The Veterans Administration is a federal government agency that provides benefits to both U.S. military veterans and their spouses. Veterans benefits include healthcare, disability compensation and pensions. There are also VA benefits for spouses of deceased veterans such as a widows (survivors) pension, Disability Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and Aid and Attendance.
A Survivors Pension, also referred to as Widows Pension, is a monthly monetary benefit paid to the low-income spouses of a deceased veteran. A veteran’s unmarried dependent children may also be eligible for this benefit.
A key requirement for a Survivors Pension is that the veteran must have entered military service on or before September 7, 1980 and must have served at least 90 days of active duty with at least one day during an eligible period of war.
The spouse must have been married to the veteran for at least a year, and never remarried. There are also various income and net worth criteria established by Congress.
Here are the eligible wartime periods:
- World War II – December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946, inclusive. If the veteran was in service on December 31, 1946, continuous service before July 26, 1947, is considered World War II service.
- Korean conflict – June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955
- Vietnam War era – November 1, 1955, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served outside the Republic of Vietnam.
- Gulf War – August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation.
If the veteran entered active duty after September 7, 1980, he or she must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty (with some exceptions), in addition to serving at least one day during an eligible wartime period.
The widow of an officer who started on active duty after October 16, 1981, and who hadn’t previously served on active duty for at least 24 months, may also be eligible for this benefit.
In addition to wartime service, the veteran must have an honorable or anything other than dishonorable discharge.
Disability Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
The spouse of a deceased service member who died in the line of duty, or from a service-connected injury or illness, may be entitled to a tax-free VA benefit called Disability Indemnity Compensation.
The requirements for this benefit include:
- evidence showing the service member died while on active duty, active duty for training or inactive-duty training, OR
- the veteran died from a service-connected illness or injury, OR
- the veteran didn’t die from a service-connected injury or illness but was eligible to receive VA disability compensation for a service-connected disability rated as totally disabling (the veteran’s injuries made it impossible to work) for a certain period of time.
In situations where the veteran’s eligibility was due to a rating of totally disabling, they must have had this rating for at least 10 years prior to death, OR
- since their release from active duty and for at least 5 years prior to their death, OR
- for at least 1 year before their death if they were a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999.
The spouse must have lived with the service member or veteran without a break until their death, or the spouse was separated from the veteran, but wasn’t at fault for the separation.
Additional requirements include being married to the veteran or service member within 15 years of their discharge from the period of military service during which their illness or injury started getting worse, or the spouse was married to the veteran or service member for at least 1 year or had a child with the veteran or service member.
A surviving spouse who remarried can also receive the benefit if the remarriage took place on or after December 18, 2003, and the spouse was 57 years of age or older when the remarriage occurred, or the remarriage took place on or after January 5, 2021, and the spouse was 55 years of age or older at the time of the remarriage.
The monthly 2022 DIC payment rate for a surviving spouse is $1,437.66 per month.
The Aid and Attendance Benefit
Aid and Attendance is a long-term care benefit for the spouses of deceased veterans who need help with some of the activities of daily living like mobility, bathing, dressing toileting and feeding. The benefit provides additional payments to the amount of Survivors Pension or Disability Indemnity Compensation.
The benefit is a reimbursement for care, which means the spouse must be paying for the care they need before a claim can be submitted.
Types of care include home care, adult day care, board and care (also referred to as residential care), assisted living and skilled nursing facility care. Home care can be provided by a family member, friend, or professional caregiver. You do not need to be licensed to help a deceased veteran’s widow with personal care.
To be eligible for Aid and Attendance through Survivors Pension, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty, with at least 1 day during a wartime period. The veteran’s discharge status must also be honorable or other than dishonorable. And the spouse must also have been married to the veteran for at least a year before the veteran passed, and never remarried. There is one exception, if the spouse of the deceased veteran remarried and divorced the second spouse (or the second spouse passed away) between January 1st, 1971 and November 1st,1990 and never married again.
The 2022 maximum monthly pension with Aid and Attendance for a veteran’s widow is $1,310 per month ($15,816 per year). Once the benefit is approved it will be paid on a monthly basis just like Social Security.
To find out more about the VA Aid and Attendance benefit, including income criteria, asset requirements and how the claim process works, contact one of our Benefit Consultants today at 877-427-8065 or click here.