Death Benefits or DIC
If you qualify as a surviving spouse, child or parent of a Veteran, you may be entitled to monthly VA death benefits. If you are looking for veterans benefits attorney, you have most likely already submitted a claim and had it denied by VA. If you believe you qualify for death benefits or Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and your claim has been denied by VA, contact our office today at 1-888-878-9350 today.
What types of death benefits are available to surviving family members of Veterans?
There are basically two programs that pay benefits to survivors of Veterans whose deaths were service-connected. These benefits are dependence and indemnity compensation (DIC) and death compensation.
Benefits can include a tax free monetary payment for eligible survivors, a survivors’ pension, educational assistance, home loans, health care, educational and vocational training.
When Should I File a Claim for Death or DIC Benefits?
Keep in mind that there is no time requirement for filing a DIC claim. But if the DIC claim is received within one year of the Veteran’s death, the back-pay award for the benefits would go back to the first day of the month following the month in which the Veteran died. Even if the claim for the underlying disability was made during the Veteran’s lifetime and denied, the surviving spouse can still file the claim for DIC and the VA must consider it as a brand new claim.
Who Qualifies for VA Death Benefits
Surviving Spouse of a Veteran
To qualify as a surviving spouse, you must be validly married to the Veteran. You must also have proof of marriage. To qualify you must establish that you were the valid or deemed valid spouse of the Veteran at the time of his death. You may also have to satisfy several other requirements such as: being married one year; have continually cohabited with the Veteran during the marriage; and not have re-married after the Veteran’s death. Keep in mind that the one-year marriage requirement does not apply if the marriage occurred before or during the Veteran’s service or if the couple had children at any time.
Can I Still Qualify for Spousal Benefits if I did Not Live with the Veteran for at Least One Year?
With respect to the requirement that you co-habitate with the Veteran there are exceptions to the co-habitation requirement if the separation was due to the misconduct or the actions of the Veteran. In the experience of our veteran’s benefits attorneys, a Veteran may be suffering from extreme cases of PTSD or other psychiatric problems which make living with him or her difficult or impossible. A surviving spouse might also live apart form the Veteran for business reasons. Therefore, a separation occurring under these circumstances don’t have to impair a surviving spouse’s ability to qualify for death benefits.
Child of a Veteran
If you are the child of a veteran, you may qualify for death benefits if you are not included in the surviving spouses DIC, you are unmarried, meet certain age requirements and are attending school. In order to receive death benefits, you will need to provide certain evidence about the Veteran, their service and their death.
Parent of a Veteran
If you are the parent of a service member who died in the line of duty or a service related injury or illness, you may qualify for DIC benefits. You must be the biological, adoptive or foster parent of the service member and have income below a certain level. In order to receive death benefits, you will need to prove that the cause of death was service connected.
How Does Service Connection Relate to Death Benefits?
In order to qualify for death benefits, the cause of death must be determined to be service-connected. The service-connected disability – either by itself or in combination with another condition – needs to be the main or underlying cause of death. As a contributory cause of death, the disease must be shown to have contributed “substantially or materially” to death. It is not enough to show that it causally shared in producing death. But it must be shown that there was a causal connection between the service-connected disability and death.
There are a number of situations where service-connection for the cause of death is quite obvious. If the Veteran died in-service and the death resulted from disease or armed conflict the VA will obviously consider the death to be service-connected. Another easy case would be a situation where a Veteran is receiving service-connected disability benefits for the disability that was the principal or contributory cause of death.
More difficult cases involve situations where the cause of death was not service-connected prior to the Veteran’s death. In order to prove that the Veteran died of a disability that should be service-connected, you must go through the typical analysis for service-connection. There must be medical evidence that the Veteran had a disability at the time of death, evidence of an in-service event and a link between the disability at the time of death and the in-service event.
Why Did the VA Deny My Death Benefit or DIC Claim?
If you have been denied death benefits by the VA you know how frustrating it can be to deal with VA. Often times their denial of your claim seems arbitrary but here are some common reasons why death benefits are denied.
- No Service connection. – The VA determines there is no connection between the veterans cause of death and their military service.
- The surviving spouse, child or parent does not meet the criteria for death benefits. – As you can see, there are many criteria you must meet in order to qualify for death benefits. If you do not provide all of the necessary paperwork, the VA will deny your claim.
- You did not prove you were married to and lived with the Veteran for the required period of time. – As stated above, you may still qualify for death benefits if you did not co-habitate with the Veteran for at least one year but if your reasons for living apart are not well documented, your claim can be denied.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me Get VA Death Benefits?
In general, winning these types of claims involves aggressive representation and advocacy by a veteran’s benefits attorney and the utilization of high-qualified medical experts. Frequently, the actual cause of death may be misdiagnosed and there may be a lot of evidence that is missing. That is why these cases require expert analysis by experience veteran’s benefits attorney and review by well-qualified medical experts.
If you are the surviving spouse of a deceased Veteran and your claim for DIC benefits has been denied, then I urge you to take a moment to contact our office to determine if there is something our veteran’s benefits attorneys can do to help you.