Memorial Day is dedicated to honoring all the men and women who have died in the United States military service. Their place is fixed in history.
Yes, but what about their spouses? They, too, have served and sacrificed for the country. For that, the government has set up a broad array of government benefits for which a surviving spouse may (with emphasis on may) be eligible.
Common Military Spouse Benefits
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, known as DIC, is a monthly benefit paid to the surviving spouse. For 2022, the basic rate for a surviving spouse if the Veteran died on or after January 1, 1993 is $1,437.66. The surviving spouse may be eligible for added amounts based on specific factors.
- Accrued Benefits are a back payment for any claim that was pending and unresolved, or resolved and unpaid, at the time of the veteran’s death. The surviving spouse may be entitled to collect Accrued Benefits.
- Survivors (Death) Pension with aid and attendance is a monthly benefit paid to a surviving spouse with a low annual income. The amount paid is based upon a sliding scale. A claim for a Survivor’s Pension always includes a claim for DIC and any claim for Accrued Benefits.
- The Aid & Attendance benefit pays a monthly sum to a surviving spouse who is unable to perform the activities of daily living (such as bathing, dressing, walking, or using the toilet) without assistance.
- TRICARE, formerly known as CHAMPUS, is a health care program that may cover the surviving spouse. Participants have a network of health care providers, which include both military medical facilities and contracted civilian providers. There are 2 programs: TRICARE prime, which is based on an HMO model, and TRICARE Select, which is based on a PPO model.
- CHAMPVA is an alternative health insurance program. It is not available to surviving spouses who are eligible for TRICARE.
- A VA-guaranteed loan is used to buy, build, repair or improve a home or refinance an existing loan.
- The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance Program helps pay for school or job training. A surviving spouse who is eligible for this program may also be eligible for free educational and career counseling.
- Beneficiary Financial Counseling Service provides free, professional financial advice to surviving spouses who were beneficiaries under certain military life insurance programs. The program includes up to 40 hours of personal counseling for 2 years after the claim was paid.
- Burial benefits in a VA National cemetery, grief counseling, and transition support may be available for surviving spouses.
Recommendations for Military Spouses
The military loves its acronyms. When you are researching benefits, keep a cheat sheet handy with definitions so you won’t be overwhelmed.
Eligibility for each type of benefit depends upon facts regarding the deceased service member and you, the surviving spouse. For example, some benefits are available only if the deceased service member served during war time, while others are not available to a surviving spouse who has remarried or has too much income. Start your search at www.va.gov to get an initial view of requirements.
Print off the application and start gathering your documents and information as soon as possible. You may need a DD-214, determination letter for previously awarded benefits to the service member, medical records, marriage certificate, previously filed tax returns, or W-2.
Be persistent. You and your spouse were there for the government when it needed you. It is time for the government to be there for you.
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Virginia Hammerle is an attorney with Hammerle Finley Law Firm. She is entering her 40th year in the practice of law. She is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal specialization. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to receive her firm’s newsletter.