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Veterans Law

VA Benefits for Children of Veterans

November 20, 2020
va benefits for children of veterans. image shows child swinging on swing

According to VA, veterans’ dependent children may qualify for certain benefits such as health care, life insurance, or money to help pay for education and/or vocational training.  Moreover, if you are the surviving child of a deceased veteran, you may qualify for additional benefits, including help with burial costs and survivor compensation.  The types of benefits for children of veterans are included below.

Dependent Children: How to Qualify

In order to qualify for VA benefits as a dependent or surviving child, you must meet the following requirements:

  • The child must be (1) a biological child; (2) an adopted child; or (3) a stepchild of the veteran.
  • The child must be (1) under 18 years old; (2) between 18 and 23 years old and still in school full-time; or (3) a helpless child (i.e., permanently incapable of self-support due to a physical or intellectual disability established prior to the age of 18).

When applying for VA benefits, children of veterans (or the veterans themselves if still alive) are usually only required to provide a written statement with their age, date of birth, and social security number.  However, it is possible that VA will require additional proof, such as a copy of the child’s birth certificate, a signed statement from a physician, or some other form of documentation establishing the parent-child relation.

As mentioned above, a veteran’s adopted child can also be eligible to receive VA benefits.  In this case, the veteran must show that the child was legally adopted before the age of 18.  Evidence of such may include a copy of the adoption decree or a copy of the adoptive placement agreement.

For stepchildren, veterans are only required to show that the child currently resides in their household.  Importantly, if the stepchild is applying for dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC), or survivor’s benefits, the surviving spouse must demonstrate that the child was living in the veteran’s household at the time of their passing.

It is also important to note that the individual (i.e., veteran or spouse) claiming benefits for a helpless child must submit medical records indicating the child needs the assistance of others to survive and is otherwise incapable of self-support.  Again, the medical and treatment records must demonstrate that such incapacitation was present before the child turned 18 years old.

Finally, if the veteran is the child’s biological parent and the child was born outside of the veteran’s existing marriage, then VA will look closely at each case to carefully determine whether the relationship qualifies.  Evidence may include the following:

  • An affidavit or lay statement from the veteran acknowledging and admitting to the extramarital relationship
  • A judicial decree recognizing and identifying the veteran as the child’s biological parent
  • A birth certificate naming the veteran as the child’s parent

Health Care Benefits for Veterans’ Children

Children of veterans may qualify for health care benefits, including many different types of health care services.  In certain cases, children of veterans may also be eligible for health care benefits due to a disability-related to the veteran’s service (see “Agent Orange Effects on Children” section).  Children may be eligible for the following types of health care and services:

TRICARE Benefits for Children of Veterans

If you are the child of an active duty, retired, or deceased service member, National Guard soldier, Reservist, or Medal of Honor recipient, you may qualify for the TRICARE program.  Generally speaking, TRICARE provides comprehensive health coverage, including health plans, prescriptions, medicines, dental plans, and programs for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities.

CHAMPVA

If you do not qualify for TRICARE as the child of a veteran, you may be eligible for the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) instead.  Through this program, VA will cover the costs of some of your health care services and supplies (i.e., cost-sharing).

The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers

VA has also recognized cases in which children may be serving as the veteran’s primary caregiver following a serious injury that was caused or made worse by the active duty service.  If you are providing personal care services for your veteran parent, you may be eligible for the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.  Services for eligible participants may include a financial stipend, access to health insurance, mental health services, caregiver training, and respite care.

The Camp Lejeune Family Member Program

Children who lived with their veteran parents at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for at least 30 cumulative days between August 1953 and December 1987 may have been exposed to contaminated water.  Evidence has shown a correlation between exposure to the contaminated water and the development of certain diseases later in life.  If you now have one of the established associated conditions, you may qualify for health care benefits through this program.

Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program for Children of Vietnam Veterans

If you are the biological child of a Korean or Vietnam War veteran and you have been diagnosed with spina bifida, you may qualify for disability benefits, including health care benefits (see “Agent Orange Effects on Children” section).

