October 26, 2020

Do Spouses of Deceased Veterans Get Benefits?

If your spouse served in the U.S. military, you are likely familiar with the range of benefits and services they receive. What might be more difficult to parse out, however, is if spouses of deceased veterans get benefits.

The spouses of deceased veterans may get benefits, depending on what they are, how one’s spouse passed away, and other qualifications. You can easily miss out many of the benefits for spouses of deceased veterans if you do not know what they are or how to apply for them. It is vital that you educate yourself on the programs available to you so that you can receive what the military provides.

Care managers can also be essential sources of information and assistance as you navigate the process of obtaining spousal military benefits. You can find a care manager near you through Worthright's care manager tool to get started.

Benefits for Spouses of Deceased Veterans

You may qualify as a spouse of a deceased veteran for one or more benefits, depending on your needs or goals after your loved one passes on. If your spouse served in the armed forces and has died, you may qualify for various programs offering you a range of benefits:

  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
  • VA Death Pension Benefits
  • TRICARE
  • Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA)
  • Home loan
  • Education and training
  • Burial benefits

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

The Senior Veterans Service Alliance explains Dependency and Indemnity Compensation is a monthly payment you may receive if your deceased veteran spouse meets one of the following criteria:

  • Veteran spouse died while on active duty or during training
  • Spouse’s death due to a service-related injury or disease
  • Non-service related injury or illness, but was receiving (or able to receive) compensation from Veterans Affairs due to a service-related total disability for a set time

Bear in mind that there are some situations in which you may not be eligible for DIC, such as the following:

  • You were married for less than a year prior to your veteran spouse's death
  • You and your veteran spouse were separated and not living together

The amount you receive as a spouse of a deceased veteran depends on your spouse's pay grade and whether you have dependent children. All payments are also tax-free.

When applying for spousal deceased veterans benefits, it is essential to do so as soon as possible. If you wait more than 12 months after your spouse's death to apply, the benefits will not be retroactive to the date of death. You will only receive payment from your application date.

VA Survivors Pension Benefits

The Senior Veterans Service Alliance explains Dependency and Indemnity Compensation is a monthly payment you may receive if your deceased veteran spouse meets one of the following criteria:

  • Veteran spouse died while on active duty or during training
  • Spouse’s death due to a service-related injury or disease
  • Non-service related injury or illness, but was receiving (or able to receive) compensation from Veterans Affairs due to a service-related total disability for a set time

Bear in mind that there are some situations in which ou may not be eligible for DIC, such as the following:

  • You were married for less than a year prior to your veteran spouse's death
  • You and your veteran spouse were separated and not living together

The amount you receive as a spouse of a deceased veteran depends on your spouse's pay grade and whether you have dependent children. All payments are also tax-free.

When applying for spousal deceased veterans benefits, it is essential to do so as soon as possible. If you wait more than 12 months after your spouse's death to apply, the benefits will not be retroactive to the date of death. You will only receive payment from your application date.

TRICARE

TRICARE is a comprehensive healthcare plan for active and retired military service members and their families. Coverage through TRICARE continues for spouses of deceased veterans who were enrolled in the plan, as well as any surviving children up to the age of 21 (or 23 for full-time college students).

Eligibility for TRICARE as the spouse of a deceased veteran depends on a few factors. The first is the spouse’s military status before death. If the spouse was an active duty member of the military, coverage is guaranteed for the first three years through what TRICARE calls “transitional survivors.” This designation means that there are no changes to health plan options and costs during this period. Transitional survivors can choose from the entire range of healthcare plans, including those that cover the families of service members living overseas.

After three years, the range of plans decreases—removing TRICARE Prime Remote (for people living in remote areas of the United States), Prime Overseas (for overseas military and their families), and Prime Remote Overseas (for people living remotely overseas). Other plans, such as TRICARE for Life (for Medicare members) and U.S. Family Health Plan, remain available after the three-year period expires. Note that coverage for surviving children stays the same during and after the three-year period, but coverage for spouses of deceased veterans transitions over to those that a retired military family member would receive.    

Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA)

If you do not qualify for TRICARE as the spouse of a deceased veteran, you may still qualify for the Civilian Health and Medical Program. CHAMPVA is another health insurance program available to veterans with total disability. If your spouse passed away due to a service-related disability, you may qualify to receive his or her benefits, so long as you meet specific criteria:

  • Have a permanent total disability rating
  • Died during active duty or from a service-related disability

The Civilian Health and Medical program provides premium-free insurance, but you will have co-pays. If you have Medicare coverage, CHAMPVA will act as a tertiary coverage that complements your existing insurance.

