Skip to main content
Adjust Font Size:
For Immediate Help: 800-544-9144
Veterans Law

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: What Is It, and Do I Qualify?

May 9, 2017
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) What Is It, and Do I Qualify

When a spouse dies, it can feel as though your world has been upended.  This is especially true if you and your spouse relied on monthly veterans’ disability benefits.  However, you may be eligible to continue receiving benefits through Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).

Are a Veteran’s Disability Compensation Payments Continued for a Surviving Spouse After Death?

No, a veteran’s disability compensation payments are not continued for a surviving spouse after death. However, survivors may be entitled to a different type of benefit called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

What Is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation?

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a monthly benefit the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) awards to a surviving spouse or dependent child(ren) of a service member who:

  • Died in action
  • Died from a service-connected condition

As of September 2013, same-sex spouses of military veterans are afforded the same beneficiary rights as those of heterosexual military veterans. Legally married military couples of any orientation can apply to collect federal benefits.

DIC is separate from the benefits the veteran may have been receiving during their lifetime.  This means that the monthly benefits they were receiving for service-connected conditions will be discontinued at the time of their passing.

 

Am I Eligible for DIC?

Unfortunately, not everyone who was married to a service member is entitled to DIC.  There are certain criteria that both the veteran and surviving spouse must meet.

VA’s website states that the surviving spouse of a veteran is eligible to receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation if they:

  • Were married to a service member who died “while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training”; OR
  • Were legally married to the veteran before January 1, 1957; OR
  • Married the veteran within 15 years of military discharge when the service-connected condition that caused the veteran’s death began or was aggravated; OR
  • Were married to the veteran for at least one year immediately preceding the veteran’s death; OR
  • Had a child or children with the veteran, AND
  • Continuously cohabited (lived with) the veteran until their time of passing, AND
  • Were not separated from the veteran, or, if separated, were not responsible for the separation, AND
  • Is not currently remarried.

DIC benefits can be awarded to non-spouses as long as the individual had a child with the veteran and cohabited with them until the time of the veteran’s passing.  There are other exceptions to the criteria surviving spouses must meet in order to receive DIC benefits; these exceptions pertain to spousal remarriage and DIC eligibility.

 

Infographic: Spouse Eligibility Criteria

spouse eligibility criteria infographic

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation with Remarriage

If the surviving spouse remarries, VA will generally discontinue DIC benefits that were awarded.  However, there are some exceptions.  If the surviving spouse remarries and that marriage ends in a death, divorce, or annulment then DIC benefits can be restored from the date of determination of that marriage.

Another instance where DIC benefits could be continued after a remarriage are if the surviving spouse remarries after reaching the age of 57.  In this case, the new marriage should not have an impact on DIC benefits and the benefits will continue moving forward.  Importantly, if the surviving spouse remarries before reaching the age of 57, DIC benefits will not continue and they will not be reinstated when the surviving spouse does reach the age of 57.

To summarize, DIC benefits can continue or be restored with remarriage in the following instances:

  • DIC can be restored if the remarriage ended in death, divorce, or annulment; OR,
  • A surviving spouse can continue to receive DIC if he/she remarried on or after reaching age 57 and on or after December 16, 2003.

Note: Unfortunately, if you are a surviving spouse of a veteran who died on or after reaching age 57, but before December 16, 2003, VA requires that you must have re-applied for DIC between December 16, 2003 and December 15, 2004 to have DIC benefits restored.

 

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation for Dependents

In order to receive DIC benefits as the dependent child of a veteran, there are certain eligibility qualifications that must be met.  These qualifications are very similar to those for a veteran claiming dependency for that child.  Below is a breakdown of how a dependent might be eligible for DIC benefits:

  • The dependent child is under the age of 18; OR
  • The dependent child is between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending a VA approved school; OR
  • The dependent child was considered helpless or permanently incapacitated before turning 18 (Usually in this instance, medical evidence is required to meet this criteria); AND
  • The dependent child is unmarried.

 

Proving Service Connection for Cause of Death

As seen above, you must show VA that the veteran’s death was service-connected.  If they died in the line of duty or as a result of an already service-connected disability, this process should be relatively straightforward.  But there are a few VA regulations meant to speed up the process that it might be helpful to know:

  • If the death certificate lists the cause of death as one of the deceased veteran’s service-connected conditions, VA should grant service connection without further investigation.
  • If the veteran’s service-connected condition was a contributory cause of death, VA should presume that it contributed “substantially and materially” to the veteran’s death, and so grant service connection without further investigation.

If the condition that caused the veteran’s death was not already service-connected when they died, you can still submit an application for DIC.  Claims like these may take longer to process, though, because VA adjudicators will follow the typical disability claims review process to decide whether the cause of death is service-connected.

However, if the cause of death is a “presumptive” disability, and the evidence shows the veteran meets the particular presumptive criteria (as an example, check out our post on Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam), VA should grant service connection without further investigation.

 

What if My Spouse Did Not Die from a Service-Connected Condition?

Under 38 U.S. Code § 1318, veterans who did not die as a result of a service-connected disability, but meet the following criteria may be eligible for DIC “as if” their death was service connected:

  • Had a service-connected disability that VA rated totally disabling (100 percent); or
  • Had disabilities that combined to be 100 percent to include on the basis of individual unemployabilityand meets the criteria shown in the “Section 1318” part of the above infographic titled “Veterans Eligibility Criteria.”

