What to Know: Benefits for Families of Late Veterans

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on May 09, 2022
6 min read

The loss of a loved one is a difficult time for families, and if the veteran was the sole earning member in the family, that can be a cause of added anxiety. Getting veterans death benefits could help ease this strain on the family. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides monetary benefits to the families of veterans. Eligibility for veterans death benefits extends not only to the spouse but also to their children. There are different types of VA benefits that families can qualify for.

Family members of veterans who have served in the armed forces are eligible for the Survivors Pension if they meet specific income and net worth criteria decided by Congress.

As a surviving spouse. To qualify for this benefit, you should not have remarried since your spouse’s death, and your spouse should not have had a dishonorable discharge. Your spouse should also meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • Joined active duty on or before September 7, 1980, with at least 90 days of active service
  • Entered active duty after September 7, 1980, with at least 24 months in service or served the entire duration they were initially called to serve for; this should include at least one day’s service during a covered wartime period
  • Was an officer who joined active duty after October 16, 1981, and does not have any earlier record of service for at least 24 months

In addition, your annual income should meet the limits decided by Congress.

As a surviving child. You can qualify for VA benefits if you’re unmarried and satisfy at least one of the below conditions:

  • You’re under the age of 18.
  • You’re under the age of 23 and attend a VA-approved school.
  • You have a disability that occurred before you turned 18 that makes you unable to take care of yourself.

The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free monetary VA death benefit for spouses, children, and parents of deceased veterans. To qualify for this:

As a surviving spouse. You should have lived with the veteran continuously until their death or, if separated, the separation was not your fault.

Keep in mind, you can still get compensation after you’ve remarried if you remarried after December 16, 2003, and were above the age of 57 when you remarried. You can also get compensation if you remarried after January 5, 2021, and were above the age of 55 when you remarried.

In addition, you should also fulfill at least one of the below criteria:

  • You married the veteran within 15 years of their discharge from service, and the injury or illness that qualifies your spouse for benefits started or became worse during this period.
  • You were married to your spouse for at least one year.
  • You have a child with the veteran.

As a surviving child. If you’re the child of a veteran, you should meet all of the following criteria:

  • You're unmarried.
  • Your name isn’t included in the compensation that the veteran's spouse gets.
  • Your age is under 18 or, if you’re attending school, under 23.

If you were born in the family of a veteran but have been adopted outside a veteran’s family, you still qualify for benefits if you meet all the other criteria.

As a surviving parent. As the parent of a veteran, you should meet both the criteria mentioned below to be eligible for compensation:

  • The veteran is your adoptive, biological, or foster child.
  • Your income is below the levels stated by Congress.

Family members of veterans can also get healthcare benefits through several programs.

The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. This program provides access to services like stipends, health insurance, mental health counseling, caregiver training, and respite care for veterans and caregivers with serious injuries due to combat activities.

TRICARE. This program offers comprehensive health coverage to active duty and deceased service members, National Guard soldiers, Reservists, and Medal of Honor recipients.

The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). If you’re not eligible for TRICARE, this program may provide access to health insurance through cost sharing facilities for spouses and children of veterans.

The Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program. This program supports biological children of Korean and Vietnam War veterans who have spina bifida — a birth defect that affects the normal development of the spinal cord.

The Camp Lejeune Family Member Program. This program offers healthcare benefits to children and spouses who lived with veterans and got specific diseases by coming in contact with contaminants in the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune or Marine Corps Air Station in North Carolina.

The Children of Women Vietnam Veterans Health Care Benefits Program. This program provides benefits to biological children of women war veterans who served in Vietnam and have been diagnosed with covered birth defects.

You can get VA burial benefits if you’re not getting reimbursed for these expenses by any other organization. In addition, you must also be one of the following:

  • A surviving spouse (this includes same-sex marriages)
  • A surviving partner of a legal union (supported by a legal document from the state that recognizes the union)
  • A surviving child of the veteran
  • A parent of the veteran
  • An official representative of the veteran, like an executor of the estate

The veteran shouldn’t have had a dishonorable discharge and should meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • Died due to a service-related disability
  • Died while receiving care at a VA facility or a facility contracted by the VA
  • Died during authorized travel at the VA's expense for an examination, treatment, or care either from or to a facility
  • Died in the course of receiving a pension
  • Died when eligible for a pension but got complete military retirement or disability pay
  • Died with an original or reopened claim for a pension that was pending at the time of their death

The VA also covers the cost of transporting the remains to be buried in a national cemetery. The VA will not cover the cost if the veteran:

  • Died while in service
  • Died while serving as a member of Congress
  • Died while serving in prison

For more information on these and other benefits, you can visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs supports the families of several veterans across the country. You can learn more about the benefits by reading some of the most frequently asked questions.

Q. How can you apply for compensation?

A. You’ll have to fill out specific forms depending on your relationship with the veteran. You can contact an authorized representative to help you with the process or use the direct upload tool on the VA website. You can also mail in your application to the Department of Veterans Affairs Pension Intake Center, PO Box 5365 Janesville, WI 53547-5365, or visit the nearest VA regional office.

Q. What evidence should you submit to support your claims?

A. Evidence can include documents like military service records, reports from doctors, and medical tests to support any of the following claims:

  • That the veteran died in the line of duty from an injury or illness during active duty or active duty training
  • That the veteran died from injury or a covered illness in the line of duty during inactive training
  • That the veteran died from a service-related illness or injury

Q. Who is a foster parent?

A. The VA defines foster parents as anyone who served in the role of a parent to the veteran before they entered their last active service.

Q. How is net worth calculated?

A. Your net worth is calculated by subtracting your debts (if any) from the total value of everything you own (excluding your house, car, and home furnishings).