Push to improve survivor benefits

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DAV calls for changes to DIC, educational benefits for veteran dependents

DAV is urging lawmakers in Washington to improve VA benefits for veterans’ eligible survivors. Currently, the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefit—a monthly stipend paid to survivors of service-connected veterans who are totally disabled for a long period of time or pass away due to a condition incurred in the military—inadequately supports survivors after the death of their loved one.

“When a veteran receiving compensation passes away, not only does the surviving spouse have to deal with their heartache, but they also have to contend with a significant loss of income,” said National Legislative Director Joy Ilem. “This financial strain can be devastating, especially if the spouse was also the veteran’s caregiver and dependent on that compensation as their sole income source.”

To restore the value of this benefit, added Ilem, Congress should adjust the DIC benefit to a more equitable 55 percent of the amount provided for disability compensation to a veteran rated totally disabled, and then index it for inflation.

“I’ve seen firsthand how critical VA benefits are, not just to disabled veterans but also to their families and caregivers who sacrifice so much,” said National Commander Dennis Nixon. “My own wife, Maxine, has been an integral part of my life, often sacrificing her own needs and financial well-being to care for me. I want to ensure that she continues to have adequate support when I am gone.”

DAV is also advocating for the VA to lift the 10-year delimiting date for Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance, often referred to as Chapter 35 benefits. Under current law, beneficiaries only have a 10-year period to apply for and complete eligible programs of education beginning either from the date the veteran is rated permanently and totally disabled or the date of the veteran’s death.

“In many instances—most notably in the cases of veteran caregivers—family obligations cause dependents, spouses and surviving spouses to defer using these benefits for years, leaving many unable to apply in a timely manner, resulting in a loss of earned educational opportunities,” said Ilem.

During the 115th Congress, legislation was introduced in both the Senate (S. 1990, the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Improvement Act) and the House (H.R. 4106, the Surviving Spouses Income Security Act); however, neither made much progress before Congress adjourned last December. Both bills would also have lowered the age at which DIC recipients could get remarried without suffering any loss of benefits from 57 to 55.

“We were disappointed that these bills did not receive more support last year,” Ilem said. “That’s why we made strengthening survivor benefits one of DAV’s Critical Policy Goals for the 116th Congress.”

Over the next year, DAV will focus on increasing public understanding and congressional support for increasing VA benefits for veterans’ survivors, particularly those who spent years caring for disabled veterans.

 

Learn More

Follow along with updates on this and other veterans legislation by signing up for DAV CAN (Commander’s Action Network) at davcan.org.