Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC): The Basics
Spouses, children, and parents of Servicemembers and Veterans who are deceased or totally and permanently disabled by a service-connected disability may be eligible for VA dependent and survivor benefits, i.e., DIC compensation. These benefits can also include pension, health care, education, home loans, and burial.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax free monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of military Servicemembers who died in the line of duty or eligible survivors of Veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease. •Complete VA Form 21-534, “Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by a Surviving Spouse or Child and mail to your regional office. Also you may want to consider if the death of the veteran was in service, where you would then complete VA Form 21-534a, “ Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by a Surviving Spouse or Child” and mail to the Philadelphia Regional Office. Choosing the correct form and sending it to appropriate local office or Philadelphia office depending on the circumstances will lessen your waiting time.
DIC for a surviving spouse and/or children is not income-based. It is the benefit payable if the veteran died while on active duty, in line of duty and not due to willful misconduct; or when death was after service, if a service-connected disability either directly caused, or contributed substantially to and materially hastened, the veteran’s death. It is not required that service connection have been established prior to the veteran’s death for the condition which caused or contributed to death. The rules and procedures for establishing service connection for a veteran’s death are essentially similar to those for establishing a service-connected disability for a living veteran, with due consideration of the finality of the evidence in a death claim. The application for DIC for a surviving spouse and/or children is VA Form 21-534. Note: DIC claims from survivors of veterans who die on active duty are now under exclusive jurisdiction of VAROIC Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Often we come across clients whose veteran spouses have passed away not from DIRECT service connection. In that instance the “AS IF” rules may apply: Since 1978, DIC has been payable “AS IF” the death were service-connected when a veteran who had been rated totally disabled from service-connected causes (whether 100% or by reason of individual unemployability) for ten continuous years or longer at the time of death dies from any cause other than willful misconduct. If the veteran was out of service less than ten years, DIC is payable if a total disability rating was in effect for a period of at least five continuous years, from the date the veteran left service to the date of death. Since November 30, 1999, DIC is payable to the surviving spouse and/or child of a former prisoner of war who was rated totally disabled from service-connected causes for at least one year at the time of death, and who died after September 30, 1999 from any cause other than willful misconduct. [38 USC 1318].
Finally, DIC is also payable “AS IF” the death were service-connected if the veteran dies as a result of VA examination, hospital care, medical or surgical treatment, Vocational Rehabilitation, or, since November 1, 2001, a program of Compensated Work Therapy under 38 USC 1718; or if a disability arising from such circumstances either directly causes, or contributes substantially to and materially hastens, the veteran’s death. In this case, however, DIC is the ONLY benefit available; there are no ancillary benefits such as Loan Guaranty, health care coverage, or educa-tion assistance. Again, the rules and procedures for establishing a qualifying compensable event are similar to those for a living veteran. [38 USC 1151].
There is also Parents’ Dependency and Indemnity Compensation which is a tax free income-based monthly benefit for the parent(s) of military Servicemembers who died in the line of duty or Veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease. •Complete VA Form 21-535, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation by Parent(s) (Including Accrued Benefits and Death Compensation when Applicable) and mail to your regional office.
The basic monthly rate of DIC is $1,195 for an eligible surviving spouse. The rate is increased for each dependent child, and also if the surviving spouse is housebound or in need of aid and attendance. VA also adds a transitional benefit of $295 to the surviving spouse’s monthly DIC if there are children under age 18. The amount is based on a family unit, not individual children. Benefit rate tables, including those for children alone and parents, can be found on the Internet at http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/Rates or call the VA toll-free number.
It is important to seek advice in completing and submitting the applications. For example, a veteran may die from a service related injuries but no compensation claim or the correct claim was not pending before the VA. The surving spouse may also need to make a “new” claim via VA Form 21-526 or continue with a pending claim. A FREE consultation with David W. Magann, Esquire can often resolve the basic choices when one is considering the DIC claim.
David W. Magann, Esq.
U.S. Marine Corps Veteran
David W. Magann, P.A.
Attorneys at Law