Can Military Spouses Get Veterans Disability Compensation?

A monthly benefit called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) can provide benefits to surviving spouses of military veterans.

By , Attorney · Northeastern University School of Law
Updated by Diana Chaikin, Attorney · Seattle University School of Law

Surviving military spouses can sometimes get veterans disability benefits after the death of their husband or wife. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a VA program that provides monthly payments to a surviving spouse after a disabled veteran has died. The wife or husband of a deceased vet may be entitled to DIC, as well as any dependent children and (in some cases) dependent parents.

How Do I Know If My Husband or Wife Will Get VA Disability Benefits After I Die?

In order for your spouse to be eligible for DIC, they'll need to first establish that they are a surviving spouse—basically, that you both were in a committed relationship prior to your death. Your spouse will then need to show that your death was service-connected (related to your time on active duty).

How Does the VA Define "Surviving Spouse"?

If you're the wife or husband of a deceased veteran, the VA can recognize you as a surviving spouse if you lived with the veteran without a break until their death or, if you're separated, that the separation wasn't your fault. Additionally, you'll need to show at least one of the following:

  • you were married to the veteran for at least a year
  • you had a child with the veteran, or
  • you married the veteran within 15 years after they were discharged from a period of service that caused the service-connected injury.

Surviving spouses who married a deceased veteran before January 1, 1957 may also qualify.

How Does the VA Define "Service Connection"?

The VA considers a disability or death to be service-connected when there is a nexus (causal link) between an illness or injury and a veteran's time on active duty. You're eligible for DIC if you meet the qualifications for a surviving spouse, and your military spouse died either:

  • while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training
  • as a result of a service-connected injury or illness, or
  • after receiving a VA rating of "totally disabling" (100% disabled, meaning their injuries made it impossible for them to work) for the following time periods:
    • 10 or more years, right up until they died
    • since discharge, for at least five years up until they died, or
    • for at least one year, if your spouse had been a prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999.

How Much Are VA Surviving Spouse Payments?

In 2024, the base disability payment to surviving spouses is $1,612.75 per month. You don't have to pay taxes on DIC income, but it's important to note that if you're receiving SSI disability benefits as well, your DIC benefits will reduce the amount of SSI cash benefits that you receive.

100 Percent Disabled Veterans Benefits for Surviving Spouses

Some surviving spouses who were married to veterans with a 100% disability rating are entitled to an extra monthly payment of $342.46 per month, in addition to the base rate. Your spouse must have had a 100%disability rating for at least eight full years before they died, and you must have been married to them for all of those same years, in order for you to receive the additional benefit.

Supplemental Payment for Surviving Spouses With Children

The VA will also increase your monthly benefit to help you care for any children under age 18 you may have. This benefit lasts for two years and is called the "transitional benefit." Separately, you can receive an additional amount for each child under 18.

Using the "DIC apportionment rate," you're entitled to the following additional monthly payments:

  • $342 for the first two years after the veteran's death, and
  • $399.54 for each child you have under age 18.

Once your child turns 18, you'll stop receiving the supplemental benefit directly, but your child can receive a separate payment if they're in school or are unable to support themselves.

  • Children of surviving spouses between the ages of 18 and 23 who are in a qualified school program can receive $338.49 per month.
  • "Helpless children" over 18 who became permanently unable to support themselves before they turned 18 can receive $680.94 per month.

Aid and Attendance Benefit for Disabled Surviving Spouses

You may be able to get an additional $399.54 per month if you are a disabled surviving spouse and need help with your activities of daily living. To qualify for this "aid and attendance" benefit, you must show one of the following:

  • you need another person to help you perform daily activities, such as cooking, bathing, and getting dressed
  • you're in bed for a large part of the day due to illness
  • you're in a nursing home, or
  • your eyesight is severely limited (corrected vision of 5/200 or less in both eyes or contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less).

Note that you'll need to qualify for a VA pension in order to receive the aid and attendance benefit (see below).

Housebound Allowance

Surviving spouses who can't leave their house due to a disability can qualify for an additional "housebound allowance" benefit of $187.17 per month on top of the DIC base rate. Just like the aid and attendance benefit, you'll need to qualify for a VA pension to receive a housebound allowance.

How Long Do Surviving Spouse Benefits Last For?

Most DIC benefits are lifelong, and the surviving spouse will receive them until death. As the name suggests, however, the transitional benefit lasts for only two years after the veteran has died. And any benefits you receive for dependent minor children will end when they turn 18.

For help calculating your monthly benefits, see the VA benefit amounts for DIC.

Can I Get Both DIC Benefits and a VA Pension?

If you're eligible for both DIC benefits and a VA pension, the VA will pay you whichever benefit gives you the most money—you won't get both added together.

If you're not eligible for DIC, check to see if you do qualify for a VA pension. VA pensions pay less than DIC and are "needs-based" (only available to low-income veterans and their families). But if your spouse's death wasn't service-connected or you weren't married long enough, VA pension is your only alternative.

How Do I Apply for Surviving Spouse Benefits?

You can apply for DIC benefits in several ways:

You can print out your DIC forms and mail your application to the following address:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
P.O. Box 5365
Janesville, WI 53547-5365

You may wish to send an intent to file form before you apply for DIC. Letting the VA know that you want to file a claim sets a potential early start date for your benefits, which may result in getting retroactive benefits for the time you were gathering the evidence you need.

What Other Benefits Do Spouses Of Deceased Veterans Get?

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. Visit the VA website page on survivor benefits for more information.

You can also learn more in our general article on disabled veteran spouse benefits.

Updated December 28, 2023

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