Benefits for Widows of Veterans
Posted in Uncategorized on September 12, 2017
Military service impacts the entire family, and as the saying goes, you don’t just marry the servicemember; you marry the military as well. Military spouses experience their fair share of sacrifices over the years, living through multiple PCS orders, deployments, specific restrictions and guidelines on all sorts of elements of everyday life. And sadly, many military spouses experience the unimaginable pain of losing their loved one to war or to the residual effects of combat.
The Armed Forces recognizes this, and as a result, the U.S. government, via the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), has established numerous benefits for military spouses who have made the ultimate sacrifice and must face life without their solider or sailor. While the concept of what a widow or widower looks like has shifted with the years of combat in the Middle East – as a younger generation of Americans were faced with the loss of their loved ones – the benefits of survivors is designed to help family members begin to rebuild their lives after their terrible loss.
Below are some of the benefits many surviving spouses can utilize. It is always advisable to talk to your local Veteran Service Officer, County Service Officer, representative at the nearest Regional VA Office, or your Military Casualty Officer. These representatives are trained in processes and required documents; they may also be able to steer you towards benefits provide at your state level as well.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Benefit
The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefit is a tax-free monetary monthly payment made to eligible survivors of military servicemembers who died in the line of duty, or to eligible survivors of veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease. The base monthly rate is around $1,250 but the total payment may increase based on the servicemember’s rank, how many dependent children (under 18) there are, if the surviving spouse is housebound, or if he or she is eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit. As with all VA benefits, there is a specific list of eligibility requirements, evidence needed, and forms required, so be sure to review it with your local VA claims rep.
Death Gratuity Payment within 120 days of Retirement
The death gratuity is a one-time, non-taxable payment of $100,000 to help surviving family members deal with the financial hardships that accompany the loss of a servicemember. This benefit applies to the family members active duty members and reservists, as well as servicemembers who are traveling to begin their military service, or who have been accepted into service. For retirees, a lump sum payment of $12,420 s made if the servicemember is within 120 days of his or her retirement (no death gratuity payment is made after that timeframe). The payment is made to the surviving legal spouse, and if none is present, the payment is made to family members in a specific order.
The Survivors Pension benefit, also known as the Death Pension, is a tax-free monetary benefit payable to a low-income, un-remarried surviving spouse and/or unmarried children of a deceased veteran with wartime service. Your yearly family income must be less than the amount set by Congress to qualify for the Survivors Pension benefit. If eligible, your pension benefit is calculated as the difference between your "countable" income and the annual pension limit set by Congress. The VA generally pays this difference in 12 equal monthly payments.
TRICARE Medical Coverage
TRICARE, the military’s health care provider, continues to provide coverage for family members when a servicememer dies. Health plan options and costs will vary based on the sponsor's military status when he or she dies (must have been on active duty for more than 30 days), and if the surviving family member is a spouse or child. Claims will be cost-shared at the active duty family member rate for three years after death of active duty sponsor, and afterwards at the retiree rate. Widows or widowers remain eligible until they remarry and children remain eligible until age 21.
BAH for One Year
The military provides a monthly Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) payment to servicemembers to help pay for housing. The spouse and children of a deceased servicemember living in government quarters are entitled to either remain in government housing for 365 days, or to relocate to private quarters and receive a one year of BAH or Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) as appropriate. To receive this allowance for private quarters, the servicemember must have been eligible to receive those allowances for his or her dependents at the time of death. BAH amounts are calculated based on numerous factors about the home’s location, and varies from city to city.
Home Loan Guaranty Benefit
The VA helps eligible surviving spouses become homeowners by providing a home loan guaranty benefit and other housing-related programs to help you buy, build, repair, retain, or adapt a home for your own personal occupancy. VA Home Loans are provided by private lenders, such as banks and mortgage companies, and the VA guarantees a portion of the loan, enabling the lender to provide you with more favorable terms. Additionally, many states sponsor additional home assistance and tax break programs for surviving family members, so it is a good idea to check with your state’s veterans department.
There are several federal and state benefits designed to help surviving spouses and dependents continue their education. For example, the Survivor’s Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA) program provides education and training opportunities for up to 45 months. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship provides Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to the children and surviving spouses of servicemembers who died in the line of duty while on active duty after September 10, 2001. Eligible beneficiaries attending school may receive up to 36 months of benefits at the 100% level. Additionally, many states and universities offer scholarships or special assistance to surviving spouses and dependents to make continuing education more affordable, so be sure to check with your state’s veterans department or your school’s financial aid department.
Written By Megan Hammons