VA Benefits: Spouses & Dependents

When Americans join the United States military, their spouses and/or dependents are eligible for a wide range of benefits, allowances, education assistance, and more for the service member and family. The benefits available from the military are not quite the same as those offered to spouses and dependents from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA focuses much of their efforts in helping spouses and dependents of military members who have died or have been seriously injured in the line of duty as a result of military service, etc. This emphasis is narrower than the DoD benefits offered to servicemembers, but the list of programs includes a range of areas that can be helpful for family members.

Qualifying spouses, surviving spouses, and dependents of veterans or currently serving military members may be eligible for one or more important VA benefits. These benefit areas will have varying requirements, application time frames, and benefit duration.

VA Life Insurance Benefits for Surviving Spouses and Dependents

Military spouses are permitted to convert “spousal coverage under Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)” to an individual plan of insurance with a private insurance company within 120 days of the veteran’s separation from the military. This is permitted without proof of good health.

Those named as beneficiaries of all VA life insurance programs “receive a tax-free monetary death benefit” that has no restrictions on use. Furthermore, those named as a beneficiary under SGLI, VGLI, FSGLI spousal coverage, or TSGLI programs may use the VA’s Beneficiary Financial Counseling Services and Online Will Preparation Services which provide assistance without the need of hiring legal counsel.

The Department of Veterans Affairs also offers an Accelerated Benefit Option, for those with insurance coverage under SGLI and VGLI. Accelerated benefits allows “access to up to half of the value” of the applicable insurance policy if the member has a terminal illness and is diagnosed with fewer than nine months to live.

VA Disability Compensation for Spouses And Dependents

The Department of Veterans Affairs Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program offers monthly benefits to surviving spouses and dependents, “in recognition of the economic loss caused by a Servicemember’s death during military service, or by the death of a Veteran as a result of a service-connected disability” according to the VA.

These benefits may also be available under qualifying circumstances for the survivors of a veteran whose death is not service-connected if the veteran was VA-rated as being 100% disabled due to service-connected reasons.

VA DIC Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for VA DIC, a surviving spouse must be:

  • Married to a Servicemember who died as a result of military service
  • Married the Veteran before January 1, 1957 OR;
  • Had a child with the Veteran, AND lived together with the veteran continuously until the Veteran’s death or, if separated, was not at fault for the separation, AND is not currently remarried OR;
  • Married the Veteran within 15 years of discharge from the period of military service in which the cause-of-death disease or injury started or was aggravated OR;
  • Was married to the Veteran for at least one year

Surviving spouses who remarry on or after December 16, 2003, and on or after turning 57 years old are permitted to apply for and/or continue receiving DIC.

To qualify for VA DIC, a surviving dependent must be:

  • Not included on the surviving spouse’s DIC, AND
  • Unmarried, AND
  • Under age 18, or between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending school.

VA DIC for Qualifying Dependent Parents

There is an additional program offering compensation to surviving dependent parents of servicemembers or Veterans if the veteran’s death is judged to be service-connected. This VA compensation program is known as Parents’ DIC and is income-based.

VA Education and Training Benefits for Spouses, Dependents, and Survivors

Education benefits are available to spouses and dependents. The Department of Veterans Affairs official site states that family members caring for service-disabled veterans may qualify for career counseling and skills training. Similar opportunities may also be available for dependents of a veteran who qualify for the VA Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program. Opportunities for qualifying family members include the following under the VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program:

  • Personalized support – Receive academic counseling, re-adjustment assistance, and more may be available depending on need, resources, space available, etc.
  • Career Assistance – helping caregivers find the best career options based on ability and interest
  • Benefits coaching – Learn how to get the most mileage out of VA benefits and other resources

You can get help with an application for these benefits via your nearest VA Regional Office.

VA Health Benefits for Family Members of Veterans

According to the VA official site, certain qualifying circumstances make the family members of Veterans eligible for health benefits. These programs may reduce the cost of health care. In some cases, certain expenses may be eliminated entirely depending on the program and its funding.

These programs include, but may not be limited to the following:

  • Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
  • Children of Women Vietnam Veterans (CWVV)
  • Spina Bifida (SB)
  • Foreign Medical Program (FMP)
  • Camp Lejeune Family Member Program (CLFMP)
  • Caregiver

Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)

CHAMPVA is a health care benefit program offering coverage for qualifying spouses, and dependents.

Dependents and spouses of veterans are eligible when the veteran:

  • Has a VA-rated service-connected medical condition making them permanently and totally disabled, or;
  • Was VA-rated as permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected condition at the time of death, or;
  • died of a service-connected medical condition, or;
  • died on active duty, and the dependents are not otherwise eligible for TRICARE benefits.

Children of Women Vietnam Veterans

This VA healthcare benefit program is an indemnity plan intended for children with certain birth defects born to women Vietnam Veterans. It offers reimbursement for medical care-related conditions associated with certain birth defects, except spina bifida which is a condition covered under a separate program (see below).

Qualifying criteria for this VA program includes:

  • Children whose biological mother is a Vietnam Veteran
  • Children conceived after the date on which the Veteran entered the Republic of Vietnam between February 28, 1961, and May 7, 1975
  • Children who have “one of the covered birth defects, as determined by the Veterans Benefits Administration” according to the VA.

VA Spina Bifida Program

VA provides benefits payment, vocational training, plus VA-financed health care benefits to “certain Korea and Vietnam Veterans’ birth children” diagnosed with spina bifida (SB). If you are the birth child of a Vietnam Veteran and have been diagnosed with spina bifida defined “as all forms or manifestations of spina bifida (except spina bifida occulta),” you may qualify.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, eligibility for this program requires a diagnosis of spina bifida “as the VA defines it.” This means any form of the condition except for spina bifida occulta. Speak to a physician if you are unsure whether your condition qualifies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *