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How to Add or Remove Dependents to VA Benefits: VA Form 21-686c

How to Add or Remove Dependents to VA Benefits: VA Form 21-686c

Veterans with a combined disability rating of 30 percent or higher may be eligible to receive additional monthly compensation for qualifying dependents.  For VA purposes, a dependent is a family member who relies on the veteran financially and meets qualifying criteria.  Qualifying dependents include the following:

  • A spouse
  • Unmarried children (including biological children, step children, and adopted children) who are under the age of 18; between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending school full-time; or were seriously disabled prior to reaching age 18
  • Parents in the veteran’s direct care whose net worth and income are below the federal poverty threshold

Importantly, eligible dependents will also have access to certain VA programs and benefits, such as employee services, VA health care, life insurance, education and training services, and VA memorial benefits.

When Can I Add Dependents to My VA Benefits?

You can file a claim to add dependents to your VA benefits at the same time as when you file an initial claim for service-connected compensation.  If you receive a combined disability rating of at least 30 percent, VA will automatically consider your eligibility for additional compensation for your dependent(s).  However, if you did not apply to receive this additional compensation at the time of your original claim, you can still add dependents at any point later on.  Importantly, if you file a claim to add dependents to your VA benefits within one year of your 30 percent combined rating grant, the effective date of your benefit increase will be that of your original grant of benefits.  To add or remove dependents to VA benefits, veterans must fill out and submit VA Form 21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents.

VA Form 21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents

VA Form 21-686c is a 12-page form that veterans use to add a spouse or child under the age of 18 to their VA benefits.  However, the first six pages are simply providing instructions on how to complete the form.  Depending on the type of dependents (i.e. spouse or child under 18) you are adding to your VA benefits, you will fill out the following sections:

Adding a Spouse to Your VA Benefits

Section I – Veteran/Claimant Identification Information

In this section, veterans are required to fill out basic identifying information, including the following:

  • Name
  • Social security number
  • VA file number
  • Date of birth
  • Mailing address

Section II – Information Needed to Add Spouse

Section II requires you to provide information about your spouse that is being added to your benefits.  Here, you must list your spouse’s name, date of birth, and social security number, and indicate whether he or she is also a veteran.  You will also be asked to provide details about your marriage, including the date of marriage, place of marriage, and how you were married (e.g. religious ceremony, common law, etc.).  Furthermore, you must provide complete information about your prior marriages and your current spouse’s prior marriages (if applicable), including the:

  • Date and place of marriage
  • Name of former spouse
  • Reason for termination (death, divorce, annulment)
  • Date and place the marriage was terminated

It is important to note that you have to attach supporting documentation when submitting VA Form 21-686c to reflect the information provided in this section.  Specifically, you must attach copies of your marriage certificate and any divorce decrees.

Section IV – Veteran Reporting Divorce from Former Spouse

Veterans must fill out this section to report a divorce and remove a former spouse from their VA benefits.  Completing this section of the form and submitting it to VA as quickly as possible following a divorce is extremely important.  Failure to notify VA of this change in the status of dependents can result in an overpayment.

Section VI – Veteran/Claimant Reporting Death of a Dependent

If a dependent spouse passes away, veterans must notify VA by completing this section.  Here, the veteran will have to provide the name of the spouse, the date of death, and the place of death in order to remove him or her from their VA benefits.  Once again, failure to notify VA of this change can result in an overpayment.

Section X – Beneficiary/Claimant’s Certification and Signature

To complete VA Form 21-686c, veterans must sign and date the end of the application to confirm that the information provided is accurate.

Adding Children Under the Age of 18 to Your VA Benefits

Section I – Veteran/Claimant Identification Information

Again, this section requires veterans to fill out basic identifying information.  It will be completed in the same way as described above.  Veterans must also attach supporting documentation when claiming a child under 18 as a dependent for VA benefits.  Specifically, they must provide copies of the child’s birth certificate and social security card.

Section III – Information Needed to Add Children

This section provides space to add up to four dependent children under the age of 18 to your VA benefits.  If claiming more than four children, veterans can fill out an addendum, found on the last page of VA Form 21-686c, and submit it along with the rest of the application.  Here, veterans will provide the following information about the child being added as a dependent:

  • Full name
  • Social security number
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Child status (e.g. biological, adopted, stepchild, etc.)

Additionally, if the child does not live with the veteran, he or she must provide the name and address of the person with whom the child resides.

Section VI – Veteran/Claimant Reporting Death of a Dependent

If a dependent child passes away, veterans must notify VA by completing this section.  Here, the veteran will have to provide the name of the child, the date of death, and the place of death.

Section VII – Veteran/Claimant Reporting Marriage of Child

If a dependent child gets married, the veteran is required to report the name of the child and the date of the marriage as he or she will no longer qualify as a dependent.  The married child will then be removed from the veteran’s VA benefits.

Section VIII – Veteran/Claimant Reporting a Schoolchild Over 18 Has Stopped Attending School

In this section, veterans must indicate the name of the school-aged child and the date in which this dependent stopped attending school.  Importantly, while this form is used to notify VA of that change in dependent status and remove him or her from your benefits, it is not used to initially claim a school-aged child as a dependent.  Instead, to add a child over the age of 18 who is currently attending school to your VA benefits, you must complete VA Form 21-674, Request for Approval of School Attendance.

Section X – Beneficiary/Claimant’s Certification and Signature

Once again, to complete VA Form 21-686c, veterans must sign and date the end of it to confirm that the information provided is accurate.

Category: Veterans Law

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