What to Know About Veterans Survivor Benefits

What to Know About Veterans’ Survivor Benefits from the VA

Surviving family members can qualify and apply for VA benefits after a formerly enlisted loved one passes away. You may qualify for certain veterans’ survivor benefits such as health care, life insurance, or money to help pay for school or job training as the spouse or dependent child of a veteran or service member. A pension, help with burial costs, and VA survivor compensation also may be available to you.

To find out which veterans’ survivor benefits you may qualify for, it helps to have a quick overview about what to ask about when you call the VA. We’ll outline the 6 different types of veterans’ survivor benefits below.

The 6 Main Types of Veterans’ Survivor Benefits

1. Pension Payments

As either the surviving spouse or dependent child of a veteran with wartime service, you may qualify for monthly pension income.

IMPORTANT: In addition to a monthly pension payment, you may also qualify for compensation if the service member died in the line of duty or from a service-related injury. It is called “Dependency and Indemnity Compensation,” or DIC. This tax-free benefit is available to the following family members:

  • Spouse of a deceased veteran
  • Their dependent child(ren)
  • In some cases, a dependent parent

2. Burial Funds & Assistance

You can apply for help paying for burial costs as part of your veterans’ survivor benefits. You can also request memorial items, get help planning a burial in a VA national cemetery (or in a state or tribal government veterans’ cemetery) and learn about grief counseling.

3. Healthcare Benefits

There are several federal healthcare programs you and your family may qualify for, such as:

  • CHAMPVA program
  • Department of Defense’s TRICARE program
  • VA-provided healthcare services through a regional office or clinic

4. Education & Training Programs

Do you need help paying for either tuition or job training? As the spouse or dependent child of a living or deceased veteran, you may qualify for the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance Program or the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship. There are also educational and career counseling programs available to you via VA education benefits.

IMPORTANT: A veteran may transfer their unused post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to either their spouse or child.

5. Home Loan Programs

Spouses that qualify for veterans’ survivor benefits can use VA home loan programs to buy, build, repair, or refinance a home. This program can also help you avoid foreclosure if you struggle to pay your mortgage payments.

6. Life Insurance

You can apply for Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) coverage as well as receive assistance managing an existing policy claim.

Eligibility for Recently Expanded Veterans’ Survivor Benefits Now Available from the VA

As we mentioned above, your family may qualify for a tax-free monthly payment also known as DIC benefits. That’s because a 2022 law expanded eligibility requirements for DIC applicants.

You may qualify for this new veterans’ survivor benefit if you’re a relative of:

  • A service member who died in the line of duty, or
  • An honorably discharged veteran who died from a service-related injury or illness.

A new law expands access to services and benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances.

IMPORTANT: There are now more periods of service and more than 20 additional conditions that qualify for VA benefits. If VA previously denied a claim for DIC based on a condition that now qualifies, families can now apply to collect veterans’ survivor benefits as far back as the date of their original application. If VA owes your family benefits they never received, then you may also qualify for a one-time accrued payment.

The PACT Act added more than 20 burn pit and other toxic exposure presumptive conditions, expanding benefits for Gulf War era and post-9/11 veterans. A “presumptive” condition means you don’t have to prove your service caused it in order to get benefits.

These cancers are now presumptive:

  • Brain cancer
  • Gastrointestinal cancer (any type)
  • Glioblastoma
  • Head cancer (any type)
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lymphoma (any type)
  • Melanoma
  • Neck cancer (any type)
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Reproductive cancer (any type)
  • Any type of respiratory (breathing-related) cancer

These breathing problems and illnesses are now presumptive:

  • Asthma diagnosed after military service
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Chronic rhinitis
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis
  • Emphysema
  • Granulomatous disease
  • Interstitial lung disease (ILD)
  • Pleuritis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Sarcoidosis

To learn more, visit VA.gov/PACT. Want to download the forms to apply for these veterans’ survivor benefits? Then visit VA Form 21P-534EZ | Veterans Affairs.

The VA mistakenly denies at least 1 in 10 vets benefits they earned through service or pays them the wrong amount. That’s why it is helpful to have an expert near you look over your claim paperwork. Our network of VA-accredited attorneys can also give you free claim help by phone.

If an attorney can’t help you secure VA benefits, then you owe $0 for legal assistance. And if you do win, then you only pay one small fee after you first get your cash award.

Do you want to get expert claim help by phone free of charge? Then click the button below to sign up for a free, private phone call with a nearby expert today:

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Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.