The VA has two programs that provide pension benefits to eligible and qualifying surviving spouses of deceased veterans. The first is “Dependency and Indemnity Compensation”
) and the second is a ”VA Death Pension.” “Dependency and Indemnity Compensation”
(DIC) is a monthly benefit paid to eligible survivors of:
a military service member who died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, OR
a veteran whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease, OR
a veteran whose death resulted from a non service-related injury or disease, and who was receiving, or was entitled to receive, VA Compensation for service-connected disability that was rated as totally disabling
(i) for at least 10 years immediately before death; OR
(ii) since the veteran’s release from active duty and for at least five years immediately preceding death; OR
(iii) for at least one year before death if the veteran was a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999.
The surviving spouse is eligible for DIC benefits if he or she:
* validly married the veteran before January 1, 1957, OR
* was married to a service member who died on active duty, OR
* married the veteran within 15 years of discharge
from the period of military service in which the disease or injury that caused the veteran's death began or was aggravated, OR
* was married to the veteran for at least one year, OR
* had a child with the veteran, AND
* cohabited with the veteran continuously until the veteran's death or, if separated, was not at fault for the separation
* is not currently remarried.NOTE: A surviving spouse who remarries on or after December 16, 2003, and on or after attaining age 57, is entitled to continue to receive DIC benefits.
The monthly DIC rate (as of 2009) for DIC for a surviving spouse is $1,154 p/m.
If you are otherwise entitled to an annuity under the Survivor Benefit Plan
), your SBP monthly benefit would be reduced dollar-for-dollar to the extend to an DIC amount that you receive.
Further information is available at the VA’s Survivor Benefits Home Page at:http://www.vba.va.gov/Survivors/
THE PROBLEM --- To be eligible for DIC benefits, the deceased spouse’s situation must fall within one or more of the required classifications that would make the surviving spouse eligible for DIC.
Specifically, the servicemember’s death must have been the result of a service-related injury or disease. Alternatively, the surviviing spouse would be eligible for DIC benefits if the servicemember was at the time of death receiving VA compensation for a service-connected disability that was rated as totally disabling.
There is also a “VA Death Pension”
that is payable to qualifying low-income surviving spouses of a deceased wartime veteran. You may be eligible if:
* the deceased veteran was discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions, AND
* he or she served 90 days or more of active duty with at least 1 day during a period of war time. However, the law requires that anyone who enlists after 9/7/80 generally has to serve at least 24 months or the full period for which a person was called or ordered to active duty in order to receive any benefits based on that period of service, AND
* you are the surviving spouse or unmarried child of the deceased veteran, AND
* your countable income is below a yearly limit set by law. (For the period between 12/1/2008 and 11/30/2009, for a surviving spouse with no dependent children, the surviving spouse’s yearly income must be less than $7,933.
VA would then pay the difference between the surviving spouse’s countable income and the yearly income limit for the particular classification of the surviving spouse. For example, if the surviving spouse’s countable income is $4,933 and the yearly income limit for the particular classification of the surviving spouse is $7,933, the VA Death Pension would be $3,000, payable over a period of 12 months.
See the VA Death Pension Benefits Chart at:http://www.workworld.org/wwwebhelp/veterans_affairs_va_benefits_death_pension_amount.htm
As to what you should do and who can represent you.....
First, if you do not like a VA decision, you may appeal (which I note you have already started). Appeals are first made to the office that made the decision. A hearing officer
or decision review officer usually handles these cases. If the case is still in dispute it is then sent to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). If it is not resolved there, it can be appealed outside the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims (CAVC).
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