VA Survivors’ Benefits: Dependents Indemnity Compensation

By Douglas I. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

When a veteran dies from a service-connected condition, the surviving spouse is entitled to survivors’ benefits known as Dependents Indemnity Compensation, or DIC. Often the VA will look at the death certificate to see whether the service-connected condition is listed there, and base a decision on that information. Death certificates usually list a primary cause of death, and contributing causes.

But, if the veteran’s service connected condition is not listed on the death certificate, don’t despair, as there are ways to get around this problem. For example, a condition may contribute to the cause of death if it weakens a major body system. So, if the veteran had diabetes, the diabetes may have weakened a major body system, such as the circulatory system. This can be enough to get the benefits awarded. In a DIC case it is important to think through how a service connected condition may lead to an award and whether a medical opinion may be needed to prove the case.

What if your spouse didn’t die from a service-connected condition? You can still get benefits if the veteran had a 100% rating, or was found unemployable, for at least ten years prior to death. In those cases, the surviving spouse is entitled to DIC regardless of the cause of death. So, if the veteran died in a car crash, and had been receiving 100% benefits for at least ten years prior to the crash, the surviving spouse may receive DIC benefits.

There are other ways to prove Dependents Indemnity Compensation, and the claimant must meet the definition of a surviving spouse, but, in most situations the rules above will determine entitlement to DIC. If you have questions about whether you qualify for Dependents Indemnity Compensation, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 1-800-728-0434.