We recently received a couple of letters through our [email protected] email service regarding benefits for spouses of deceased Veterans. Spousal VA benefits are often very complicated and we frequently have to go through every exception possible to obtain those benefits for spouses of deceased Veterans. Hopefully the letters and responses below will help you determine if you or your loved one may be eligible for spousal VA benefits.
My mom was married to dad for 30 years. He died several years ago. Dad served in the Army during the Korean War. 10 months ago my mom met and married a man who was in the Navy during the Vietnam War, but was not in Vietnam. But mom’s second husband suddenly died from a massive heart attack. Does mom qualify for any benefit because my dad was a Korean War Veteran? If not, what about her second, deceased husband.
VA Marriage Tangled
As a general rule, the spouses of deceased Veterans (your mother in this case) have to be married to the Veteran for at least a year prior to the death in order to qualify for spousal benefits. You said they were married for 10 months, so she wouldn’t qualify on those grounds. But that one-year marriage requirement doesn’t apply if the marriage to the Veteran occurred prior or during the Veteran’s service. In this case it did not. The other exception is if your mom and her second husband had a child together, which did not happen either.
After going through those exceptions, we’d then consider common law marriage. Georgia doesn’t respect common law marriage, but other states do. I’m not exactly sure of your particular jurisdiction, but we could possibly look at that as an option. It’s also possible that we could use your dad’s service in the Korean War to qualify your mom for VA spousal benefits. But we would need more information to discern if this is an option. Either way, we can certainly help.
Additionally, it does not matter that your mom’s second husband was not actually in Vietnam while he served. As long as he served during the Vietnam War, he would be entitled to those benefits. You don’t have to have been in the country where the war was taking place, you just have to have served during that period of time. So if we can establish some type of common law marriage (depending on your jurisdiction), we may be able to qualify you for VA spousal benefits.
Here’s another letter with a complicated situation regarding spouses of deceased Veterans:
Dear VA Guy,
My dad was a Marine who served in Korea during the Korean War. My dad recently died. Needless to say my mom is devastated losing dad after 45 years of marriage. I just found out that two months before his death, my dad filed a disability indemnity compensation claim with the VA. To my knowledge the VA has not contacted my father regarding his claim, and my mom doesn’t recall receiving any letters from the VA. Will mom be able to claim my dad’s VA DIC?
I’m sorry to hear of your dad’s passing, but at least they had each other for 45 years. I know that doesn’t help to ease the pain of his passing, but it’s a blessing to have a spouse for that long.
It’s not unusual for the VA to take several months to rule on a claim. And as a general rule, the claim goes away if the VA claimant (your father) passes during the processing of the claim. There are exceptions to that rule though, and we can likely use those exceptions to obtain the benefits your mother deserves. There are two options we have here for spouses of deceased Veterans who passed during the claims process. We could pursue an “accrued benefit” or we could file as a “substitute claimant.”
Options for Spouses of Deceased Veterans
For the accrued benefit, that’s a special procedure that we have to do with the VA. We have to gather some information and contact the VA to get that process going for the accrued benefit. It’s a good thing that your dad did actually file before he passed. However, there’s probably not going to be a whole lot of accrued benefit there. But your mother would be entitled to whatever is there.
I think the best way to obtain these benefits would be to file as a substitute claimant. As a substitute claimant, your mother steps into her husband’s shoes and starts the process of providing information to the VA. They might need service records, medical records, or other information to process the claim.
But she can actually do that for him and provide whatever documentation they need. I think this is a much better path than going the accrued benefits route. With the substitute claimant option, the processes and procedures are much more simple and there’s a quicker turnaround. Before we proceed however, we should obtain more information from you to ensure that this is indeed the best option for your mom.
Contact Us So We Can Help
We hope that we’ve given you some good insight into benefits for spouses of deceased veterans. We want to thank all our Veterans for their service, and especially thank their spouses for supporting those Veterans during their service. The spouses that have supported these Veterans are just as valuable as the Veterans themselves and they deserve credit.
If you need assistance with obtaining VA spousal benefits for yourself or a loved one, please call us (229-226-8183) or send an email to [email protected]. You can also COMPLETE THIS FORM and we’ll contact you to schedule an appointment. If you’d like to see this blog in video format, you can watch it below. Please be sure to SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel and click the bell notification button so that you’re notified each time we publish a new video.