We recently received an email from a woman who had some questions regarding VA pension benefits for the surviving spouse of a Veteran. She had seen one of our YouTube videos on the subject and we’re so glad that we are now able to help her obtain the benefits that she deserves as a result of her late husband’s service. We thought this would also be a great opportunity to go into more detail regarding VA benefits for a surviving spouse.
Let’s first discuss how you qualify as the spouse of a Veteran. This may seem like something that’s pretty simple to define, but it can get quite complicated. To qualify as a Veteran spouse, you have to meet certain requirements or be able to prove certain things to the VA. The number one qualification is that you have to have a valid marriage or be deemed the valid spouse of a Veteran at the time of the Veteran’s death.
For a marriage to be considered valid by the VA, the surviving spouse must have been married to the Veteran for at least a year. The surviving spouse must also be able to prove that there was continual cohabitation with the Veteran during the marriage. You can’t be married and living apart or separate. You must have been married and living in the same home to be considered for VA benefits as a surviving spouse. The are some quirks and technicalities to the law here, but those are the general rules.
These marriage requirements apply to both Disability Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and VA Aid & Attendance benefits for surviving spouses. In addition to the requirements listed above, the marriage must have occurred at least a year prior to the Veteran’s death. As is the case with many VA rules, there are exceptions to those rules. If you have any questions about those exceptions, feel free to give us a call (229-226-8183) or send us an email to [email protected].
How does the marriage requirement apply when it comes to common law marriages? You may already know that some states recognize common law marriages and others do not. Georgia, for example, does not. But that doesn’t mean that you still can’t be deemed the surviving spouse of a Veteran for VA benefit purposes.
Additionally, the one year marriage requirement mentioned above doesn’t apply in the context of the death pension. In the case of DIC, the marriage must have occurred within 15 years after the period of service in which the service injury occurred. So let’s say that your spouse was in Vietnan in 1974. If you were married within that period of time, then that one year period applies. So you’re good and should be eligible to receiving VA benefits as a surviving spouse.
Remarriage for a Surviving Spouse
Now let’s discuss the situation in which a surviving spouse becomes remarried. As a general rule, if you are the surviving spouse and you remarry, then you’re basically going to be deemed ineligible for any VA benefits. That includes the death pension and any DIC benefits that the Veteran may have been receiving. The exception here is when the remarriage is voided or annulled. If you go to court and have the remarriage voided or annulled, then the surviving spouse would not lose their eligibility.
I had a client three or four years ago who was the surviving spouse of a Veteran. After her husband passed, she got remarried in a rebound situation. It was an unfortunate set of circumstances. After a year of marriage to her second husband, she realized that it was a big mistake and got a divorce. Because she got a divorce, it was not possible to void or annul the second marriage. As a result, she was no longer eligible for any benefits from her late husband.
Although voiding or annulling a marriage is a bit a loophole in the process, you have to be very careful doing this. If the VA suspects any type of fraud in doing this, they’re not going to honor voiding the marriage and you would not be eligible for any VA benefits. So even if the marriage is voided or annulled, we still have to present credible evidence to the VA that it was done legally. That’s a necessary hill that we must climb. Annulling or voiding a marriage doesn’t automatically make a surviving spouse eligible for VA benefits.
As many of the topics surrounding VA are, surviving spouse benefits can be quite complicated. When you introduce remarriage into the equation, it can become even more complicated. Just remember as a general rule that remarriage and/or divorce usually results in a loss of VA benefits for a surviving spouse.
Contact Us So We Can Help
If you have any questions VA benefits for a surviving spouse, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (229) 226-8183 or email us at [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.