There is great pride in having a family member or spouse in the military as these individuals are risking their lives to fight for a better future.
Since theses brave souls have given much by serving for their country, they receive extra treatment within the country, which is well deserved. But sometimes, things do not always end happily and in the cases of death, the US government recognized the need for monetary benefits for the deceased’s family members.
The Veteran Affairs (VA) defines The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) as ``…a tax free monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of military service members who died in the line of duty or eligible survivors of Veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease`` (http://benefits.va.gov/COMPENSATION/types-dependency_and_indemnity.asp).
Who is eligible for DIC?
A soldier’s spouse and children are eligible for DIC although there are conditions which need to be met. It can become unclear as to what the requirements are so here is a simplified version:
DIC for Spouse
- A spouse cannot be remarried, had to have lived with the veteran or if seperated, couldn`t have been found at fault, and had a child with the veteran or service member.
- Had to be married for at least a year or married prior to January 1st, 1957 or married within the 15 years of discharge due to disease or injury that eventually led to death or married to service member who passed during inactive duty training, active duty or active duty for training
DIC for Child:
- Be between 18 – 23 and student or under 18 years of age, be unmarried and not be on the spouse`s DIC
It is imperative that evidence be provided if the case is not known by the department such as treatment of injury or disease prior to death or anything revolving this. More information can be provided on this matter by the regional Veteran’s Affair (VA) office.
If eligibility is met, then the next step is to complete the VA Form 21-534 which is known as the “Application For Dependency And Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits By A Surviving Spouse Or Child”. This should be done immediately for processing purposes, leading to the benefits coming into the home faster should all go well. It is recommended to complete and send the form within a year.
If an applicant is physically unable to fill out forms, then a legal guardian or representative can be authorized to fill the application. It is vital to contact the VA if this is the situation at hand. This ensures proper communication between the VA, applicant and any third parties so mishaps do not occur and proper agencies can be contacted.
Once the form is completed, it can be given to the nearest regional office. The processing time is dependent on the case. The amount, in compliance with the law, is judged after reviewing the monthly family income and amount of dependent children.
Another form of income that a spouse or child can be candidates for is a death pension, otherwise known as a Survivors Pension. The requirements for these are different from the DIC, the main ones being that the surviving family members are unmarried and have low-income.
After the form is reviewed and if an individual is eligable to both compensations, then the one paying a higher amount will be released. Again, this is dependent on monthly family income and other factors, such as health. If a spouse has significant health problems or is in a nursing home, then higher pay could be given. It is necessary to let the VA be aware of this through the form since there is an option regarding this.
Once processing of the claim is completed and an applicant thinks an error has been made on the VA`s part, then a hearing can be requested. This can be done at any point during the processing of the claim. Proper equipment and procedures will be used and followed.
The compensations mentioned are for spouses and children of particular requirements. Another form of compensation available is called Parents’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.
This is similar to the DIC with the exception of the recipient profile – these are specifically for parents of deceased veterans or service members. If any money is owed to the veteran during time of service, then the parents could be eligible to receive it.
The parents who can claim are biological, adopted or foster parents. Foster parents are only eligible if they were parents at least a year prior to the veteran’s latest entry into service defined as active. The income of one or both parents must be below a particular limit and all sources of income are considered.
The application to be filled is the VA Form 21-535, known as “Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation by Parent(s) (Including Accrued Benefits and Death Compensation when Applicable).
Again, as with the DIC, severe health problems may lead to VA to increase the amount an applicant is entitled to receive. The VA must be aware of the applicant needs and this is done through filling out the form properly.
While monetary benefits do not necessarily fill the gap of a lost loved one, it can assist with life`s demands. Some individuals will receive more than another and this is determined by the VA. If an applicant thinks an error has been made, a hearing can be requested and any mishaps can be explained.
It is important to note that the hearing expenses will not be covered by the VA.
Since there is a considerable amount of information available to understand, it is likely that numerous questions or concerns about the procedure or anything related will come up. It is important to ask these questions or relay concerns to the nearest VA regional office. The VA is the only ones capable to answer any concerns properly. This office can be contacted via internet (https://iris.va.gov) or phone, which can be found through the phonebook.