VA Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a VA benefit offered to surviving spouses, children, and parents of a service member or veteran who died in the line of duty. DIC benefits are also offered to the qualifying survivor of a veteran who died from a service-related injury or illness. DIC offers a monthly payment, which varies depending on whether you are a surviving spouse, child, or parent. This is a tax-free benefit.
How much you may qualify for is a bit complicated. The VA official site breaks the payment rates down based on when the service member died, whether you’re a spouse, child, or parent, and what rank the veteran or service member was when they died. It’s best to contact the VA directly for payment rate information on DIC due to its complexity.
Who Qualifies For DIC: Spouses
The qualifications for a surviving spouse to receive VA DIC benefits include living with the veteran without a break until they died. For those who may be legally separated, the VA official site says you qualify for DIC as long as, “you weren’t at fault for the separation”. You may need to contact the VA for further clarification on this issue. One of the following must also apply:
- You married the service member within 15 years of discharge, or;
- You were married to the service member for at least 1 year, or;
- You had a child with the service member.
In general, you can’t claim DIC if you remarry, though there are exceptions to this rule which include, but may not be limited to:
- You remarried on or after December 16, 2003, and you were 57 years of age or older at the time, or;
- You remarried on or after January 5, 2021, and you were 55 years of age or older at the time you remarried.
When applying for DIC, you will need to provide documentation showing your relationship to the service member, applicable marriage license, and DEERS information where applicable. You will need the service member’s death certificate and evidence of at least one of the following:
- The service member died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, or
- The service member died from a service-connected illness or injury, or
- The service member died from a service-connected illness or injury but was eligible to receive VA compensation for a service-connected disability rated as totally disabling.
Additional requirements may apply.
Who Qualifies For DIC: Dependent Children
The surviving child or children of a veteran or service member who dies in the line of duty may qualify for DIC benefits if they are not married, aren’t included in “the surviving spouse’s compensation”, and are under the age of 18. The age limit is higher for children who are still in school; they must be under the age of 23 in such cases.
To apply for DIC as a dependent, you must provide supporting documentation with your claim. That documentation must show that the service member died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. There are other criteria that may apply instead.
The service member or veteran died from a service-connected illness or injury, or did not die from a service-connected illness or injury, but was eligible to receive VA compensation for a service-connected disability.
That disability must have been totally disabling for at least 10 years before their death. The disability may also have occurred since being released from active duty and for at least 5 years immediately before their death, or for at least 1 year before death if they were a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999.
Who Qualifies For DIC: Parents
For surviving parents, the following must be true to claim DIC benefits:
- The parent(s) must be the biological, adoptive, or foster parent of the Veteran or service member;
- Parent income is below a certain amount set by the Department of Veterans Affairs
Supporting documentation requirements include military service records, doctor’s reports, and medical tests. You must also submit documentation showing at least one of the following applies:
- The service member died from an injury or illness while on active duty or in the line of duty while on active duty for training, or;
- The service member died from an injury or certain illnesses in the line of duty while on inactive training, or;
- The Veteran died from a service-connected illness or injury.
How To Apply For DIC Benefits
There are different forms for different applicants. Surviving spouses and children must fill out VA Form 21P-534a, Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits by a Surviving Spouse or Child. You can get assistance completing this form from the Military Casualty Officer assigned to you upon the death of the service member.
If the servicemember retired or separated from the military, you will need to complete an Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits (VA Form 21P-534EZ). Surviving parents must complete an Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation by Parent(s) (VA Form 21P-535).
Help is available from veteran service organizations like the VFW, USO, AMVETS, etc. You can use a veteran service organization to help you complete and submit the form or you can fill the form out yourself and submit to the VA online via the AccessVA portal or by mail to:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Pension Intake Center
PO Box 5365
Janesville, WI 53547-5365
What To Know About DIC
The VA official site states that in cases where an applicant is eligible for both the VA Survivor’s Pension and DIC, the VA pays whichever benefit offers the most money. The VA does not permit “double dipping” or receiving two types of compensation in this area for the same issue where these two specific benefits are concerned.
Some applicants may be eligible for DIC and the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) instead of their Survivor’s Pension; in such cases, the VA official site reminds that until 2023, you are not permitted to draw DIC and SBP in full at the same time.
There is a phase-out of this policy underway, but until that phase-out is complete in 2023, the federal government reduces your SBP payment by a third. This is called an SBP offset, but it is no longer deducted as of 1 January 2023.
Survivor benefits like these are never automatic. They must be applied for, and in some cases, there are program changes that may be implemented over time which change the requirements for the program. If you have not looked into your VA benefits options in a while, it may be a good idea to contact the VA directly to learn what the latest updates, upgrades, and requirements for these programs might be.
There have been multiple bills signed into law in the last few years that radically affect some VA benefits. The information you got in your last round of research may be outdated or become outdated soon. Don’t forget that you have resources like your nearest VA Regional Office or a veteran service organization at your disposal; they can help you apply for the right benefits,fill out the proper forms, and ensure you make more informed choices.