To qualify for most benefits, the veteran's spouse must have lived continuously with the veteran from the time of marriage until death (this excludes separations due to accident, illness, or other extenuating factors), for at least one year, or for any length of time if a child was born to them before or after marriage. The VA (but not currently in Ohio) may also recognize common-law cases.
To qualify, the child must be:
- Under 18 years of age (or 23 years of age if attending an approved school), or
- Of any age if permanently incapable of self support by reason of mental or physical defect prior to age 18.
The term "child" includes an illegitimate, adopted or stepchild of the veteran.
It is important to remember that a non-service connected VA pension for survivors is a wartime service benefit. Just serving in the military will not guarantee your spouse a pension. The VA also takes into account income from all sources, net worth, and unreimbursed medical expenses.
Therefore, a widow may not qualify at the time of the veterans' death, but with changing conditions, could be eligible in the future. This often happens if the need for nursing or institutional care arises.
Generally it takes about nine months to process an original VA claim, but supplying the following information in a timely manner, when applicable, may speed up the process.
Dependency and Indemnity (DIC):
- Certified copies of marriage or birth (children)
- Copies of all divorces
- Original or certified copies of military separation papers (DD-214)
- Certified death certificate
- Accurate information on income for spouse and dependent children
If a veteran dies of causes found to be service related, benefits may be paid to surviving spouses based on the veteran's pay grade at the time of discharge or $1,033 per month (which ever is greater), if the death occurred before 1/1/93. When the death occurred after 1/1/93 they shall be paid at a $1,033 per month base. Additional amounts are allowed for each dependent child. Whenever there is no surviving spouse of a deceased veteran entitled to DIC, DIC shall be paid in equal shares to the children of the deceased veteran who are either under the age of 18, or under the age of 23 if still in school.
Survivors Death Pension:
Surviving spouses and unmarried children under 18 (age 23 if attending a VA-approved school, or any age if permanently disabled before 18) of deceased veterans may be eligible for pension benefits it the veteran served 90 days or more on active duty during wartime. The claimant's annual income may not exceed prescribed limits that are subject to periodic change.
Death Pension Claims:
When a claim is filed within one year of the veteran’s death, VA will pay retroactive benefits to the first day of the month, following the date of death. All income received during that period other than life insurance is counted in determining pension entitlement.
Funeral and Death Expenses:
In Death Pension cases, the funeral and last illness expenses that you paid for the veteran can be used to reduce the countable income that you have for VA purposes. It is recommended that you come in to our office and we will help you decide what is most advantageous to you.