The funeral is over, and the reality is sinking in. You are planning for your future without your husband and wondering how you will make it financially. Then you wonder: “My Deceased Spouse was a Veteran. Do I Have Rights to His Benefits?”
Probably. The U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides many benefits to the widows of veterans. Some benefits are based simply on your being the widow of a qualifying veteran. Other benefits have additional requirements, such as your income or health.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). Surviving spouses of military service members, who died while on active duty or who died from a service-related injury or disease, can receive tax-free cash payments.
Survivors Pension. If you are the widow of an eligible veteran who served during wartime, and you do not remarry, you may get a Survivors Pension, also known as a Death Pension. This pension provides tax-free cash payments to surviving spouses with low incomes or with high recurring monthly medical expenses and meet the other criteria.
GI Bill educational benefits. If you are the widow of a Servicemember who died while on active duty after September 10, 2001, you may be eligible for one or more educational scholarships. You can use these funds to go to a traditional college or to attend a business, technical or vocational program. You can also use these funds for a certification test, apprenticeship, on-the-job training, tutorial help or work-study program.
Home Loans. As a surviving spouse of a veteran, you may be eligible for a VA home loan to buy or build a home. The funds can also repair, retain or adapt your home. The caveat is that you must live in the home.
Aid and Attendance (A&A). This benefit pays an extra monthly amount, if you are eligible for the basic survivor’s pension and you have certain exceptional needs. These include that:
- You are bedridden from your disability or disabilities,
- You need someone to help you with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, toileting, eating, managing your prosthetic devices or safeguarding you in your daily environment,
- You live in a nursing home because of a physical or mental incapacity, or
- You are legally blind, defined for these purposes as corrected vision of 5/200 or less in both eyes or other optical parameters.
Housebound. If you cannot leave your home because of a permanent disability, and you are eligible for the basic survivor’s pension, you may get an increased monthly payment.
Beware of scams
Over 200 organizations are ripping off veterans and survivors by charging substantial fees to “help” them apply for VA pension benefits. These organizations take money from veterans and their families to process applications, even when the organizations know the veterans and their survivors are not eligible for the benefits. Some products these companies sell to veterans and their survivors can make them ineligible for Medicaid.
The laws are different in every state, so be sure to talk to an elder law attorney in your area. Protect your future and your family.
U.S. Department for Veterans Affairs. “I am a Dependent or Survivor.” (accessed August 2, 2017) https://www.va.gov/opa/persona/dependent_survivor.asp
U.S. Department for Veterans Affairs. “What Veterans and their families should know when applying for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pension benefits.” (accessed August 2, 2017) http://www.benefits.va.gov/PENSION/Pensionprograminfo.pdf