Military Spouses: Can They Get Veterans Disability Compensation?

Surviving military spouses can sometimes receive veterans disability compensation. This benefit is called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), and it is paid on a monthly basis. DIC is available to a surviving military spouse (a widow or widower) and his or her dependent children. In some cases, a dependent parent may also be eligible for DIC.

You are eligible for DIC if VA considers you a surviving spouse (see below), and your military spouse died either:

  • while receiving VA disability compensation for at least:
    • 10 or more years, right up until he or she died.
    • from the time of discharge for at least five years up until she or he died, or
    • for at least one year, if your spouse had been a prisoner of war.
  • while on active duty
  • as a result of a service-connected injury or illness, or
  • while on active duty for training or inactive duty training

How Does VA Define “Surviving Spouse”?

The VA will recognize you as a surviving spouse if one of the following is true.

  • You were married to the veteran before January 1, 1957.
  • You were married to the veteran for at least a year.
  • You were married for any length of time and your spouse died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.
  • You had a child with the veteran, and
    • you were living with the veteran until his or her death, or
    • you were separated, and the separation was not your fault.
  • You married the veteran within 15 years of his or her discharge from service, and the injury or illness that caused the veteran’s death started in military service, or was made worse by service.

How Much Money Will I Receive?  

 Currently DIC pays $1,154 per month. If you have any children under age 18, your monthly benefit will be increased by $286 for each child. If you are housebound or need help to perform basic tasks of daily living, you will receive additional monthly benefits. To determine how much your monthly benefit might be, see the  VA benefit amounts for DIC.

If you receive benefits for your children under age 18, you will generally only receive this additional benefit for two years. Or the additional benefit for your children may stop earlier if your children reach age 18 before two years have passed.

However, if you have a disabled child, the child will remain eligible for DIC even after they reach age 18 or two years have passed.

What if I Have Remarried?

It depends on when you got remarried.

If you remarried before reaching age 57 or before December 16, 2003, the VA will not consider you a surviving spouse, even if you meet the above requirements.

If you remarried after you were age 57, and after December 16, 2003, the VA will consider you a surviving spouse.

Other Benefits

There are other survivor benefits that you and your children may be eligible for in addition to DIC, such as educational assistance, health care,and assistance with certain burial costs.

VA Pension

If you are not eligible for Disability and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), the VA may find that you are eligible for a  VA Pension. VA Pensions do pay less than DIC and are needs-based, but if your spouse’s death wasn’t service connected and your spouse wasn’t receiving disability compensation at the time of death, it’s your only alternative. If you are on a limited income and your military spouse served during wartime, you may be eligible to receive a VA Pension.

Being a Military Spouse: Going Back to School

As a military spouse, furthering your education can benefit your family in many ways.  Financially, it can certainly boost your earning power and help widen your career opportunities.  On a personal level, acquiring a higher education can translate to a feeling of accomplishment that allows you to feel confident about investing in yourself, your career, and your future.  The following tips provide a great starting point for military spouses who wish to go back to college.

1.   Choose the right College for You

There are variety of factors to consider based on individual circumstances and career goals.  Research and speak to at least a few colleges in order to compare.  By speaking to several colleges, they will often times present valuable points you might not have already considered.  Create a pros and cons list of each and then decide.

2.    Think about your overall career and personal goals.

Choose to focus on something that interests you both personally and professionally. Aim for a career that puts you at a desirable pay level, offers a decent work-life balance, and gives you overall satisfaction in your endeavors.

3.    Be flexible.

You may need to adjust your career goals based on cost, job availability, deployment or relocation of your spouse, and an overall ability of your family to function if you choose to pursue any form of college.  Make sure that you are realistic with your goals and adapt them to ensure the health and stability of your finances and your family.

4.    Consider hidden costs.

In addition to tuition costs, going back to school necessitates transportation, book, and childcare expenses.  If you currently have a job, you will also need to factor in the lost income when you make your decision to go back to school. Basically, you need to make sure that going back to school is financially feasible.

5.   Contemplate different courses of study.

Depending on your chosen field, you need to explore the various means for acquiring the necessary skills to enter into your desired profession.  You may need professional license, certification, associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree.  These vary greatly in both time and cost, so it’s necessary to weigh these considerations with what is recommended to acquire the best jobs in your field.

6.  Make sure the timing is right

Juggling a family and work while taking on the additional responsibility of going back to school can be overwhelming.  Consider how much bandwidth you have to attend class and study.

7.    Look into distance learning programs.

Military families face frequent re-locations, often making it difficult to complete local education programs.  Distance learning programs provide flexibility that can be hugely beneficial to the unpredictable nature of being a military spouse.

