Q. What is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)?
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a recurring, tax-free monetary benefit paid to eligible surviving spouses, children, and dependent parents of military service members or veterans whose death was the result of active service or a service-connected disability. If the veteran’s cause of death was not service-connected, a surviving family member may still apply to receive DIC.
Be advised that DIC is not an automatic benefit; you must apply for and prove entitlement to it. A deceased veteran’s discharge must have been categorized under conditions other than dishonorable in order for their survivors to be eligible to receive DIC benefits.
Q. What criteria must a veteran or service member meet for their survivors to be eligible for DIC?
VA takes into account the cause of death, military history, and service-connected disabilities of a veteran when determining their survivor’s eligibility for DIC benefits. Eligibility requirements outlined on VA’s website for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation mandate that a veteran must have passed away:
- “While on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training” OR
- Due to a service-connected disability OR
- Due to a non-service connected disability while the veteran was receiving, or entitled to receive, VA compensation for a 100% disability rating, or for individual unemployability (TDIU):
- For a period of 10 continuous years immediately preceding death, OR
- Since the veteran’s date of discharge or release from active duty, and rated for a minimum of five consecutive years preceding death, OR
- If the veteran was a former prisoner of war (POW), for at least one year prior to death.
If a veteran’s cause of death is not deemed to be service-connected at the time of passing, service-connection can be argued when applying for DIC. According to U.S. Code §1318, if a veteran’s cause of death was not service-connected, not due to their own “willful misconduct,” and meets the above criteria, their survivors can be compensated at the same rate “as if” the fatal condition were service-connected.
Q. What makes a surviving spouse eligible to receive DIC?
VA’s website also states that the surviving spouse of a veteran is eligible to receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation if they:
- Were married to a servicemember 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.
Q. What if a surviving spouse remarries?
Following a remarriage, surviving spousal DIC benefits are usually canceled. The VA, however, stipulates that there are exceptions to this rule:
- If a surviving spouse gets remarried, but the marriage ends in annulment, death, or divorce, DIC benefits can be restored;
- A surviving spouse that remarries on or after December 16, 2003 AND on or after reaching age 57, is entitled to continue receiving DIC benefits.
Q. Is there any additional compensation available for spouses?
There are additional allowances available under CFR §3.10 to eligible surviving spouses who:
- Were continuously married to a veteran who was in receipt of, or entitled to receive, compensation from the VA for a service-connected disability rated totally disabling (or a rating for TDIU) for at least eight years preceding the veteran’s death. The spouse must have been married to the veteran for those same eight years;
- Are in need of regular aid and attendance or are housebound;
- Have dependent children under the age of 18.
Q. What makes a surviving child eligible?
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation is available to surviving children of eligible veterans under CFR §3.503 if the following criteria are met:
- The child is under the age of 18;
- The child is between 18 and 23, and attending a VA-approved school;
- The child has “become permanently incapable of self-support” due to disability occurring before age 18;
- The child is currently not married.
Note: DIC benefits for surviving spouses and children are subject to income eligibility.