ANSWER:WIDOWS -- SURVIVORS -- VA -- BENEFITS -- SUMMARY -- SURVIVING SPOUSE
The federal government provides a number of various programs to assist surviving spouses of deceased servicemembers. Here's summary of what is available:
* Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
* Veteran's Death Pension
* VA Aid & Assistance Pension (A & A)
* Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)
* Beneficiary Financial Counseling Services (BFCS)
* VA Home Loans and Transition Assistance
* Education Benefits
* Bereavement Counseling
* Continuing Benefits
* Burial BenefitsDependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
DIC benefits are provided to survivors of active duty service members or other service members whose deaths are related to their service as determined by the VA. They are generally not given to retired service members unless their death resulted from a service-related injury or had a service-connected disability. Please Note: These benefits are not automatic and you must apply for them. A casualty assistance officer is available to help you find your local VA office and apply for DIC benefits. The casualty assistance officer is automatically assigned by the military.
The DIC program provides a monthly payment that is determined annually (adjusted for inflation and/or cost of living) and is the same for all service members regardless of rank or pay grade at the time of the service member’s death. (For example, in 2008, the payment for spouses was $1,091 per month.)
The DIC benefit will be paid to the spouse for their lifetime, unless they remarry before the age of 57. If the spouse does remarry but the marriage ends, the spouse will again be eligible for the DIC benefit. If the spouse and the service member had children together, the monthly payment increases by $271 per child (as of 2008). If there is no surviving spouse but there are surviving children, they are eligible for benefits and will be paid in equal shares. The children will receive the DIC benefit until:
* They are 18 (or 19 if still in secondary school)
* They marry
* They are 18-23 years old and they are attending an institution of higher learning that is “VA approved”
* For the duration of their life if they are disabled
Contact your local branch of the VA or call 1-800-827-1000 for further details.Veteran's Death Pension
The Veteran’s Death Pension is a need-based benefit for survivors of wartime veterans. The veteran does not need to be active at the time of death. It is available to survivors when both the Deceased and surviving family meet certain requirements. The Deceased must have been discharged honorably, served at least 90 days of active duty with one of those days during wartime, and if enlisted after 9/7/80, must have served at least 24 months. The survivor must be a spouse or child of the veteran who is unmarried and their income must be below the yearly limit. Additionally, the child must be under 18, under 23 if in school full-time, or was incapable of self-support before age
18. The limit is set each year by Congress and is available at the VA’s Web site.VA Aid & Assistance Pension
The VA Aid and Attendance (A&A) Pension makes provision allowing for limited benefits to be paid to the surviving spouse of a military servicemember if the service member was a war-time veteran with at least 90 days of active duty that included at least one day beginning or ending during a period of war,
This is a "needs based" program and is intended for veterans and surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing and undressing or taking care of the needs of nature. It also includes individuals who are blind or a patient in a nursing home because of mental or physical incapacity. Assisted care in an assisting living facility also qualifies.
Check the following website for more information:http://www.veteranaid.org/program.php
See the following news release from the Sec. of Veterans Affairs.http://www1.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=1265Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)
All members of the armed services are able to enroll in a life insurance policy with a maximum value of $400,000. Usually a beneficiary is specified when enrolling, but if no beneficiary is identified the life insurance is distributed based on the following priority:
* Executor or Administrator of the will
* Next of Kin
The SGLI program also automatically provides Traumatic Injury Protection to SGLI members. This program is designed to provide funds for recovery if the service member is injured in the line of duty. It also provides funds to a service member’s family if the service member sustained a traumatic injury for seven days or longer and died as a result of the injury.
There is also Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) benefit, which covers the service member’s spouse and dependent children.Beneficiary Financial Counseling Services (BFCS)
Financial counseling is available to beneficiaries through service members’ life insurance policies. Once a survivor’s claim is settled, the VA will direct them to FinancialPoint® (1-888-243-7351), a group that provides counseling to ensure that beneficiaries have the financial knowledge and tools to manage their finances.VA Home Loans and Transition Assistance
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs provides guaranteed or non-guaranteed home loans to spouses of deceased active or inactive service members who have not remarried. Discharged service members must have had an honorable discharge for families to be eligible. These loans can offer better rates than a traditional loan. In addition, the VA will assist a spouse/family with a transition assistance benefit which is a monthly $250 payment to spouses with dependent children. This benefit is offered for up to two years or until all of the children are removed from DIC benefits.Education Benefits
The VA provides refunds to families of active service members who participated in the Montgomery GI Bill/Veterans Educational Assistance Program (MGIB/VEAP) and died while on active duty. The death must be considered “service connected” for families to be eligible. The beneficiary will receive the amount that the service member contributed to the program, less any benefits that were used by the Deceased. Surviving spouses are also able to receive educational assistance for 20 years after the service member’s death; children of service members are entitled to educational assistance from ages 18 through 26.Bereavement Counseling
Parents, spouses and children of deceased active service members are entitled to bereavement counseling through the VA Office of Readjustment Counseling Service (RCS). Bereavement counseling is designed to help the loved ones of a deceased service member cope with emotional and psychological stress of their loved one’s death. Bereavement counseling through the VA includes outreach, referral services and transition services. The counseling is provided at Vet Centers throughout the country. To request these services, call the Readjustment Counseling Service at(NNN) NNN-NNNN e-mail them [email protected]
or call the VA at 1-800-827-1000.Continuing Survivor Benefits
Many military families worry that if their loved one dies on active duty, their current benefits and way of life will be immediately threatened. The stress of death is enough to handle without worrying about moving, finding new insurance and dealing with other concerns associated with leaving the support of the military system. To assist families, the VA continues to provide several services to families upon the death of a loved one:
* According to the DOD, survivors may be eligible to continue to receive TRICARE (Military heathcare) benefits at the active duty rate for three years at no cost. After that, you will be eligible receive the retiree family member rate which will require a premium payment. Families may also continue using the TRICARE dental benefits up to three years after death. (Source: A Survivor’s Guide to Benefits: Taking Care of our Own, DOD, 2008)
* According to the DOD, you may use the base theater and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) facilities; you are also eligible to continue shopping at the exchange and commissary indefinitely unless you remarry. (Source: A Survivor’s Guide to Benefits: Taking Care of our Own, DOD, 2008)
* Unmarried children can also use these benefits until they are 21 (or 23 if enrolled in post-secondary education). Please Note: Family information in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) must be accurate and up-to-date to ensure that benefits are awarded correctly.
