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OFFICE OF SURVIVORS ASSISTANCE

FAQs

During this difficult time, we know that you will have questions about survivors benefits and how to obtain them. The Office of Survivors Assistance has prepared a list of the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) to assist you. Please review this FAQ to see if your question has already been addressed, or visit NCA's helpful FAQ list here.

If you would like to suggest a question to be included on the OSA FAQ list, please contact us at officeofsurvivors@va.gov

  1. How do I apply for benefits?

  2. How do I reinstate my previous benefit?

  3. Is there someone that can help me file my claim?

  4. How do I check the status of my claim?

  5. How do I know if I am eligible for a benefit?

  6. As survivor, am I eligible for my loved one's month of death compensation?

  7. What is the difference between DIC and SBP?

  8. What is the SBP / DIC offset?

  9. I have heard that some people may receive both SBP and DIC without the offset. Is that true?

  10. What is the difference between DIC and Death Pension?

  11. Is DIC taxable income?

  12. What is CHAMPVA?

  13. As a surviving spouse, am I eligible for VA medical care?

  14. How do I update my contact information?

  15. What education benefits are available and what is the Sgt. Fry Scholarship?

  16. How can I access information about VA Education Benefits for myself or for my children?

  17. What are VGLI/SGLI and how do I file a claim?

  18. I am a widow/er; if I remarry, do I lose my benefits? If I later get divorced or my new spouse dies, do I get my VA benefits back?

  19. How do I get a copy of my loved one’s DD-214 or DD-1300?

  20. Who is eligible for Veteran Center grief counseling, and how can I locate a center?

  21. Am I eligible for a VA Home Loan as a widow?

  22. How can I find information about homeless shelters within my community?

  23. My question is not covered above, is there another source of information I can check?


1.  How do I apply for benefits?

The application for VA Survivors Benefits is a straight forward process that involves the claimant completing the appropriate forms and supplying the necessary documentation.   Applications are then sent to the appropriate VA Regional Office or Pension Management Center for processing.

It is strongly recommended that claimants make duplicate copies of their application for their own records.

To review the programs available, please visit: http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/dependents/index.htm

 

2.  How do I reinstate my previous benefit?

If your DIC benefit as a surviving spouse was terminated because you remarried, but the subsequent marriage has since ended due to death, divorce, or annulment, you may file to have your previous Survivor's benefit reinstated.  (Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors Chapter 12) 

To do so, you will be asked to complete VA form 21-4138 and submit it to your local VA Regional Office along with documentation supporting the claim that your subsequent marriage has ended (i.e., divorce decree or death certificate).   After doing so, call the Veterans Benefits Administration directly at 800-827-1000 to confirm that your materials have been recieved and to find out the status of your reinstatement.

3.  Is there someone that can help me file my claim?

Yes.  You have two options avaliable.  You may seek assistance at your local VA regional office (locate your office by clicking here).

Additionally the veterans community has a strong tradition of assisting fellow service members and their families.  This service is exemplified in the work done by Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) and County Veteran Service Officers (CVSO) throughout the United States.  Many VSOs offer to surviving families’ benefits counseling and assistance with the application process, and often have local chapters located right in the community.

It is strongly recommended that surviving family members consult with the VSO of their choice when applying for VA Survivor Benefits.

4.  How do I check the status of my claim?

The Veterans Benefits Administration operates a National Call Center that you may utilize to check on the status of your claim.  The NCC may be reached by calling 1-800-827-1000.

 

***Did you know that by calling the NCC you may also:

•Obtain tax documentation.
•Notify VBA of the death of a veteran or a benefit recipient.
•Request information on burial and mortuary benefits.
•Learn about benefits available to surviving family members.
•Much, much more.

5.  How do I know if I am eligible for a benefit?

As you know, the men and women that serve our nation in the Armed Forces are a unique and diversified group of individuals.  So too are their families, and the circumstances they face.

Currently, the Veterans Benefits Administration has detailed the available benefits offered to surviving family members on the VBA website.  These programs may be viewed by following this link, and selecting what group you are inquiring about (Spouse, Parent, or Child).  Link: http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/dependents/index.htm

After you have selected who you are inquiring about, you will see a listing of the available benefits as well as the eligibility criteria.  Simply review the criteria to determine if you or your family will be eligible for any particular benefit.

