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Marsha411JD, Lawyer
Category: Military Law
Satisfied Customers: 20395
Experience:  Licensed attorney and former Navy JAG serving ashore, afloat and at the OJAG
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My father was in the military 12 years active and 9 years in

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My father was in the military 12 years active and 9 years in the reserve. This made him eligible to recieve retirement pension benifits when he turned 60. When he retired from the military he filled out paperwork stating that he would like to recieve the full pension benifits for his lifetime. Years later but before he turned retirement age he decided to change this to recieve benifits for both his and his wifes lifetime. He sent forms in at this time changing his coverage. My father was diagnosed with a terminal condition at age 59, and while he was in the VA hospital he once again did paperwork trying to make sure my mother would recieve benifits upon his death. Unfortunatley my father passed away before turning 60 and recieving the benifits, Since then my mother has been denied benifits stating that because my father did not live to recieve his first benifit at age 60 she would not be eligible. Is there anything you know of that we can do to overturn this decision. My father was a patriatic military veteran that loved his contry. I just cant believe military would deny these benifits to my mother that my father worked so hard to earn. In addition my father died of Mylodisplastic syndrome a form of leukemia usually stemming from exposure to chemicals or radiation. My father had mentioned both exposure to the chemical agent orange and also a military accident in which a sattelite dish exposed my father and others to a large dose of microwavre radiation. Thank you for your time and I hope there is something you can do to help. my email [email protected] if you need to contact me directly.

Thank you for the information and your question and I am sorry to read about the difficulties your mother is going through. Can you tell me if your father was receiving disability compensation from the VA and if so what percentage his disability was rated at? Did he ever apply for Agent Orange benefits and get that information documented in his VA files?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

My father did have medical benifits through the VA at the time of his death but was not collecting any type of pesion type benifit. Befre my father passed he met with a counselor at the VA hospital and he did apply for the Agent Orange benifits but was denied as they felt it could not be proved that he was for sure exposed to the chemical in his serivice. I find this hard to believe as my father did two tours in Veitnam while an active military member. I guess the big thing is we don't have anyone that we know who we can go through to do some type of appeal and to hear our side. Also someone who canreally tell us what our options are. I have submitted all the paperwork and made several phone calls bt they are telling us that because my father did not live until he was 60 years old my mother is not eligible for benifits.

Hello again Tim and thank you for your reply. As far as getting assistance with this process, there are a few options. One is that many of the Veterans' Organizations like the VFW and the Vietnam Veterans of America, etc., have volunteers who assist Veterans and their families with applications and appeals. Another option, which will cost some money, is to find a local attorney who has a Military Law practice where they handle post service administrative issues.

What I can tell you is that, unfortunately, the retirement paperwork that your father filled out to add your mother was something called "SBP." That is the only benefit that a surviving spouse would be eligible for that would enable them to continue to collect from the retirement pay from that servicemember and is through the Department of Defense. However, the retiree must have funds deducted from their retirement pay for this benefit, and must actually be receiving retirement pay on the day that they pass away. This is not an optional or discretionary decision, it is statutory. You can read a bit more about SBP by going to the following link:

As for survivor benefits through the VA because your father was receiving medical benefits through the VA, if your mother could establish that his death resulted in a disease or condition that was caused by his military service or exacerbated by it, she could qualify for DIC (Dependent Indemnity Compensation) and maybe even a Death Pension. You can read more about those benefits by going to the following links:

But, I would strongly advise her at this point to get the assistance of one of the local resources I mentioned, since they have experience with navigating the system.

Please let me know if you need any clarification. I would be glad to assist you further if I can.
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Hello again,

I wanted to touch base with you and make sure that you did not have any follow up questions for me from the legal answer I provided to you on the 24th. The Site has been a little buggy lately so the Experts are not always getting replies or ratings that the customer thinks have gone through. In your case I received neither. If you are having technical difficulties with reading, replying or rating, please let me know so that I can inform the Site administrator.

In any event, it was a pleasure assisting you and I would be glad to attempt to assist you further on this issue, or a new legal issue, if needed. You can bookmark my page at:

Thank you.