Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: what is it, and do I qualify?

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: what is it, and do I qualify?

What is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation?

Dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) is a tax free monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of military service members and veterans who died in the line of duty, or whose death resulted from a service-connected disability, or, in certain circumstances, if a veteran rated totally disabled from service-connected disability dies from non-service-connected conditions.

When to Apply for DIC

You should apply for dependency and indemnity compensation 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 be paid retroactively from the date of the veteran’s death.

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

Basic Eligibility

Dependency and indemnity compensation infographic showing veteran eligibility

Dependency and indemnity compensation infographic showing eligibility for spouses

For bigger size graphic, click here.

Service Connection for Cause of Death

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

  • If the cause of death listed on the death certificate matches one or more of the deceased veteran’s service-connected disabilities, VA should grant service connection without further investigation and the claim should be decided.
  • If the veteran’s service-connected disability matches the contributory cause of death (as listed on the death certificate) VA should presume that it contributed “substantially and materially” to the veteran’s death, and so grant service connection without further investigation.

If the disability that caused the veteran’s death was not already service-connected when he/she 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 or not 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.

Section 1318: “As If” Service Connected Deaths

Under 38 U.S. Code § 1318, veterans who did not die as a result of a service connected disability, but had a service-connected disability that was rated totally disabling (100 percent), or disabilities that combined to be 100 percent to include on the basis of individual unemployability, by VA and meets the criteria shown in the “Section 1318” part of the above infographic titled “Veterans Eligibility Criteria.”

If the deceased veterans’ disability (or disabilities) meets the criteria, VA will grant DIC “as if” the veteran’s death was service connected. Note that a survivor who receive 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 an additional $267.12 per month if the veteran was rated totally (100%) disabled for 8 continuous years immediately before death and the surviving spouse was 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).

Remarriage

If you remarry after starting to receive dependency and indemnity compensation, your benefits will generally be canceled following your remarriage. In certain cases, however, DIC benefits can be restored (or continued) even if the surviving spouse remarries:

  • 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, in order to have DIC restored.

If you are eligible for DIC…

You should 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)

Note: Survivors eligible for DIC under Section 1318 should also be eligible for the above benefits and the deceased veteran’s disability should be presumed “permanent” for eligibility purposes.

Category: Veterans Law

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