The widow of a military veteran has suffered the loss of a husband who served in the United States armed forces. The deceased veteran’s status with respect to his military service determines the type of benefits the widow is entitled to receive. Available benefits range from a nice gesture from a grateful nation to substantial financial compensation.
Status of Veteran at Death
A veteran may fall into one of several possible categories at the time of his death that would affect the benefits available to his spouse. A retired veteran is one who put in enough military time to receive a retirement pension and health care coverage. A disabled veteran was discharged with a full or partial disability caused by an injury or other medical problem incurred while he was on active military duty. If a veteran was not retired or disabled, then he was discharged from the military without further benefits arising from his service in the military. The Department of Veterans Affairs lumps widow benefits under the heading of “Spouse Benefits - Death After Active Service.”
If you are the widow of a retired veteran, the Survivor Benefit Plan continues paying the deceased veteran's monthly pension for as long as you live. This benefit plan is an annuity insurance plan provided by the military and paid with deductions from the veteran's retirement checks. The benefit plan is included automatically with a military pension unless the veteran and his spouse elect at the time of retirement not to take the plan. The widow of a retired veteran is entitled to continue receiving government health care coverage at the same premium rates unless the widow remarries.
The widow of a disabled veteran may receive significant benefits if the veteran died as the result of a service-connected disability. If the veteran was 100 percent disabled, the widow may receive benefits for any cause of death if certain criteria are met as to the marriage. The survivor benefits of a disabled veteran are referred to as dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC). If the veteran's cause of death and the surviving spouse’s circumstances meet all of the criteria, the widow is entitled to receive a monthly check in an amount determined by the DIC rules. The widow must file for DIC using VA Form 21-534. The widow of a disabled veteran is also eligible for Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance, which pays educational costs such as college tuition and fees.
The widow of a veteran who does not meet the foregoing criteria may still be eligible for a Veterans Administration death pension. To qualify, the veteran must have served on active duty during time of war. The surviving widow must be unmarried and have an income level below the limits set by VA regulations. If the widow is eligible, she will receive a monthly death pension benefit. The benefit is claimed by filing the same form mentioned earlier (Form 21-534). Additionally, every deceased veteran is entitled to free burial benefits in a military cemetery.
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