Death pension is the income supplement program for a low-income surviving spouse and/or unmarried children of a veteran with wartime service.
The death pension provides a monthly payment to bring an eligible person's income to a level established by law. The payment is reduced by the annual income from employment or other sources such as Social Security. The payment may be increased if the recipient has un-reimbursed medical expenses that can be deducted from countable income.
Spouses must not have remarried and children must be under age 18, or under age 23 if attending a VA-approved school, or the child became permanently incapable of self-support because of a disability before age 18.
Veterans service requirements:
Service prior to September 7, 1980
- Veteran served on active duty for at least 90 consecutive days, at least one day of which was during a wartime period.
- If service was for less than 90 days, the veteran was discharged because of a disability for which service connection could be established without resort to any presumptive provisions of the law.
- Veteran had a disability for which service connection could be established which would have warranted a discharge for disability.
- Veteran had two or more separate periods of active service for an aggregate of 90 days or more during more than one period of war.
- Veteran must be discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
Service beginning after September 7, 1980
- Veteran must have served a minimum active service of 24 consecutive months, or the full period for which they were called to active duty, whichever is less, with at least one day of active duty during a wartime period.
- If the veteran died while on active duty under circumstances precluding payment of service-connected benefits (e.g., the death was not in line of duty, or was the result of willful misconduct), death pension may be payable to the surviving spouse and/or children provided the veteran had served honorably for at least two years, any part of which was during a wartime period.
- Veteran must be discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
Death pension rates are adjusted annually with a cost of living increase. The rate tables may be accessed through the VA's website at http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Rates/pen02.htm
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, commonly referred to as DIC, is the primary monthly monetary benefit payable to the surviving dependents of a deceased veteran.
For a survivor to be eligible for DIC, the veteran's death must have resulted from one of the following causes:
- A disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty while on active duty or active duty for training.
- An injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty while on inactive duty training.
- A service-connected disability or a condition directly related to a service-connected disability.
DIC payments also may be authorized for survivors of veterans who were totally service-connected disabled when they died, even though their service-connected disabilities did not cause their deaths. The survivor qualifies if the veteran was:
- Continuously rated totally disabled for a period of 10 or more years immediately preceding death.
- Continuously rated totally disabled from the date of military discharge and for at least five years immediately preceding death.
- A former prisoner of war who died after Sept. 30, 1999, and who was continuously rated totally disabled for a period of at least one year immediately preceding death.
Payments are subject to offset by any amount received from judicial proceedings brought on account of the veteran's death. The discharge must have been under conditions other than dishonorable.
Who Is Eligible?
The surviving spouse if he or she:
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.
- validly married the veteran before January 1, 1957, OR
- was married to a service member who died on active duty, 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.*
The surviving child(ren), if he/she is:
Note: Certain helpless adult children are entitled to DIC.
- not included on the surviving spouse's DIC
- unmarried AND
- under age 18, or between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending school.
The surviving parent(s)
may be eligible for an income-based benefit.
Payments for deaths after January 1, 1993:
Surviving spouses of veterans who died on or after January 1, 1993, receive a basic rate, plus additional payments for dependent children, for the aid and attendance of another person if they are patients in a nursing home or require the regular assistance of another person, or if they are permanently housebound.
Special Allowances: An additional monetary allowance may be added to the DIC payment if: at the time of the veteran's death, the veteran was in receipt of, or entitled to receive compensation for a service-connected disability rated totally disabling (including a rating based on individual unemployability) for a continuous period of at least eight years immediately preceding death AND the surviving spouse was married to the veteran for those same eight years.
Payments for deaths prior to January 1, 1993:
Surviving spouses of veterans who died prior to January 1, 1993, receive an amount based upon the deceased's military pay grade.
The application to apply for benefits is VA Form 21-534 Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by a Surviving Spouse or Child.
What Are Some Related Benefits?
Health Care (CHAMPVA)
Federal Employment Preference
Home Loan Guaranty
Survivors' & Dependents' Educational Assistance
Parents who are dependent on a veteran with a service-connected disability, or whose child died in-service or from a service-connected disability, may be entitled as dependents on the veteran's compensation award or to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) if they are in financial need. Parents may be biological, step, adopted, or in loco parentis (in place of the parent).
Education for Eligible Dependents and Survivors
Dependents' Educational Assistance provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain veterans. The program offers up to 45 months of education benefits. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. If you are a spouse, you may take a correspondence course. Remedial, deficiency, and refresher courses may be approved under certain circumstances.
You must be the son, daughter, or spouse of:
- A veteran who either died of a service-connected disability, who has permanent and total service-connected disability, or who died while such a disability existed.
- A service member listed for more than 90 days as currently Missing in Action (MIA), captured in line of duty by a hostile force, or detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power.
- A service member who is hospitalized or receiving outpatient care or treatment for a disability that is determined to be totally and permanently disabling, incurred or aggravated due to active duty, and for which the service member is likely to be discharged.