Spouses of deceased veterans may use this health insurance with any doctor and at any facility, not just VA facilities. The program also offers a prescription by mail option, which allows you to get free medications. Note that if you are eligible for TRICARE, you are not eligible for CHAMPVA as well. You may also lose your CHAMPVA eligibility if any of the following are true:

  • You divorce or get an annulment
  • You remarry
  • You are eligible for the TRICARE program

Surviving Spouse VA Home Loans

If you and your deceased veteran spouse qualified for a VA home loan while he or she was alive, you will still be able to secure a VA home loan if your spouse dies. VA home loan programs for surviving spouses provide you with access to a VA-guaranteed loan to buy a home, condominium, manufactured home, or lot. These loans are also usable for making home repairs, improvements, or for refinancing a current mortgage. The VA guarantee is an excellent supplement to an applicant’s existing credit history and financial information. A loan guarantee means that the guarantor (the VA, in this case) promises to cover a percentage of the loan’s total in the event that the borrower can’t pay.

Guaranteed VA loans tend to have lower interest rates and require smaller down payments than conventional loans. In some cases, you will not need a down payment. Borrowers secure these loans through a traditional lender, but the VA guarantees up to 50 percent of the loan’s total up to $45,000, and loans ranging from $45,000 to $144,000 receive up to 40% of the total guaranteed by the VA. Loans of more than $144,000 come with either a guarantee of up to 25% of $104,250—which covers a quarter of the Freddie Mac conforming loan limit (the price cap Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are willing to guarantee).

To apply, you will need to have all the typical documents lenders require to get a mortgage. These include credit reports, bank account statements, tax returns, pay stubs, and a rental history (if you are currently renting). You will also need the Certificate of Eligibility to prove you qualify for a VA loan. You can get this online or submit an eligibility form to the VA.

VA Education Assistance and Training Programs

The VA offers an educational assistance program to the families of deceased service members that can help pay some or all of the costs to attend college or a vocational training program. There is also a scholarship program that can help make higher education more affordable.

Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program

The largest and most popular program, known as the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program provides a lump-sum monthly payment to go toward education and training programs to both veterans and their dependents, so long as the service member became either disabled or deceased while on active duty (or later died due to a service-related condition).

The DEA program provides $1,224 per month to go toward tuition, money for books and other supplies, and monthly housing costs for up to 45 months. Spouses can take advantage of this program for up to 20 years after the date of death of their military spouse (if in active duty), or 10 years from the date the VA determines a veteran qualified for these benefits (if not determined immediately after death). Children of deceased veterans can take advantage of the DEA from the ages of 18 and 26, and can attend programs including conventional college, business school, and technical or vocational programs. Proceeds can also go toward certification tests, apprenticeships, tutoring, or work study.

Fry Scholarship

The Fry Scholarship is another popular option for helping the spouses of deceased veterans and their families pay for education. This scholarship program provides veterans full tuition payment for in-state public colleges as well as money for books and school supplies, and money for housing. for an in-state public college education. If spouses and dependents wish to attend a private school, the Fry Scholarship pays $25,162.14 per year to go toward tuition costs. The scholarship also includes a monthly housing allowance and money for books.  

Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits for Spouses of Deceased Veterans

The spouses and dependents of a deceased military veteran may also be eligible for their GI benefits. The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Assistance Act of 2017 gives dependents the ability to claim or transfer a deceased veteran’s GI Bill benefits. Spouses and dependents can receive the full sum of the GI bill if it was not used during the service member’s life, or the remaining balance if a portion of the bill’s total was used before the veteran’s passing.

The spouses of deceased veterans can claim and use GI Bill benefits right away, and dependent children can use these benefits after they have received a high school diploma (or GED), and are 18 years of age or older. They can also use these benefits until the age of 26.

Veteran Spouse Burial Benefits

Veteran spouse burial benefits include a range of options including burial in national cemeteries to payments designed to help pay for the cost of the veteran’s burial outside of a national cemetery. These deceased veteran benefits include a military funeral at no cost to survivors as well as headstones, markers, medallions, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial certificate.

Surviving spouses of deceased veterans may also qualify for burial in a national or state veterans cemetery. You will need to apply for this honor and get a confirmation decision letter. You could potentially seek burial at Arlington National Cemetery if you meet specific requirements.

The Bottom Line on Benefits for the Spouses of Deceased Veterans

It’s always difficult to mourn the passing of a loved one. If your spouse was a member of the military, there are programs available to you to help offset cost of living expenses, provide healthcare coverage for you and your dependent children, or to even help finance higher education opportunities. These military benefits help spouses and families cope with the loss of a military veteran, and can provide opportunities that help honor their passing.


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