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.

Rita BarnesRita Barnes
00:03 20 Jan 22
This is a great group of people who really care about your well being. They all treated me as though I was family and helped me with my work comp case in more ways than the average would have.Thank you Jason and Thank you Tina! For doing an awesome job.
Cortex ButlerCortex Butler
18:09 29 Dec 21
I am a Veteran of United States Air Force and was awarded my first 30% in 1996 and have been fighting for my rating for 26 years I came to Perkins and Studdard in 2019 while my mom was in a terrible incident and was given to much anesthesia and through GODS Grace she was spared her life, She is disabled since 2018 and I have been struggling with my life and issues and yet I didn’t call the law firm every 10 minutes or call being rude anytime, I mentioned this as I got to know Jessica more than just a phone call and Mr Studdard was always available when not working on other cases or in court, They always called back and Never had to do a call back, My Review is Simple in Life there peaks and valleys and it doesn’t stop because you have issues, Perkins & Studdard took my case in 2019 in 2021 I received my 100% from VA, I Was Never Rude, I was Never Promised Success, I Was Never Lied too and I was Always Treated with Respect, Friendliness, and Kindness the Real Stuff not a (Money Thing) If You want a firm that Cares about the Client and will work on your case even through a pandemic, Will not lie, will not promise anything will communicate your case and will Give you their Best ALWAYS THIS IS THE Best Law Firm for VETS HANDS DOWN Perkins and Studdard THERE IS NO OTHER 100% we had 5 calls Total Case That’s Taking Care Of Business
annetteMomma nokesannetteMomma nokes
14:29 12 Sep 16
Jason and his paralegal Lisa were on point and on top of their game when it came to handling my worker's comp. injury case. I tried going it alone and the insurance carrier pushed me around. They denied extra physical therapy. They denied injections the doctor recommended to ease my pain. When I turned my case over to Jason things turned around, QUICK. They were at all times attentive and on top of my case. I cannot recommend Jason and his staff enough. If you are hurt at work, this is the firm you want on YOUR side.
Sheila KirklinSheila Kirklin
23:11 12 May 16
Jason Perkins, was my lawyer in a workers comp. case, my case has settled now, and I am very happy for all Jason and his office hard work on my case, he was always there to help me out with any questions that I had or help I needed. Jason is a excellent lawyer and if I ever need another one I would only go to Perkins,Because I believe they would be able to help me in any situation I am in need of..
Anna PabonAnna Pabon
23:16 13 Sep 15
I recommend Perkins Law Firm. Everyone I came in contact with there was very nice. Kim was very helpful and any time I had a question she made sure I got an answer. Ann Margaret really took the time to explain things to me.

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