Everything You Need to Know About Veteran Spousal Benefits

Like U.S. military veterans themselves, spouses of veterans are eligible to receive a variety of benefits and compensation through the Veterans Administration (VA). Those benefits include health care coverage, survivors’ pension, education aid and job training, career counseling, home loans, grief counseling, and final arrangements. There is even a financial management program for those who are unable to manage their own financial affairs.

Most benefits are available to spouses of veterans who have a permanent, typically service-related disability, or have passed away and were receiving a VA pension or compensation. The veteran must have received an honorable discharge.

To qualify for most benefits, the spouse must have been married to the veteran for at least a year. In some cases, if the spouse of a veteran remarries, benefits may be terminated.

Do Spouses Of Deceased Veterans Get Benefits?

A variety of military death benefits for a spouse are available. Benefits for the spouse of either a veteran or active duty service member include a housing allowance. If the spouse and family of the deceased service member are living in government housing, they will be allowed to continue residing there for up to a year after the death, or move to a privately owned residence and receive up to a year of Basic Allowance for Housing or Overseas Housing Allowance.

Veteran spouse benefits after death also include the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). They are tax exempt, so the surviving spouse will not be required to pay taxes on the compensation payments. DIC rates are determined by a number of variables: the date that the veteran died; the veteran’s service pay grade; whether the spouse has a disability; and whether there are dependent children, and how many. You can learn more here about eligibility, how to apply, and what compensation rate you are entitled to receive.

Educational benefits are available for a spouse of veterans who have died in service, or who are permanently disabled as a result of service. The Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program provides up to 36 months of education benefits – or 45 months, if you enrolled in classes before August 1, 2018. The benefits can be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. Under certain circumstances, they can be applied to other courses. The DEA benefits are available to dependents of the deceased veteran as well. Learn more about DEA benefits here.

Some states provide death benefits for a spouse of veterans or active duty service members – educational assistance, civil service preference, employment assistance, exemption from tax and license fees, and loans. Typically, they are available through each State Department of Veterans Affairs. Learn more through individual states here.

Benefits available to spouses of veterans include:

Survivors Pension

Surviving spouses of deceased veterans are eligible for tax-free monthly pension benefits if they meet certain net worth and income requirements set by Congress. Those unable to work or perform daily activities can also receive a supplemental allowance.

Disability Compensation

If you’re the surviving spouse of a veteran who died from a service-related injury or illness, or who was totally disabled due to a service-connected disability for at least 10 years before their death, you may be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), a tax-free monetary benefit.

In addition to both survivors pension and DIC, spouses may be eligible for Aid & Attendance and Housebound allowance, if disabled, bedridden, or a patient in an assisted living facility.

Memorial Benefits

It’s not only veterans who are eligible to be buried or memorialized in a national cemetery, and receive other memorial honors; surviving spouses are too – even if the veteran is not in the cemetery, or the spouse passes away before the veteran. An allowance for burial or cremation is only available for the veteran, however.

Bereavement Counseling

Surviving spouses of veterans suffering emotional stress after the death of a loved one may qualify for grief or bereavement counseling through the VA. Outreach, counseling, and referrals are provided at a VA in your community, or even at home or in another location you prefer.

Health Care Program

The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) provides health insurance and shares the cost of health care services and supplies with eligible spouses of veterans who are totally disabled or have passed away.

Education Benefits

If you’re the current or surviving spouse of a veteran, you may qualify to receive education and training, and money for tuition, books, related supplies, and housing. This benefit is available to spouses of veterans who are disabled or have passed away, but you may also qualify if the veteran transferred unused Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to you.

There are two main GI Bill programs that offer educational assistance: The Fry Scholarship, and the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program. Recipients can only receive aid from one program.

Benefits for Divorced Spouses

While eligibility for most military benefits to a spouse ends when the marriage does, some protections for divorced spouses remain in effect.

Military retirement pay: A divorced spouse might be entitled to a portion of their former spouse’s military retirement pay, depending on what state they divorced in. If the duration of the marriage was at least 10 years, some states may decide that disposable retirement pay – what’s left over after deductions and disability pay — is subject to marital property division.

Tricare health insurance: This is not a VA-managed program, but a regionally managed health provider for active duty and retired U.S. armed forces members. Tricare allows health coverage for the divorced spouse to continue under what is known as the “20/20/20” rule:

  • The veteran has at least 20 years of service that count toward military retirement benefits.
  • The couple was married for at least 20 years.
  • The marriage and the military service overlapped at least 20 years.

Coverage will be terminated if the divorced spouse remarries or receives health insurance through an employer or elsewhere.

Get more information about all the benefits available to spouses of veterans, including help with eligibility questions, completing applications, and claims. Find a VA office in your area.

Note: This post is intended as a resource to help families. For the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding Veteran Benefits, please contact your local VA office.

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