An example of this might be if a Vietnam Veteran did not apply for PTSD during their lifetime, but the condition later became a contributory cause of death.  The surviving spouse or dependent can apply for service connection after the fact and, if the service connection is granted, then they will be entitled to DIC.  It is important to note that the surviving spouse or dependent child will not receive retroactive disability benefits for the veteran’s PTSD, but they can use it for the purposes of establishing DIC.

Presumptive conditions are another way that a spouse or dependent may establish entitlement to DIC benefits for conditions that were not service-connected at the time of death.  An example of this is agent orange exposure in Vietnam.

Agent Orange exposure can lead to a number of presumptive conditions.  VA updates its presumptive list periodically, which means that a condition that caused the veteran’s death has the potential to become a presumptive condition in the future.  In this case, the surviving spouse or dependent child could file for DIC benefits if the veteran were to meet the criteria for a new presumptive condition.

Note that a survivor who receives benefits under Section 1318 is entitled to the same DIC benefits as a survivor whose spouse died from a service-connected disability.

 

8 Years Totally Disabled: Additional Compensation

Whether you are eligible under service connection for cause of death or under Section 1318, you may be eligible for additional compensation per month if the veteran was rated totally (100 percent) disabled for 8 continuous years immediately before death and you were married to the veteran those same 8 years.

Note that here, as with DIC eligibility under Section 1318, the veteran may have been totally disabled as a result of a single disability rated 100 percent, or multiple disabilities that combined to 100 percent, or due to unemployability (TDIU).

 

Infographic: Veteran DIC Eligibility Criteria

Veteran Eligibility Criteria for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

How Much Will I Receive in Monthly Compensation as a Surviving Spouse Claiming DIC?

As of December 2020, the fixed monthly benefit amount for DIC is $1,357.56.
If your children are under age 18 and live in your household, you are eligible for an additional benefit for each child — as of December 2020 the per-child benefit is $336.32 per month.

This benefit is generally available for a period of two years from when you start receiving benefits or until the child turns 18.  If one or more of your children is disabled, you can continue to receive benefits on their behalf even beyond age 18.

You can also receive additional compensation if you are homebound and need assistance carrying out activities of daily living (for instance, bathing, dressing, eating, or toileting).

 

How Much Will I Receive in Monthly Compensation as a Surviving Spouse?

As of December 2020, the fixed monthly benefit amount for DIC is $1,357.56.

If your children are under age 18 and live in your household, you are eligible for an additional benefit for each child — as of December 2020 the per-child benefit is $336.32 per month.  This benefit is generally available for a period of two years from when you start receiving benefits or until the child turns 18.  If one or more of your children is disabled, you can continue to receive benefits on their behalf even beyond age 18.

You can also receive additional compensation if you are homebound and need assistance carrying out activities of daily living (for instance, bathing, dressing, eating, or toileting).

 

Do I Have to Apply for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation?

Yes.  If your spouse was on active duty or conducting a training exercise when killed, VA should assign a Casualty Assistance Officer to help you in several capacities, one being filing for surviving spouse benefits on your behalf.

Otherwise, you can apply online using VA’s website, or you can print Form 21-534, fill it out, and submit it to VA.  In this instance, you will want to be sure to include all supporting documentation that could serve as evidence that you meet the criteria for DIC as a surviving spouse or dependent, and that the veteran also met the criteria.

In addition, you can include any other evidence that will help establish your entitlement to DIC, such as the veteran’s death certificate to indicate cause of death, a marriage certificate, any prior divorce decrees, birth certificates, and school transcripts.  Submitting this documentation with the initial application for DIC can help speed up the adjudication process.

When filing Form 21-534, you will find that there is a specific question regarding whether you are seeking service connection for the cause of death.  If the veteran did not pass away from a service-connected condition, you will want to make sure that you answer this question appropriately.

 

When Should I Apply for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation?

You should apply for DIC as soon as possible after the veteran’s death.  If you apply within one year of the veteran’s death and are granted benefits, you will likely be paid retroactively from one month after the date of the veteran’s death.  Typically, the family will receive one final payment for the veteran’s disability benefits and then would begin receiving DIC benefits the following month.

If you do not apply for DIC within a year of the veteran’s death and VA later grants you benefits, your effective date (the date from which you begin receiving benefits) will be the date VA receives your DIC claim.

There are exceptions for surviving spouses and dependent children of Vietnam Veterans who meet the Nehmer Class definition, as well as surviving spouses and dependent children of Blue Water Navy Veterans, as defined by the Blue Water Act legislation.  In these cases, a VSO, an accredited representative, or an attorney might be able to help and provide useful insight regarding the effective date for DIC benefits.

 

Am I Eligible for Any Other Benefits?

If you are eligible for DIC, you may also be eligible for the following benefits:

  • Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
  • Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA)
  • Burial Benefits (note: benefits may be a reduced amount if cause of death was not service-connected)

 

How Long Does Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Last?

Once granted, DIC is permanent for surviving spouses, unless the surviving spouse remarries prior to turning 57 years of age.

For surviving children, DIC usually lasts until the age of 18 (or 23 if the child is still in school).  “Helpless” adult children might also be entitled to DIC.

 

More Questions About DIC? Call Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD Today

If your Dependency and Indemnity Compensation claim has been denied, the legal team at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD is happy to help.  To schedule a free consultation, call 401-331-6300.