* If living in government housing as a dependent (either leased or otherwise), you have one year to continue your living situation. If you need more time, you must request it from the Base Commander and you may be charged rent after the first year. If you move out of government housing before the year is up, you will receive a refund for the unused portion of the year from the Basic Housing Allowance (BHA) for the Deceased’s pay grade. If you are a survivor and also a military member, you are still eligible for the dependent BHA. If you are not living in government housing, you’ll receive a year’s worth of BHA in a lump sum.
* Eligible dependents are also given one opportunity for relocation paid for by the government. The relocation must take place within three years of the Deceased’s death, but if needed, a request for an extension can be made. Survivors are also entitled to legal assistance for help with a variety of issues that can result after a service member’s death; assistance with final income taxes is also available.
* If you wish, posthumous citizenship may be awarded to the deceased service member. It is an honorary status and does not come with any benefits.
* The Deceased’s Federal income tax liability may also be forgiven, provided the Deceased’s death took place or was a result of active service in a combat zone according to the definitions provided in the benefit laws. The tax is forgiven “for the tax year in which the death occurred and for an earlier tax year ending on or after the first day the member served in a combat zone in active service…Any forgiven tax liability that has already been paid will be refunded, and any tax liability at the date of death will be forgiven.” Also, any unpaid taxes accumulated from prior years will be forgiven, and survivors will be refunded any tax paid after death. Most states also have income tax forgiveness policies in place for veterans who serve in combat zones. Check with your state’s revenue department to find out of the Deceased qualifies.Burial Benefits
Burial benefits are available to all service members who meet eligibility requirements. Generally, if the Deceased was a member of the armed forces, including reserve forces, and died while on active duty or after active duty but retained an honorable discharge, they are eligible for military burial benefits. There is a requirement for length of service: 24 months or if the Deceased served the entire period for which they were activated. Retirees are generally not entitled to full burial benefits, but are entitled to a military funeral. There is a list of eligibility requirements that should be reviewed by survivors available at the VA’s Web site (www.cem.va.gov).
Burial and funeral details are the responsibility of the Person Authorized to Direct Disposition of Human Remains (PADD). The PADD is designated before death by the Deceased. If a PADD is not specified, the military will fill that role.
The Department of Defense (DOD) assumes responsibility for the transportation, casketing and preparation of remains if the Deceased was on active duty or training for active duty. Some retired military members may also be eligible. The tradition throughout all military branches is to have a military member or family escort with the remains when they are transported. Some military branches also have a team of two military members who alternate guarding the deceased until they are buried or cremated. Please Note: Though choosing a family member for an escort may seem ideal, it is important to consider that a lengthy approval process is required before a family member can escort the remains.
If the Deceased died while overseas and is to be buried in the United States, the DOD will transport the body back to the U.S. Even though the DOD transports the deceased as soon as possible, it’s best to choose a date for the funeral after the remains have arrived back in the United States as there can be delays in transportation.
All active duty service members can be buried in Arlington National Cemetery or any other national cemetery. Your local VA office has information about local and national cemetery options. Spouses and children under 18 can also be buried with the service member in VA national cemeteries. Most retired veterans can also be buried in a national cemetery, provided their discharge was honorable.
The veteran’s family might be entitled to a VA burial allowance. This will help cover the costs of the funeral and transportation. The status of the veteran at the time of death determines how much the VA burial allowance might be. Both active and inactive members of the military can be eligible for a VA burial allowance.
The family may choose private arrangements over military involvment. If so, a portion of the cost of the arrangements can be reimbursed; the amount depends upon the manner of burial. If the PADD elects to have the service member buried overseas, the government will supervise the transportation to the burial site.
The return of service members' personal property is considered a priority and will be handled promptly. Legal assistance may also be provided if necessary. In addition, the
family can request a copy of the official investigative report about the death of the Deceased.The BotXXXXX XXXXXne
The VA provides numerous benefits to survivors of the armed services. The VA recognizes how difficult the loss of a loved one is for the families of service members, especially in the special or secretive circumstances that can be associated with military service. The VA encourages survivors to take advantage of the benefits if you feel you need them; most are at little or no extra cost and can provide much needed support after a loved one’s death.How to Find out More Information about Survivor Benefits
The United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA): 1-800-827-1000 www.va.gov
Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWP): 1-866-4-USA-DOL www.dol.gov
Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS): 1-800-321-1080 www.dfas.mil
Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA): 1-800-321-1080 www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/
Social Security Administration: 1-800-772-1213 www.ssa.gov
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Edited by Lawrence D. Gorin on 12/22/2010 at 9:39 PM EST