 

6.  As survivor, am I eligible for my loved one's month of death compensation?

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced immediate actions to quickly identify and pay surviving spouses who are eligible to receive the deceased veteran’s VA compensation or pension benefit for the month of the veteran’s death.  

This benefit is only payable to surviving spouses of veterans who were receiving VA compensation or pension benefits at the time of their death. 

Because VA does not always know if a veteran is survived by a spouse, some surviving spouses have not received the month-of-death benefit to which they are entitled. 

If you are a surviving spouse of a veteran who was receiving VA benefits at the time of death and believe you may be eligible for the month-of-death benefit, please click here and provide the information requested.  VA will determine your eligibility. 

When you reach the web page to ask your question, please select:

·          “Question” for the Type of Inquiry.

·           “Survivors Month of Death Benefit” for your Topic. 

 On the second page of the web form, please make sure to include:

·          Your full name, address and contact preference (e-mail, phone number, or US Mail),

·          And, the veteran’s

o         First and last name,

o         Social Security Number or VA claim number,

o         Veteran’s date of birth,

o         Branch of service,

o         Service number, if you have it, and,

o         Service dates, if possible.

 

7.  What is the difference between DIC and SBP?

Dependents Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is an entitlement benefit paid to eligible survivors (Spouse, unmarried child) of certain deceased service members and veterans.  The DIC benefit is managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and is dispersed to surviving family members that meet specific criteria.  For further details, please visit : http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/dependents/dic.doc

 

The Survivor Benefit Program (SBP) is voluntary annuity program offered for purchase to service members as a retirement benefit for family members.  This program is managed by the Department of Defense (not the Department of Veterans Affairs).  As noted, participation in this program is voluntary and not all service members opt to participate.  To learn more about SBP, please visit: http://www.dfas.mil/rapay/rafaqs/sbpfaqs.html 

 

8.  What is the SBP / DIC offset?

DIC is a payment made by the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) to the spouse of a member who dies due to a service-connected illness or injury. The DVA determines entitlement to and the amount of the DIC award. If DIC is awarded, the SBP/RCSBP annuity must be reduced by the amount of the DIC award. The SBP/RCSBP annuity is terminated if the DIC is greater than the SBP/RCSBP. However, if an annuitant receives DIC based on a member other than the one providing SBP/RCSBP, there will not be a DIC reduction.

Each annuitant signs a DIC authorization statement when they submit their annuity application. This allows DFAS to establish their SBP/RCSBP annuity prior to notification from the DVA regarding their entitlement to DIC. This prevents delays in SBP/RCSBP payments.

If DIC is awarded, the following conditions apply:

 

•If the monthly DIC benefit exceeds the SBP/RCSBP monthly annuity, the amount of the SBP/RCSBP annuity paid prior to notification of the DIC award, not including the month of death, is an overpayment. If the DIC monthly benefit does not exceed the SBP/RCSBP monthly annuity, the amount of SBP overpayment will be the amount of DIC awarded prior to notification. See number 3 for more information on overpayments.
 

•Once Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) receives all of the necessary information from the DVA, the annuitant will be due a refund of all or part of the SBP/RCSBP costs paid into the plan by the member (SBP/RCSBP cost refund) if the DIC award is made retroactive to the date of death. The SBP/RCSBP cost refund will be applied to any SBP/RCSBP overpayment or other indebtedness, and a check for the remaining balance, if any, will be forwarded to the annuitant. The SBP/RCSBP cost refund may be taxable if the retiree paid the SBP/RCSBP costs from the retired pay taxable income. Any taxable portion of the cost refund will be included as taxable income on the TD Form 1099-R annuitants receive at the end of the year.
 

•Depending on the amount of the overpayment, it will either be collected from the SBP/RCSBP cost refund, referred to the DVA for collection from the annuitant’s DIC payment, or combination of both. Annuitants will be advised of the method of collection and sent an account statement showing the SBP/RCSBP cost refund less any overpayment collected when the SBP/RCSBP cost refund is processed.
 

•Annuitant’s taxable income will be increased by the taxable portion of the cost refund and reduced by the amount applied to the overpayment. The taxable income will be adjusted when the overpayment is collected. An annuitant may receive a tax deduction or tax credit, as appropriate, if the overpayment occurred.
 

