Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Benefits

Dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) benefits are benefits which are paid to certain survivors of a veteran.  These survivor benefits are paid in two primary situations:

  1. When a veteran who has a 100% rating for at least ten years prior to death dies for any reason
  2. When a veteran dies because of a service-connected disability

100% (total) Disability for Ten Years Prior to Death

Regardless of the reason the veteran died, eligible survivors of veterans  will qualify for DIC if the veteran had a 100% disability (either because of TDIU or otherwise) for ten years prior to the veteran’s death.  This is sometimes easily established if the veteran was already receiving benefits.  However, it can also be established after the veteran’s death if the veteran had a pending claim with an early enough effective date.  If you want to do this with a pending claim, then the eligible survivor will probably want to substitute for the veteran in the pending claim.

In some situations, the ten years prior to death can be shortened to five years or one year.  These shorter time frames apply to veterans who had the 100% disability since their release from active duty service and to former prisoners of war respectively.  In other words, the time frame that must be established is shorter for a former prisoner of war and for a veteran who has immediate 100% disability upon leaving active duty.

Establishing That a Veteran Died Because of a Service-Connected Disability

If the veteran died because of a service-connected disability, then eligible survivors can receive DIC benefits.  If the veteran had already established service-connection for the disability, then this can often be straightforward.  For example, the spouse of a veteran who died as a result of service-connected cancer should be eligible to receive DIC benefits.

Sometimes, the cause of death may not be as clear.  It may be necessary to get the correct cause of death listed on a death certificate.  In some situations, it may be necessary to get an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Even if the veteran’s disability was not “service connected” prior to the veteran’s death, a surviving spouse can still file for and receive DIC benefits.  In some situations, the veteran may die from a potentially service-connected condition while the claim for service connection is still pending.  If this happens, the eligible survivor will want to consider substituting for the veteran in the pending claim.  In other situations, a claim for service-connection may not have even been filed yet.  The survivor eligible for DIC benefits can still prove the service-connection of the veteran’s cause of death in the DIC claim.

Sometimes, the survivor applying for DIC benefits can take advantage of certain presumptions that have been put in place by VA.  Unfortunately, many Vietnam veterans develop heart problems, cancer, diabetes, or other problems that were caused by their exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.  If a veteran dies from one of these conditions and it was caused by his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam, then his surviving spouse should receive DIC benefits.  With the VA’s Agent Orange rules, a surviving spouse will often benefit from the presumption that the veteran was exposed to Agent Orange and that the medical condition was caused by the exposure to Agent Orange.

Mother and daughter cooking breakfast 1 Which survivors are eligible for DIC benefits?

Generally speaking, a surviving spouse who was married to the veteran at least a year before the veteran’s death can apply for dependency and indemnity compensation benefits.  In limited situations, a spouse may be eligible even if the marriage was for less than a year.  Sometimes, even a former spouse can be eligible.

Children are eligible for DIC benefits if they are under 18 years of age.  This eligibility can extend to age 23 if they stay in school.  Disabled adult children are also eligible.  Parents of the veteran may be eligible as well.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Benefit Amounts

The amount of DIC benefits changes year to year.  It also varies depending upon how many dependents are eligible for benefits.  In the case of a surviving spouse, there are a number of factors that can affect the amount of the benefits including:

  • The number of children
  • Whether the spouse requires aid and attendance
  • Whether the spouse is housebound

The dependency and indemnity compensation amounts as of December 1, 2014, can be found here.  If you were married for eight years prior to death and your spouse received or was eligible to receive service-connected total disability benefits for eight years prior to death, you may be eligible for “enhanced DIC”.

How do you apply for DIC benefits?

In 2015, VA changed its rules to require the use of standard forms to apply for benefits.  Anyone eligible for DIC benefits should complete VA Form 21-534EZ to apply for DIC benefits.

Questions about DIC benefits?

Eligibility for DIC benefits can be confusing.  Many people with questions find it helpful to talk to an attorney accredited to handle VA claims.  Just click here to learn about how to set up a free consultation.

Travis Studdard is an attorney who focuses on representing veterans in VA disability compensation claims.  He regularly writes about issues that are important to veterans and their families.

You can subscribe to his Veterans Disability channel on YouTube.

I'm so thankful and grateful for all the hard work Jason, Tina and Liz did for me. They went above and beyond to get the best outcome for me. They took the to explain everything that was going on with my case again I'm so thankful grateful and happy with the outcome of my workers comp case.Adrian Adams
First off, I must say thank you again to the office of Perkins Studdard. I appreciate all the hard work and dedication your office has shown to achieve a successful and happy outcome. You have forever changed my family’s life! Also, I wanted to give a special shoutout to Jessica Hyatt for her excellent attitude, advice, and overall professionalism throughout every step of this process. This journey has finally been complete after more than a decade of being denied and almost giving up. However, two of my old coworkers advised me that the office of Perkins Studdard had also successfully helped them achieve their proper rating too. Needless to say, this has been one of my best decisions in life. I can now sleep a little better and stress free knowing I finally got what I deserved all along. Once again, thank you for everything! And shoutout to Travis Studdard, “we did it.” Respectfully, Jonathon FloresJonathon Flores
My family and I are so grateful for Jason Perkins and his team. Jason explains thing's to detail and walks you through every step of your case. I would highly recommend Perkins Studdard for your legal needs. Thank you so much Jason and Tina!Chapin & Lea Anne Warner
The best I know for workers comp attorney'sDenise Williams
Jason really has helped me so much through this hard experience I have went through! And the ladies in the office was wonderful with any and everything I had questions about! I highly recommend using this lawyer office to everyone and Jason Perkins for sure!! Thank y'all for everything and making it easier to get through this long though experience! James HammittJames Hammitt
Thank you so much ! I received excellent representation from the entire Perkins Studdard Law firm, my VA claim was resolved and granted in a timely manner, they were hands on with me during the entire process. I would definitely recommend the firm to any veteran deciding to file a VA claim.Darrell Lynn
I would like to thank the law firm of Perkins-Studdard (Travis) and his team, for performing such an outstanding job, at every possible level, during my recent situation with the VA Disability Claims . From the first time I called and spoke with Mr Studdard with an overview of my situation, until the final settlement was executed (successfully I may add), I always felt that I was in good hands with this firm. Everyone in the office, Jessica, and April were responsive, approachable, knowledgeable, good listeners, and extremely professional. Mr. Studdard was realistic of the circumstances and of the potential difficult process that would lay ahead, should I proceed. I can’t say enough about Travis, and I will always be thankful to him. Travis was committed, and he instilled a real sense of confidence during both the highs and the lows. He ultimately prevailed and the outcome was very much in my favor. Of course, each case is different on its own merits and one can never predict how things ultimately will turn out. All I know is that the settlement far exceeded my expectation. Mr. Studdard has been a blessing to me. I strongly recommend that anyone who would find themselves in a similar legal situation with the VA to contact Law Offices of Perkins Studdard for a consultation. It was a very positive experience given the circumstances. Thank you again, I shall forever be in your debt.Concetta Hogg
Mr. Perkins, I cannot express enough how thankful I am for your exceptional representation. Your hard work, expertise, and unwavering commitment to my case have left an indelible mark. Thanks to you, I can now move forward with my life, confident that justice has been served.Esli Roque
Travis and his team have been a blessing for me and my family. They have done an amazing job in helping me navigate the VA appeals process. They kept their eye on the ball all the way through the long, difficult and confusing process. I highly recommend Travis and his team because thanks to their professionalism and know how, I got the benefits I deserve.Daniel patriot
Travis has been a blessing to our family, he left no stone unturned and delivered the "W" for my VA claim. Every bit of my experience with the Perkins Studdard team was respectful and they demonstrated their appreciation for our service as veterans. I highly recommend this Law Firm and truly appreciate their willingness to stand on my behalf.M L

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