When should a Survivor of a Deceased Veteran apply for DIC?
I’ll answer that question in a minute.
Let’s quickly review what DIC is.
What is DIC?
DIC is a VA compensation benefit available to certain Survivors of Veterans
Its full name is “Dependency and Indemnity Compensation”, and is often referred to as “Service Connection of the Veteran’s Cause of Death”. Why?
Generally speaking, this benefit is available to surviving spouses and children of Veterans who pass away, and whose death is connected to service. There are generally 2 ways to prove entitlement to DIC Benefits.
One is the traditional type of DIC, and the other is its lesser-known “sibling”, Section 1318 DIC. Click here and I’ll tell you more detail about the 2 ways to prove entitlement to DIC.
When should a Survivor Apply for DIC?
The decision as to when a Surviving Spouse, Child, or Dependent Parent should apply for DIC is an important one: when you apply could affect the amount of benefits the VA might pay.
I strongly recommend that any eligible survivor apply for DIC benefits immediately after the death of the Veteran.
However, the law allows a survivor to apply any time after the death of the Veteran, with some significant limits on how much compensation can be recovered.
To recover the most in DIC benefits, the Veteran’s eligible survivor should apply for benefits within one (1) year of the Veteran’s death.
If the Veteran’s eligible survivor does this, he/she will be able to get the earliest possible effective date and receive benefits back to the date of the Veteran’s death – regardless of how long it takes the VA to grant the DIC claim.
If the application for DIC is not filed within the first year after the Veteran’s death, then the Effective Date of the DIC claim will be the date of the application.
If you didn’t apply for DIC in that year, though, that may not prevent you from recovering compensation back to the date of death. You might be able to argue that a claim for Social Security Death Benefits is also a dual-filing for DIC and/or accrued benefits.
In any situation where the VA grants a benefit, the Veteran and his/her spouse or eligible survivors should examine the Granting Decision to confirm that the VA established the proper Effective Date.
According to the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report on one VA Regional Office, that office had a 17% rate of error in establishing Effective Dates. This is not an uncommon occurrence.
The Veterans Survivors Benefits Handbook.
Veterans Surviving Spouses often know very little about the benefits available to them.
And, when a Veteran dies suddenly, surviving spouse is often left with so much to do that he or she doesn’t have time to research VA benefits.
My grandmother found herself in this situation.
When her husband (a WWII combat Veteran) died after returning home, she had 5 kids to raise. There was no internet and survivors had to rely on their local VA reps – who often told them that nothing was available.
I’m working on a book that will change all that.
The book is the Veterans’ Survivors Benefits Field Manual.
In the book, I will discuss the full range of benefits available to surviving spouses of deceased Veterans. This will include VA Dependency Indemnity Compensation, Accrued Benefits, Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA), and much, much more.
The book is not yet published, but if you would like to know when it will be published, click here and I’ll tell you how to find out when it’s published.
What is your experience with people submitting VA form 21-4170 Statement of Marital Relationship in the process of trying to claim DIC?
I was unaware that I might qualify for DIC until I spoke with someone at VBA earlier this week.
If you are filing for DIC – and I encourage you to do so ANYTIME that you believe that your husband (or wife’s) military service injuries were a “contributing factor” in their death – you MUST file VA Form 21-534.
The form you reference is most commonly used, while the Veteran is living, to establish entitlement to higher rates of compensation due to the marriage of the Veteran.
Here is a Resource page for Veteran Survivors filing DIC Claims (click on linked text), and read more about DIC – and don’t forget about Accrued Benefits, too!
Patsy have you ever requested your husband’s claims file? If he had a claim pending for service-connection at his death, there might be some benefits you are entitled to. I strongly recommend you talk with an accredited Veterans Benefits Attorney – I don’t even care if its my Firm – contact any NOVA attorney to find out. –CA
My husband served in vietnam and found out he had type 2 diabetis about 12yrs ago. Air force 4 yrs His illness killed his heart , his eyes, and nerves. Also erection, he died Dec. 6 2010 because half his heart was dead. We had no insurance because of his illness applied for VA and was denied. I have since his death lost our home , his truck and have only social security to live on. Struggling from day to day.