Surviving spouses lose eligibility if they remarry before age 57 or are living with another person who has been held out publicly as their spouse. They can regain eligibility if their remarriage ends by death or divorce or if they cease living with the person. Dependent children do not lose eligibility if the surviving spouse remarries.
Period of Eligibility
If you are a spouse, benefits end 10 years from the date VA finds you eligible or from the date of death of the veteran.
For surviving spouses (spouses of service members who died on active duty) benefits end 20 years from the date of death. This is a change in law that became effective 12-10-04. Spouses of service members who died on active duty whose 10-year eligibility period expired before 12-10-04, now have 20 years from the date of death to use educational benefits.
Children generally must be between the ages of 18 and 26 to receive educational benefits, though extensions may be granted.
How to Apply
You should make sure that your selected program is approved for VA training. If you are not clear on this point, VA will inform you and the school or company about the requirements.
Obtain and complete VA Form 22-5490, Application for Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance. Send it to the VA regional office with jurisdiction over the State where you will train. If you are a son or daughter, under legal age, a parent or guardian must sign the application.
For our area, the application must be sent to: VA Regional Office, P.O. Box 100022, Decatur, GA 30031-7022. For detailed information regarding your educational benefits, you may contact the VA Regional Office in Decatur, GA at 1-888-442-4551 or visit http://www.vba.va.gov/survivors/index.htm for more information.
If you have started training, take your application to your school or employer. Ask them to complete VA Form 22-1999, Enrollment Certification, and send both forms to VA.
NC State Veterans Scholarships for Dependent Children
Chapter 165 (Veterans), General Statutes of North Carolina
Article 4. Scholarships for Children of War Veterans.
In appreciation for the service and sacrifices of North Carolina's war veterans, a four-year scholarship program at approved schools in North Carolina has been established for the qualifying children of certain class categories of deceased, disabled, combat or POW/MIA veterans.
To qualify, the applicant must:
- Be under age 25 at time of application.
- Have a veteran parent who was a legal resident of North Carolina at the time of said veteran's entrance into that period of service in the armed forces during which eligibility is established.
- The applicant is the natural child, or adopted child prior to age 15, who was born in North Carolina and has been a resident of North Carolina continuously since birth.
- The veteran's disabilities must have occurred during a period of war.
For Classes II and III, which are competitive, the application must be received in the Assistant Secretary's Office on or before March 1st. There is no deadline for Classes IA, IB, or IV.
For additional information and the application packet, please contact our office.
Home Loan Guaranty for Surviving Spouses
The unmarried surviving spouse of a veteran who died on active duty or as the result of a service-connected disability is eligible for the home loan benefit.
VA Eligibility Center Address and Telephone Number
Please send your request for Determination of Eligibility VA Form 26-1817, along with proof of military service to:
VA Loan Eligibility Center
PO Box 20729
Winston-Salem, NC 27120
For overnight delivery:
VA Loan Eligibility Center
251 N. Main Street
Winston-Salem, NC 27155
Toll free number: 1-888-244-6711
The toll free telephone line to the Eligibility Center in Winston-Salem is 1-888-244-6711. This phone line is the VA's National Automated Response System. Accordingly, callers are now provided a menu of information regarding the guaranteed home loan program and may exercise options from that menu which allow them to speak to VA Eligibility Personnel. Currently, the most direct route through the menu for those program participants who wish to speak to Eligibility personnel includes menu selections in the following order:
(1) - Touchtone phone
(1) - Eligibility
(2) - Status
CHAMPVA, VA Medical Care for Dependents
The Civilian Health and Medical Program of VA (CHAMPVA), provides reimbursement for most medical expenses - inpatient, outpatient, mental health, prescription medication, skilled nursing care and durable medical equipment.
To be eligible for CHAMPVA, an individual cannot be eligible for TRICARE (the medical program for civilian dependents provided by DOD) and must be one of the following:
- The spouse or child of a veteran who VA has rated 100% permanently and totally disabled for a service-connected disability.
- The surviving spouse or child of a veteran, who died from a VA-rated service-connected disability, or who, at the time of death, was rated 100% permanently and totally service-connected disabled.
- The surviving spouse or child of a service member who died in the line of duty, not due to misconduct. However, in most of these cases, these family members are eligible for TRICARE, not CHAMPVA.
A surviving spouse under age 55 who remarries loses CHAMPVA eligibility on midnight of the date of remarriage. However, they may re-establish eligibility if the remarriage ends by death, divorce or annulment effective the first day of the month following the termination of the remarriage or Dec. 1, 1999, whichever is later. A surviving spouse who remarries after age 55 does not lose eligibility upon remarriage.
Those with Medicare entitlement may also have CHAMPVA eligibility secondary to Medicare. Eligibility limitations apply. For specific details, visit the CHAMPVA website at http://www.va.gov/hac/forbeneficiaries/champva/champva.asp
. Once this site pulls up, scroll down to "Benefits" and click on "CHAMPVA Handbook".