The Children of Women Vietnam Veterans Health Care Benefits Program

If you are the biological child of a woman Vietnam War veteran and you have been diagnosed with certain birth defects (see “Agent Orange Effects on Children” section), you may also qualify for VA health care and benefits, some of which may help pay for services needed to treat your birth defect and related medical conditions.

Pharmacy Benefits for Children of Veterans

Depending on whether you qualify for the above-mentioned programs, you may also be eligible for pharmacy benefits.  Specifically, children who qualify for CHAMPVA, Spina Bifida Health Care, or Children of Women Vietnam Veterans health care programs can get prescription benefits through their local pharmacy or through VA’s Meds by Mail program.

Education and Training Benefits

Dependent and surviving children may be eligible for VA education benefits, also known as Chapter 35 Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) benefits.  The DEA program offers education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected condition, currently receiving TDIU benefits, or who died while on active duty, or as a result of a service-connected condition.  DEA benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training.  Dependents may receive up to 45 months of education benefits, if they began using the program before August 1, 2018.  If they began the program on or after August 1, 2018, they have 36 months to use the benefits.

Life Insurance Options, Claims, and Beneficiary Assistance

VA life insurance can offer financial security for children of veterans.  Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) offers coverage for dependent children of service members covered under full-time SGLI.  To qualify for this life insurance, one of the following must be true:

  • The service member is on active duty and covered by full-time SGLI; or
  • The service member is a member of the National Guard or Ready Reserve covered by full-time SGLI.

Burial Benefits

VA burial benefits can help children of veterans plan and pay for a burial or memorial service in a VA national cemetery.  There are two types of burial benefits: the burial itself, and compensation for the costs of the burial.  Both have specific eligibility requirements and are handled by two different entities within VA: the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).  For more information, children of veterans can visit VA’s website.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Benefits

DIC is a tax-free, monthly benefit paid to the surviving spouse, children, and sometimes parents of a veteran whose death was related to military service or a service-connected condition.  Survivors are not paid the same monthly amount that the veteran was receiving at the time of their death.  Instead, DIC has its own exclusive rates.  In order to qualify for DIC benefits, veterans and service members must meet one of the following criteria:

  • The service member died while on active duty, active duty training, or inactive duty training; or
  • The veteran passed away due to a service-connected condition; or
  • The veteran’s death was not service-related, but was entitled to receive VA disability compensation for a totally disabling condition (or total disability based on individual unemployability – TDIU):
    • For a period of at least 10 years prior to death; or
    • Since release from active duty and for a period of at least five years prior to the veteran’s death; or
    • For at least one year before death if the veteran was a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999.

Survivors’ Pension Benefits

Survivors’ Pension, also often called Death Pension, is a VA benefit available to low-income, un-remarried surviving spouses or unmarried children of deceased veterans.  This benefit is tax-free and only available if the deceased veteran had wartime service.  In order for a veteran’s survivors to be eligible for survivors pension, the veteran must meet the following requirements according to VA’s website:

  • For service on or before September 7, 1980, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active military service, with at least one day during a wartime period.
  • For active duty service after September 7, 1980, the veteran must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty, with at least one day during a wartime period.
  • Received a discharge under other than dishonorable conditions.

Children of deceased veterans must meet the dependency standards outlined above in order to be eligible for benefits.

Agent Orange Effects on Children

The effects of Agent Orange, an herbicide agent used throughout the Vietnam War era, have been shown to cause a variety of serious health conditions, and have also been associated with certain birth defects in the children of veterans who were exposed.  Children of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and have an associated birth defect may be eligible for VA compensation and other VA benefits.  To qualify, the child must be the biological child of a veteran who:

  • Served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 (i.e., on the landmass, in the inland waterways, or within 12 nautical miles of the coast); or
  • Served in the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) between September 1, 1967 and August 31, 1971.

Importantly, the child must have been conceived after the date on which the veteran entered Vietnam or the Korean DMZ.  For children of women veterans, the mother must have served in Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975 in order for the children to be eligible for VA benefits.