Our veterans deserve the best. They’ve served honorably and given much of themselves. This is especially true of deceased veterans. If a veteran’s death was related to their service, those who survive the veteran may be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation from the VA.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or DIC is for the survivors of veterans who died on or after January 1, 1957 and a program called death compensation is for survivors of veterans who died prior to that date.
Because most people are looking for DIC benefits that’s where my focus will be in this post.
The Circumstances around DIC
The VA will treat some claims as service connected and automatically grant DIC. Those claims must fall under the “ten year rule.” That rule states that if a veteran was injured to the point that they were considered totally disabled for at least ten years, the survivor’s benefits will be granted and the death will be considered service related.
For the “five year rule” to kick in the veteran must have been totally disabled for at least 5 years from the veteran’s release from active duty or discharge.
The “one year rule” applies when the veteran was a POW and the disability was rated continuously as totally disabling for at least one year prior to death.
In order to apply for DIC, a survivor must submit a VA form. This form is 21P-534 if you’re a spouse or child and 21P-535 if you’re a parent. All these VA forms are online and can easily be found by clicking on the links above or by doing a quick search.
If you inadvertently use the wrong form, that’s ok. The VA must interpret any application, whether through the VA or SSI as an application for DIC.
There is no deadline to apply but the timing of the application can have significant impacts on how much you get paid and when.
If you file the application within the year of the veteran’s passing, the VA will pay the benefits back to the first day of the month after the death of the veteran. If the application is submitted more than one year after the death of the veteran, the DIC payment will be backdated to the 1st day of the month in which the application was received.
If the rules I describe above don’t apply, we have to prove that one or more of the service related conditions the veteran was being compensated for contributed to his or her death. Obviously, we need to look first at the death certificate.
If the cause of death is related to a service connected ailment, the VA will likely grant benefits without a lot of problems.
If the related condition is not the cause of death, then you have to look outside the box.
There’s been litigation that has given Dependency and Indemnity Compensation to survivors when the veterans service related ailments exacerbated non service related ailments.
In order to establish this, you have to talk to doctors, family members and others who were around the veteran in order to provide proof to the VA that the two were correlated.
Finally, in order to actually take advantage of these programs, you have to be eligible. This is more complicated than one would like to believe. I’ll cover this in another blog in the future.
In the meantime, if you or any other veteran needs me, I’m always just a phone call away.