•Since SBP/RCSBP costs are not paid by members who die while on active duty, or by Reservist who dies before retirement, there will be no refund of costs. The overpayments will be referred to the DVA for collection from the annuitant’s DIC.
 

•Annuitants can reduce the amount of the SBP/RCSBP overpayment by notifying DFAS at once when DIC has been awarded. Please furnish DFAS a copy of the award letter from the DVA.
 

•Since DIC benefits are nontaxable, VA encourages annuitants to apply for DIC if they have not done so
 

•If the DIC effective date is past the first day of the month after the member’s death and the annuitant has received benefit from receipt of the SBP/RCSBP, no cost refund is due.

*For more information please read the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) guide to Survivor Benefits.

9.  I have heard that some people may receive both SBP and DIC without the offset. Is that true?

Yes, this is in fact true!  A recent court decesion makes certain beneficiaries eligible to receive both SBP and DIC without the dollar for dollar offset.  This population is limited to widow and widowers that have remarried on or after the age of 57. 

To learn more about this court ruling, please visit the Defense Finance and Accounting Service at http://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/newsevents/news/AnnuitantsSBP.html

10.  What is the difference between DIC and Death Pension?

Dependents Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is an entitlement benefit paid to eligible survivors (Spouse, unmarried child) of certain deceased service members and veterans.  The DIC benefit is managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and is dispersed to surviving family members that meet specific criteria.  For further details, please visit : http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/dependents/dic.doc

Death Pension is a needs based financial benefit payable to the unremarried surviving spouse or unmarried child of a deceased wartime veteran.  As noted, eligibility for this benefit is based upon the financial need of the applicant.  To learn more about the Death Pension please follow this link: http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/pension/spousepen.htm 

 

For more information please call 800-827-1000.

11.  Is DIC taxable income?

No, it is not.  Dependents Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is exempt, and is not considered to be taxable income.

For more information, please visit: www.IRS.gov

 

12.  What is CHAMPVA?

The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) is a comprehensive health care program in which the VA shares the cost of covered health care services and supplies with eligible beneficiaries. The program is administered by Health Administration Center and our offices are located in Denver, Colorado.

To be eligible for CHAMPVA, you cannot be eligible for TRICARE/CHAMPUS and you must be in one of these categories:

1.the spouse or child of a veteran who has been rated permanently and totally disabled for a service-connected disability by a VA regional office, or
2.the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who died from a VA-rated service connected disability, or
3.the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who was at the time death rated permanently and totally disabled from a service connected disability, or
4.the surviving spouse or child of a military member who died in the line of duty, not due to misconduct (in most of these cases, these family members are eligible for TRICARE, not CHAMPVA).


To learn more about CHAMPVA, please visit: http://www4.va.gov/hac/forbeneficiaries/champva/champva.asp

 

13.  As a surviving spouse, am I eligible for VA medical care?

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers CHAMPVA healthcare coverage to family members that meet specific eligibility criteria.  The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) is a comprehensive health care program in which the VA shares the cost of covered health care services and supplies with eligible beneficiaries. The program is administered by Health Administration Center and our offices are located in Denver, Colorado.

Due to the similarity between CHAMPVA and the Department of Defense (DoD) TRICARE program (sometimes referred to by its old name, CHAMPUS) the two are often mistaken for each other. CHAMPVA is a Department of Veterans Affairs program whereas TRICARE is a regionally managed health care program for active duty and retired members of the uniformed services, their families, and survivors. In some cases a veteran or survivor may look to be eligible for both/either program on paper. However, if you are a military retiree, or the spouse of a veteran who was killed in action, you are and will always be a TRICARE beneficiary, you cannot choose between the two.

 

14.  How do I update my contact information?

Simple! To update your contact information, just call the National Call Center at 800-827-1000.