8.   Appeal Transfer Credits

If you have college credits from a previous school and get denied credit at your current school, be sure to challenge.  Most schools have a process for a challenge and your advisor or counselor should be able to assist.  Typically, more information is requested such as a course description or syllabus.  Challenges are often successful upon offering additional information for those hard-earned grades you earned in previous classes.  If most of your credits are not accepted another option is to look at other schools that are more closely aligned in curriculum or accreditation and possibly have transfer agreements in place e.g., junior colleges with local universities.

9.    Utilize resources for financial assistance.
There are a variety of programs that can help to offset the cost of going back to school for military spouses.  Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) is a program for military spouses that can cover up to $4000 worth of costs for military spouses seeking an associate degree, license, or credential.  Many state colleges and universities offer non-resident active-duty service members and their families in-state tuition rates regardless of the duration of residence. There are also many scholarship programs that provide various methods of financial aid, as well as low-interest federal loans.  Each branch of the military also offers financial assistance to spouses who reside in the United States while their service members are stationed overseas.

10.    Research the job market in your chosen field.

Are there readily available opportunities in this particular field?  Furthermore, are there specific areas of the country where this profession is not as lucrative? If there are limited job opportunities, it might not be worth the time and money to obtain a degree or certification if there is the possibility that it will not result in a successful career.  If this is the case, you may want to consider opportunities in related fields and use your original goal to navigate a new, more promising career path.

Being a Military Spouse: Top Benefits

Military spouses face many challenges, so it’s nice to have benefits to balance the scale.  Spouses can find many advantages ranging from educational benefits to employment opportunities.  Many programs are provided automatically upon entrance to military service or marriage to a service member.  Listed below are 5 top benefits not provided automatically, but available to military spouses to utilize.

1.  Military Spouse Preference (MSP) Program:

With military spouse unemployment remaining high, any advantage that can assist in securing a desired position is helpful. Under the MSP, military spouses are given preferential employment placement in vacant Department of Defense (DoD) civilian positions. These vacancies may fall under either civil service or Appropriated/Non-Appropriates Funds. Please contact you local Civilian Personnel Office (CPO) or Human Resources Office (HRO) for current vacancies.

2.  Patriot Express:

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has established this small business loan program for veterans and spouses. Its purpose is to assist with the initial costs in establishing a small business, or costs related to expanding a small business.  Low interest rates are assigned to the loans, typically ranging from 2.25%-4.75%.  The SBA guarantees up to 85% of the total loan, with a maximum loan amount of $500,000.

3.  Family Service Members’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI):

Military spouses are eligible to receive up to $100,000 in life insurance coverage. Military members can elect to enroll their family members in this program for coverage of $10,000 to $100,000.  Spouse and dependent coverage may not exceed the coverage held by the service member, and children are restricted to $10,000. Contact your Military Personnel Office for enrollment information.

4.  Transferred GI Bill® Benefits:

Education benefits can be transferred from service members to their spouses and children.  Once the military member has reached the required time in service, he or she may elect to assign a portion or all of their GI Bill benefits to a family member. Benefits may be used while the military member is still serving in the Armed Forces.  Spouses are able to use the benefits for up to 15 years after the military member separates from the Armed Forces, and children may use the benefits until they reach 26 years of age. Children may also be eligible for additional benefits, such as monthly housing allowances. Your installation’s Education Office and the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) office can provide additional details.

5.  Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA):

One of the most advantageous programs offered to military spouses is the MyCAA Scholarship.  This program offers up to $4,000 in financial assistance to military spouses who are pursuing any of the following offered by an institute aligned with the MyCAA Program:

  • A License
  • A Certification
  • An Associates Degree

Spouses of active duty, guard, and reserve members holding the ranks of E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2, and O-1 to O-2 are eligible, and must be able to begin and complete their program while the military member is on Title 10 military orders.

10 Military Discounts for Spouses

Military discounts are all around us. Some offer better deals than others. Some are advertised. Some are little known secrets that are revealed only when requested. Some expire, some are seasonal, and some last forever. And while there are some military discounts that are custom-made for service members, there are some that are perfect for military spouses.

Here’s a list of 10 military discounts that spouses love:

1. Clothing and accessories

Clothes, shoes, accessories. We need them. But putting together a wardrobe sure is expensive. That’s why military spouses love the discounts offered at stores like Kohl’s, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Vera Bradley, Columbia, Buckle, Rack Room Shoes and many more. Some stores offer discounts both in-store and online while others may not, so it’s best to call or check the website for details.

2. Disney

Have you always wanted to take your family on vacation at Disney World but tossed the idea aside because you thought you couldn’t afford it? Well, with a military ID, you can afford it. Through Disney’s Armed Forces Salute program, military personnel can get discounted tickets to Disney theme parks, as well as discounts off select rooms at Disney Resort hotels. These deals are good for military spouses of eligible service members even without the member being present. (Visit our guide to Disney discounts for military families to learn more.)

3. Amusement Parks

Who doesn’t love taking a family vacation to LEGOLAND or Universal Studios or Colonial Williamsburg? Amusement parks are a fun way for military families to spend time together, whether on vacation, celebrating a homecoming, or heading out for a random day trip.

Do you have an amusement park in your area? Make sure you call ahead, check their website, or visit your local ITT office to ask about military discounts. (And visit our list of popular amusement parks that offer discounts to military families.)

4. BuildASign.com

Deployments are a regular part of military life. And that means homecomings are a regular part too. Ready to celebrate the end of a deployment with a memorable homecoming? BuildASign offers free homecoming banners to welcome your special service member home.

5. Home Depot/Lowes

Owning a house is hard work. There’s always something that needs to be done, whether it’s the grass that needs mowing or pictures that need hanging or appliances that spontaneously break. Then, once you think you finally have a handle on all those home improvement projects, it’s time to PCS and start all over with a different house.

That’s why spouses love the 10% year-round military discounts offered at both Home Depot and Lowes. If your house needs it, Home Depot and Lowes will have it.

6. Restaurants

Whether you and your significant other are heading out for date night, or the deployment is leaving you in need of a night off from cooking, going out to eat is even more enjoyable when you’re not paying full price for that yummy meal.

From Ryan’s to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. to the Melting Pot, lots of restaurants offer military discounts. Keep in mind that even though some chain restaurants may offer a military appreciation night or a discount in one location, it doesn’t mean all of them do.

7. Crafts

Maybe you want to try to make that awesome Pinterest project people keep talking about. Maybe the kiddos have school projects due soon. Or maybe you want to put together a care package for a deployed loved one. Spouses can head over to Jo-Ann Fabric, Michaels and A.C. Moore for discounts on just about any crafting needs you can think of.

8. Movie theaters

Is it a rainy day and the kids are bored? Take them to the movies. Do you finally get to have a date night and you need something to do after dinner? Go to the movies. But don’t forget your military ID because many movie theaters, like Cinemark and Regal offer military discounts on tickets.

9. Local discounts

National brands and chains aren’t the only businesses that offer military discounts. Local businesses also like to show their support for the military by providing discounts, especially in cities with a large military presence. Don’t know what businesses in your area offer military discounts? Your best bet is just to ask, “Do you have a military discount?” It never hurts to ask, and you might end up pleasantly surprised with a great deal.

10. Cruises

Cruises are another way to enjoy family vacation time. And thanks to military discounts offered by cruise lines like MSC Cruises and Disney Cruise Line, it’s more affordable than you think.

Help for Military Spouses Going Back to School

A college degree may lead to better job opportunities and better pay. In fact, earning a bachelor’s or graduate degree increases one’s average hourly wage compared to those with only a high school diploma, according to a Rand Corp. survey.

However, going back to school for military spouses is a sizable time commitment and an expensive financial obligation. What’s more, constant relocation may cause a spouse to lose credits if he or she transfers to another college. But there are financial and credit-transfer programs available to spouses to help spouses get an education.

Here are a few programs that offer financial assistance:

  • The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance program (CGMA) offers a supplemental education grant of $150 per year. This grant is applicable to any family member’s educational expenses. However, CGMA does not cover tuition expenses.
  • The General George S. Brown Spouse Tuition Assistance Program (STAP) offers partial tuition assistance (50 percent of course tuition with a maximum of $1,500 per academic year) to spouses of active-duty Air Force members stationed overseas.
  • The General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program provides $1,500 in grants to selected children of active duty Air Force members and spouses stationed overseas through the Air Force Aid Society. To qualify, the spouse must be a full- or part-time student studying for a vocational certificate, undergraduate degree or graduate degree. The funds granted range from $1,500 a year for an undergraduate degree to $1,750 a year for a graduate degree.

These programs assist with transferring class credits:

  • The Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges for the navy (SOCNAV) is similar to the SOCAD, but offers associate and bachelor’s degree programs on or accessible to Navy installations.
  • The Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOCAD) program is a consortium of more than 1,500 colleges and universities that offer associate and bachelor’s degree in the United States. This program transfers credits between the colleges allowing the student to continue with his or her education and not retake any classes. SOCAD is ideal for military spouses who might have to relocate several times.

Each program varies from service to service but all provide the proper resources to help military family members obtain a high level of education.