connected disability can qualify for education and training benefits. Several options exist, including the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance, or DEA, and the Fry Scholarship.

The DEA provides monthly payments to qualified spouses or dependents currently enrolled in a higher education program, such as a college or graduate degree, career-training certificate, or apprenticeship. The payments continue for up to 45 months, depending on when they enroll in courses.

Recipients of the Fry Scholarship receive money for tuition, housing, books, and supplies for up to 36 months at qualifying institutions. If a spouse qualifies for both the DEA and the Fry Scholarship, they must choose one program or the other unless they qualify for a special exception.

Health Care

There are several different health care programs available for the surviving spouses of veterans who die during duty or from a service-connected disability. TRICARE provides comprehensive health insurance, including medical coverage, pharmaceuticals, and dental plans, to surviving spouses who qualify.

Another option is CHAMPVA, which offers health care cost sharing to surviving spouses of veterans who die during active duty.

Home Loans Guarantee

The VA’s home loan guarantee program helps surviving spouses qualify for VA-backed home loans. Qualifying surviving spouses get a certificate of eligibility, or COE, which they can provide to their lender during the mortgage application process. The COE may make it easier to secure a favorable loan, but you’ll still need to meet the lender’s income and credit requirements.

Do Ex-Spouses of Deceased Veterans Get VA Disability Benefits?

Even if you’re no longer married, you likely care about your ex-spouse’s future financial security, especially if you have children. If you worry that a service-connected illness or injury is likely to result in your death, you might be curious if they’ll receive your VA disability benefits.

While your ex-spouse won’t receive your VA disability benefits, they may qualify for DIC. They’ll need to prove that they weren’t at fault for the separation and that either your marriage lasted at least one year or you had a child together. If your ex-spouse remarried, qualifying for DIC is still possible if they meet certain age requirements and the marriage occurred on or after December 16, 2003.

Can My Spouse Get VA Pension If I Die?

If you’re a military veteran receiving VA disability benefits, your spouse may qualify for compensation if you die from a service-connected disability or injury. A few available alternatives include the VA Survivor’s Pension and DIC. However, qualification isn’t automatic. Your spouse must meet specific requirements and apply. If the VA determines they’re eligible, they’ll receive monthly benefits.

Applying for Survivor Benefits

The surviving spouse must apply for DIC with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The form type varies depending on the survivor’s status.

If the veteran died during active duty, the spouse must complete VA Form 21P-534a. Surviving spouses of veterans no longer in service can submit VA Form 21P-534EZ. Surviving parents can complete VA Form 21P-535.

There are several ways to apply. Your surviving spouse can apply online using AccessVA, mail the form to the Department of Veterans Affairs Pension Intake Center, or seek assistance from a VA employee at the regional VA office.

Surviving spouses can also seek help from a qualified attorney experienced in the VA claims process. Veterans Guide can connect them with experienced veterans benefit lawyers who can explain what compensation they may receive and assist them through the application process. Reach out today to learn more about our services and schedule a consultation.

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