A DIC claims is a tax-free monthly payment compensating survivors of deceased service members and veterans. The application process differs based on your relationship with the veteran and is best completed with help from an accredited VA representative.
The surviving spouse of a mesothelioma-related veteran may be eligible to receive DIC. The claim filing process begins with completing VA Form 21P-534EZ.
How to Determine Your Compensation Rate
The VA’s DIC is a tax-free financial benefit that offers a monthly living allowance to the surviving spouses, children, or parents of a deceased service member or veteran. The compensation rate is based on various criteria, including the applicant’s relationship to the deceased service member or veteran, their living circumstances, and more.
You’ll need specific documentation to apply for DIC benefits, such as the veteran’s DD214 and death certificate. You also need to have proof that the deceased veteran was on active duty and was either diagnosed with a service-related injury or died of a service-related illness, such as mesothelioma. But, the DIC rates for the new policy have increased slightly compared to last year’s offerings.
A reevaluation election under the PACT Act can be made for any pending claim at the time of the original claimant’s death and any accrued benefits. However, a substitute claimant cannot elect a reevaluation for any claims that would have been denied under the original law (i.e., any claims denied if the law establishing or modifying a presumption of service connection had been in effect when the original claimant submitted it). These include claims for survivor pension and DIC.
What to Do if You’re Denied
Fortunately, several options exist if your claim is denied for any reason. The first step is to file an internal appeal. This is much like asking your insurer to reconsider a decision that was made and is generally within the insurance company’s set deadline.
It’s also possible that the original decision could be reversed on a higher-level review, especially if the examiner missed evidence that a different examiner would have otherwise considered. A VA disability attorney can obtain the new evidence, often through a supplemental medical report, present it to an officer, and hopefully have the earlier denial reversed.
Surviving spouses, children, and parents are all eligible for DIC benefits, but specific requirements must be met for each survivor category to qualify. Choosing the right attorney for this delicate process is critical. Choose one with a winning track record of appealing VA denials and experience handling DIC claims.
How to Appeal a Denied Claim
Suppose a regional office denies a DIC claims. In that case, the applicant can file an appeal using various appeal lane options, including the Board of Veterans Appeals—an independent department within the VA that handles requests related to veterans’ benefits. Alternatively, the application can be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, a federal court created specifically to handle these cases and independent from the VA.
To prove eligibility for DIC, you must provide specific documentation. This includes a death certificate, birth certificates for any children who qualify for benefits, and medical evidence supporting any increased rate (such as housebound or aid and attendance) you are applying for. Marital status and income changes also impact DIC eligibility, so you must promptly notify VA of any such change. Surviving spouses who apply within a year of the veteran’s death typically recover more in back compensation than those who don’t. This is because the effective date of the claim is the date VA receives the application.
How to Find an Attorney with a Winning Track Record
The VA’s application process for DIC benefits can feel overwhelming, but gathering all the necessary documents is essential. This includes the veteran’s military discharge papers, a death certificate that identifies the cause of death as service-related, and medical evidence showing that the veteran was housebound or required aid and attendance due to a service-related condition.
Surviving children are eligible for DIC if they were not married and were either under the age of 18 or attending school (up to 23 years old). DIC benefits are increased based on the number of qualifying children and their living expenses.
A common problem occurs when the veteran dies while waiting for a decision on a direct service connection. In this case, the surviving spouse or dependent child can apply for DIC benefits under the presumptive service connection rules (which include certain diseases and conditions that were not on the claim at the time of the veteran’s death), but only after a decision has been made on a service-connected claim.