What is Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC)?
DIC is a monthly payment for qualifying survivors of veterans who 1) died during service; OR 2) died in whole or in major part as a result from a medical condition that is connected to the veteran’s military service; OR 3) were service connected as totally disabled for ten years prior to death, five years between discharge and death, or, in limited cases, one year prior to death.
A survivor may be able to demonstrate entitlement to DIC even if the principal or contributory cause of death was not a condition that was service-connected by the VA at the time of death. In fact, a survivor can be entitled to DIC even if no application for VA benefits had ever been filed during the veteran’s lifetime. In this situation, the survivor can prove entitlement to DIC by:
- Establishing that the veteran had a disease, injury, or disability that was connected to service. It does not matter if VA denied the veteran disability benefits for the condition during the veteran’s lifetime. The surviving family member is entitled to a new opportunity to show that the condition was service connected.
- Showing that this service-connected condition was a principal or contributory cause of death. A service-connected disability will be considered the principal cause of death when the disability by itself, or jointly with some other condition, was the immediate or underlying cause of death or was related to it. A service- connected disability that contributed substantially or materially to the cause of death may be grounds for a determination that the veteran’s death was related to service.
DIC should not be confused with a death pension which is a needs based benefit for survivors of wartime veterans. The VA rules provide additional ways in which DIC can be established. If you need assistance in appealing your DIC claim, please contact the Law Office of Edward M. Farmer.
Who is eligible to apply for DIC?
A surviving spouse is first in line to receive DIC benefits. To qualify as a surviving spouse, you must have had a valid marriage at the time of the veteran’s death. Additionally, the spouse may have to show that they:
- Were married to the veteran for one year;
- Continuously cohabitated with the veteran during the marriage; and
- Not currently remarried.
Certain exceptions apply to the above. Contact us to discuss if you qualify for DIC.
If there is no eligible surviving spouse, a qualifying surviving child of the deceased veteran may apply for DIC payments. To qualify as a surviving child, the child must be the biological child, adopted child, or a stepchild of the deceased veteran. The child also must be unmarried and either under the age of 18 or between the ages of 18 and 23 if pursuing a course of education, or permanently incapable of self-support before reaching the age of 18.
Certain surviving parents are eligible for DIC in limited circumstances.
I don’t qualify for DIC, is there another VA benefit which I may be eligible to receive?
A surviving spouse or child of a veteran whose death is not service connected may still be eligible for a monthly VA benefit known as a death pension. To be eligible, the deceased Veteran must have met the following service requirements:
- For service on or before September 7, 1980, the Veteran must have served at least 90 days of active military service, with at least one day during a period of war.
- All veterans who entered active duty after September 7, 1980, must have completed 24 months of active duty, or the full period for which ordered to active duty with at least one day during a period of war.
- The Veteran was discharged from service under conditions other than dishonorable.
The death pension is also based on the survivor’s financial need. The award given to a survivor is reduced by the amount of the survivor’s countable income. The general rule is that all income is included, unless specifically excluded. Exclusions include:
- Welfare payments
- Certain unreimbursed medical expenses
- Child’s income
Surviving spouses who have particularly severe disabilities may receive an additional allowance if they meet the requirements for entitlement to the aid and attendance benefit or the housebound benefit. Lastly, the survivor’s net worth must be under $80,000 not including the market value of the survivor’s home.
The Veteran died before the appeal was finalized. Can a spouse continue the appeal in their place?
A process called substitution allows an eligible surviving spouse or child to be substituted as the veteran for the purposes of processing the claim to completion. The Veteran must have appealed before his death and substitution must be requested within one year of the veteran’s death. If successful, a substituted claimant is entitled to the entire amount of benefits that would have been paid had death not occurred.