Veteran Spouse Benefits after Death

November 25, 2022
Veteran Spouse Benefits after Death

Credit: Paul Hellstern/Center for Investigative Reporting

Military service comes with a multitude of perks and benefits for not only the service member, but the entire family as a whole. Far beyond simple discounts at retail stores, there are many social support services existing for veterans and their families. Comprehensive resource support is one of the major benefits of service within one of the five branches of the armed forces.

Transitioning service members often realize the diminished level of support when they exit away from military service and possibly lose access to some of these resources. However, the navigation of these resources is something the government and various nonprofits are continually looking to improve. In addition to transition from service, there are some other situations where continued social support is uncertain.

The untimely death of a beloved service member or veteran leaves the widow with many serious questions regarding their entitlements, benefits, and the very serious potential for changes in coverage. The death of a loved one is undoubtedly a tough, stressful time. There are numerous legal and financial matters to attend to that affect the entire family long after the passing. Despite the terrible loss suffered, hope remains! There are numerous benefits that remain for the surviving spouse, and the children when appropriate, of a veteran who has passed away.

The benefits for surviving families of veterans range in their levels of support and have specific qualifications based upon many individual considerations. Information such as the number of years the veteran served, the specific era(s) of service, the length of the marriage, the circumstances causing the death, and disability rating, all have an effect on qualifications. The following guide provides a general overview of the top three most important benefits that widows can explore.

1) Healthcare: One of the best resources for military individuals and their families is the healthcare they receive. Luckily, survivors that are eligible can continue to receive the same comprehensive coverage. Under the Civilian Health and Medical Program from the Department of Veteran Affairs, also known as CHAMPVA, there are healthcare entitlements for the surviving spouse.

This cost-sharing program assists widows and the surviving family with the high costs of most health care services and any necessary medical supplies that are needed for their care. Additionally, depending on the era of service and specific duty station, there may be additional coverages available through other federal VA programming.

It is recommended to quickly review the benefits you and your family qualify for by contacting your local VA or Veterans Service Officer.

2) Educational Opportunities: Surviving spouses are eligible for two important programs that can provide financial assistance for educational purposes. These benefits can be applied to colleges, universities, vocational schools, apprenticeship programs, certification tests, and even tutoring.

The first of these programs is aptly named the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program, or DEA. Qualified applicants directly receive monthly stipends to pay for educational programs of their choosing.

The second applicable educational program is the Fry scholarship program. This program differentiates itself from the DEA by paying the educational institution instead of the applicant. The Fry program will also pay greater amounts to cover tuition, books and supplies, and even provide a regular housing allowance. Applicants should look into their eligibility for both programs as various factors affect these benefits.

3) Financial Support: Although access to various resources for education, healthcare, dental, and burial services are important, there is something special about direct financial support. Under the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, or DIC, eligible applicants receive direct allotments of financial aid to assist with their living needs.

This program has very specific qualifications, so it is important to inquire about your eligibility as soon as possible. If eligible, either widowers or dependents may receive a lifetime of financial compensation paid in regular monthly installments. This program was developed to support families when the tragedy of loss occurs connected to their time in service for our great country. Additionally, there are special qualifications when the service member has a total disability rating from a service-connected disability.

Does the Ex-Spouse of a Veteran Get Benefits After Death?

Does the Ex-Spouse of a Veteran Get Benefits After Death?

Separation and divorce are stressful times for all parties involved. Unfortunately, divorce happens quite frequently nowadays and this is no different inside the military. While divorce rates stay high outside the service, the many demands of military life make it a common occurrence inside the military as well. The stresses of deployments, relocation, and the relentless 24/7 on-call status adds another layer of stress that can be too much for couples to endure.

Divorce is made even more difficult on the spouse who had previously been supplied with all of the social support services needed through the military member’s benefits packages. But what happens to the ex-spouse of a veteran who passes away? This is an important question to address and has real implications on the possible benefits and options for the surviving ex-spouse.

Fortunately, there are some benefits that remain for that ex-spouse even after the divorce. All of these benefits have specific variables to determine eligibility, such as the overall length of marriage, the circumstances causing the death, and whether or not the involved parties have remarried or not. The following is a useful guide to aid ex-spouses of veterans in determining where and when to look for eligible support.

1) Financial Benefits: Depending on the state where the divorce occurred, the ex-spouse may be entitled to a portion of the former spouse’s military retirement pay if they were married for 10 years or more. Additionally, veterans can still determine to leave portions of their survivorship benefits to divorced spouses as well. These considerations need to be filed and determined at least two years before the time of the divorce.

2) Healthcare Benefits: Depending on the length of the marriage and the number of years the service member spent in uniform, the ex-spouse is eligible to receive Tricare health services. This benefit requires the veteran spouse to have served 20 years or more in uniform. Also, the surviving ex-spouse must have also been married for at least 20 of the years the veteran spent in uniform.

3) Supermarket Benefits: Similarly to the above healthcare benefits, the overall length of marriage is the key factor for this benefit. Former spouses of veterans are eligible to use the commissary and post-exchange for market items and shopping contingent upon a minimum of 20 years of marriage to their former spouse while they were in uniform.

Thankfully, the government has created various programs and systems of support not only for service members, but their entire family. Many of these benefits continue even after the death of the one who actually served. It is important to understand the different resources available and that all of them have very specific eligibility requirements that are often time sensitive. Also, it’s important to realize benefits range depending on the state you reside.

Don’t hesitate to see if you or your children qualify for spouse or ex-spouse benefits after the death of a beloved who served our great country in any of the armed forces by contacting your local VA office or Veteran Service Officer.

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