 

15.  What education benefits are available and what is the Sgt. Fry Scholarship?

Dependents' Educational Assistance provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain veterans. The program offers up to 45 months of education benefits. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. If you are a spouse, you may take a correspondence course. Remedial, deficiency, and refresher courses may be approved under certain circumstances.   For more information, please visit: http://www.gibill.va.gov/post-911/other-programs/dea.html 

The Fry Scholarship offers additional education choices to the surviving children of military personnel that have been killed in action.  Marine Gunnery Sergeant John D. Fry, 28, of Lorena, Texas, only had a week left in his Iraq tour in 2006 when he injured his hand. He was given the option of leaving Iraq after the injury and going home with a Bronze Star. He declined and volunteered to go on one last run to defuse bombs. After working seven more hours, Gunnery Sgt. Fry was killed March 8, 2006, by an improvised explosive device in Anbar province, Iraq. He left behind his widow and three small children.

Public Law 111-32, The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship, amends the Post-9/11 GI Bill to expand the benefit to children of fallen U.S. soldiers who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001.

On May 1, 2010, VA began accepting applications for the Fry Scholarship. Please see the Fry Scholarship fact sheet : http://www.gibill.va.gov/documents/fry_scholarship.pdf 

 

16.  How can I access information about VA Education Benefits for myself or for my children?

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers multiple education benefits for surviving family members of deceased veterans and service members.  For additional information regarding Education Benefits, please visit: http://www.gibill.va.gov/ 

 

17.  What are VGLI/SGLI and how do I file a claim?

The Veterans Group Life Insurance & Service members Group Life Insurance (VGLI/SGLI) are life insurance products offered to veterans and active duty personnel.  Both programs are voluntary, and may be opted out of by the service member or veteran.  As such, not all surviving family members may file a claim on this benefit.

To learn more about these programs or file a claim, please visit : http://www.insurance.va.gov/miscellaneous/index.htm

 

18.  I am a widow/er; if I remarry, do I lose my benefits? If I later get divorced or my new spouse dies, do I get my VA benefits back?

 

Regarding Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), a remarried surviving spouse whose subsequent marriage is annulled or declared void can reestablish eligibility as a surviving spouse.  However, effective September 30, 1998, the law was changed to allow a surviving spouse to reestablish DIC eligibility after termination of remarriage.  Therefore, after September 30, 1998, eligibility for DIC is established in any case in which the remarriage of the surviving spouse is terminated by death, divorce, or annulment.  Also, remarriage of a surviving spouse after the age of 57 does not preclude continued payment of DIC.  

Regarding Death (Survivor’s) Pension benefits, the law generally requires a surviving spouse’s entitlement to be terminated if the surviving spouse remarries, regardless of age, even if that remarriage is terminated by death or divorce.  However, VA regulations establish limited exceptions that generally allow entitlement to Death Pension to be reestablished if the marriage was:
•         Annulled or declared void.
•         Terminated by death or divorce on or after January 1, 1971, and before November 1, 1990.
      
Accordingly, you can again receive pension benefits based upon your former spouse’s wartime service if the new marriage was annulled or declared void or you fall within the divorce and death exception window, January 1, 1971, through October 31, 1990.

Please call 1-800-827-1000 to learn more.

 

19.  How do I get a copy of my loved one’s DD-214 or DD-1300?

The DD-214 and DD-1300 are important service records for your loved one and are often required when applying for VA Survivor Benefits.  Unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not maintain copies of these service records.

To obtain a copy of these records, you will need to contact the National Archives at : National Archives 

20.  Who is eligible for Veteran Center grief counseling, and how can I locate a center?

Surviving family of deceased veterans and service members are always welcome at any one of the Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran Service Centers.   You may schedule an appointment or be seen as a walk in.

To locate a Veteran Center near you, please visit : VA Vet Centers 

21.  Am I eligible for a VA Home Loan as a widow?

The unmarried surviving spouse of a veteran who died on active duty or as the result of a service-connected disability is eligible for the VA home loan benefit.

In addition, a surviving spouse who obtained a VA home loan with the veteran prior to his or her death (regardless of the cause of death), may obtain a VA guaranteed interest rate reduction refinance loan.

To learn more, please visit: VA Home Loan Program 

22.  How can I find information about homeless shelters within my community?

 

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans provides a listing of Non Government Organizations (NGO's) that provide services to Veterans and Survivors.  Click here to find information about services in your community.

23.  My question is not covered above, is there another source of information I can check?

Of course!  To search additional VA FAQ’s or ask your own question, please visit : Inquiry Routing Information System (IRIS) 

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