Widow's and Dependent's VA Benefits (D.I.C. Payments)
Are you a widow or dependent of a veteran who was receiving VA benefits? The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a wide variety of benefits to surviving spouses, dependent children, and even surviving parents. This page addresses one of those benefits – Dependency and Indemnity Compensation ("DIC") and how it applies to surviving spouses and children.1
What is DIC?
DIC is a tax-free benefit paid to survivors of veterans who die from a service-connected disability or die for reasons unrelated to their disability, but who were being paid VA compensation for service-connected disability that was rated as totally disabling for a certain period of time.
When is a service-connected disability considered the cause of death?
A veteran's death is due to a service-connected disability when the disability was either the principal or contributing cause of death. VA regulations explain that a service-connected disability is the principal cause of death when that disability, singly or jointly with some other condition, was the immediate or underlying cause of death. The key is that it must be that there was a causal connection. For it to be a contributory cause of death, it must be shown that there were "debilitating effects" due to a service connected disability that made the veteran "materially less capable" of resisting the effects of the fatal disease or it accelerated their death.
What records can be used to prove that the death was caused by their service-connected disability? VA regulations do not require that the Veteran establish service connection through medical records alone, but require consideration of all relevant evidence, including lay evidence. VA has to give consideration to the places, types, and circumstances of veteran's service as shown by their service record and all pertinent medical and lay evidence.
What if the veteran does not die from their service-connected disabilities? The survivors of a veteran who does not die from a service-connected disability may receive DIC if:
|1)||the veteran received compensation for their service-connected total disability for the 10 years immediately preceding death; or|
|2)||the veteran was rated as totally disabled from the time they left active duty and received service-connected compensation benefits for at least five years immediately preceding death, or|
|3)||the veteran received service-connected compensation for total disability for at least one year immediately preceding death if they were a former prisoner of war.|
Conclusion DIC claims should be pursued by surviving spouses and children if the conditions explained above apply. Do not be surprised if the VA denies the claim. Do not hesitate to appeal, particularly if private physicians or VA doctors stated that the veteran’s service-connected disability contributed in part to their death.
John Tucker is a Past-President of the St. Petersburg Bar Association. He represents individuals in all types of disability benefit claims, including ERISA, private insurance, Social Security Disability, SSI, and Veterans Compensation for service-connected disabilities. He recently won a remand from the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and total reversal and award of benefits by the Board of Veterans Appeals for a widow who has been seeking DIC compensation from the VA for 10 years following the death of her husband, a World War II veteran. Mr. Tucker's email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
1In addition to DIC payments discussed in this article, the VA also offers Parents DIC, Survivors' and Dependents' Education Assistance (DEA), Work-Study Employment, Home Loan Guaranty, Burial Benefits, Service Member’s Group Life Insurance Settlement and financial counseling to beneficiaries of those policies, Vet Bereavement Counseling, and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Services.