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The sorrow, grief, and profound sense of loss that follow the death of a spouse are often coupled with concerns about money and financial support. While nothing can replace the loss of your military spouse, as a military widow or widower, you may be eligible for a number of monetary and financial benefits that honor your spouse’s service to our nation.
Military benefits for military widows and widowers come in the form of pensions, aid, death gratuities, health insurance, and even financial assistance to help you pay for college or training, so it pays to take the time to learn about the military benefits you’re entitled to.
The benefits you’re eligible for as a military widow or widower are most often referred to as “survivor benefits” by the Veterans Administration (VA), although beneficiaries may also include the children or parents of the deceased military service member or veteran.
If your spouse was a current service member (active-duty, reservist, or Guardsman) or veteran at the time or his or her death, you’ll find different benefits available to you:
There isn’t a single answer to the question, what benefits do military widows get. Benefits qualifications vary, so it’s important to learn about what’s available to you as a military widow or widower.
Survivor Benefits for Military Widows and Widowers of Service Members and Veterans Who Died on Active Duty, OR Due to a Service-Connected Disability, OR During a Wartime Period
You may be eligible to receive a monthly benefit payment from the VA through either the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program if your spouse died either on active duty or from a service-connected disability, or through the VA Survivor’s Pension program if your deceased military spouse served during a wartime period.
Note: You may be eligible for both DIC and Survivor’s Pension benefits, but you can’t receive both. You’ll receive benefits from the program that offers you the most money.
DEPENDENCY AND INDEMNITY COMPENSATION (DIC)
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a monthly monetary benefit from the VA that’s paid to you if your spouse was a veteran who died on or after January 1, 1957, AND:
In certain conditions, you may also receive DIC if your veteran spouse had service-connected disabilities that weren’t related to his or her death. In this case, two conditions must be met: The VA must have considered your veteran spouse totally disabled due to service-connected disabilities AND your veteran spouse must have been totally disabled:
Once you determine that your military veteran spouse was eligible under DIC, you must determine that you, as the surviving spouse, are eligible under this program.
You may be eligible for DIC benefits if you meet at least one of the following conditions:
Even if you remarry after your veteran spouse’s death, you may still be eligible for DIC benefits if:
VA SURVIVOR'S PENSION
If you were married to a veteran who served during wartime but whose death was unrelated to service, you may also be eligible for a monthly Death Pension benefit. The amount of your monthly benefit is determined by your income. To be eligible for the Death Pension, you must have been married for at least a year prior to your veteran spouse’s death, your spouse must have been a wartime veteran, and you must not be remarried.
Your veteran spouse must have:
Your monthly benefit amount through the Survivor’s Pension is based on your net worth, which is a combination of your assets (not including your primary residence or car) and your annual income. As of 2022, your net worth must not be greater than $138,489 to qualify for benefits through this program.
Wartime periods recognized under the Survivor’s Pension program include:
AID & ATTENDANCE AND HOUSEBOUND BENEFITS
If you qualify for either DIC or Survivor’s Pension benefits as a military widow or widower, you may also be eligible for an additional monthly benefit for Aid & Attendance if you require the assistance of another person to feed, cleanse, or dress you or you have a physical or mental disability that requires you to have care or assistance on a regular basis. Military widows or widowers in a nursing home are eligible for Aid & Attendance benefits.
You may also qualify for Housebound benefits if you’re permanently housebound due to a permanent disability or disabilities.
SURVIVOR BENEFITS FOR MILITARY WIDOWS AND WIDOWERS OF VETERANS WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE SURVIVOR BENEFIT PLAN (SBP)
If your military spouse began paying into the Department of Defense’s Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) upon his or her retirement from military service, you may be eligible to start receiving a monthly payment through this program upon your spouse’s death. Through the SBP, you can receive up to 55% if your veteran spouse’s monthly retirement pay.
Currently, if you receive DIC payments, the amount of your SBP will be reduced. As a result, you may be able to recoup some of the cost of this offset through the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA)— a benefit paid to spouses whose SBP payments are reduced because they also receive DIC.
However, as of January 1, 2023, surviving spouses will receive their full SBP and DIC payments, thereby eliminating SSIA payments.
DEATH GRATUITY FOR MILITARY WIDOWS AND WIDOWERS OF VETERANS WHO DIED WHILE ON ACTIVE DUTY AS A RESULT OF A SERVICE-CONNECTED INJURY OR ILLNESS
If your spouse died while on active duty or within 120 days of separation due to a service-connected injury or illness, you may be eligible for a one-time death gratuity payment of $100,000.
These payments are typically made automatically by your spouse’s last military command. If it isn’t, you can complete an application through the VA to receive this benefit.
BURIAL BENEFITS FOR MILITARY WIDOWS AND WIDOWERS
As a spouse of a veteran, you may qualify for burial in one of the VA national cemeteries across the country. Your burial benefits include a free burial alongside your deceased veteran spouse and a free inscription on your veteran spouse’s headstone.
Education Benefits for Military Widows and Widowers
You’re probably familiar with the education benefits that many spouses of veterans enjoy through the Post-9/11 GI Bill®. While you won’t be able to collect any educational benefits from this program in the traditional sense (unless the educational benefits through the Post-9/11 GI Bill® were already transferred to you before his or her death), you may be eligible for education benefits through a number of different avenues:
MARINE GUNNERY SERGEANT JOHN DAVID FRY SCHOLARSHIP (FRY SCHOLARSHIP)
If your military spouse died in the line of duty (on active duty or not) on or after September 11, 2001, you may be eligible to collect Post-9/11 GI Bill® benefits through the Fry Scholarship. You may also be eligible through this program if your military spouse was a member of the Selected Reserve and died from a service-connected disability on or after September 11, 2001.
If you’re eligible for this program, you’ll receive up to 36 months of tuition costs to attend a post-secondary institution.
Best of all, you can continue to receive your DIC benefits while also receiving benefits through the Fry Scholarship.
SURVIVORS’ AND DEPENDENTS’ EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
If your spouse died of a service-connected disability, had a permanent and total service-connected disability at the time of his or her death, or is MIA, you may be able to collect educational benefits through the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program.
You’ll be able to collect benefits through this program for 10 years from the date of your military spouse’s death. If your spouse died while on active duty, your benefits will last 20 years from the date of death.
MONTGOMERY GI BILL® DEATH BENEFIT
The VA pays a Montgomery GI Bill® death benefit to spouses (or other designated survivors) of service members who died as a result of a service-connected death while on active duty, or if a service-connected injury resulted in death within a year after discharge or release from service.
To qualify for this death benefit, your military spouse would have been entitled to Montgomery GI Bill® benefits (minus the high school diploma and length-of-service requirements).
If your spouse used any of their Montgomery GI Bill® benefits, your benefit amount will be reduced.
HEALTH INSURANCE BENEFITS FOR MILITARY WIDOWS AND WIDOWERS
If you’re on your spouse’s TRICARE benefits at the time of his or her death, you’ll automatically be eligible to begin receiving transitional TRICARE survivor benefits. You’ll remain a transitional survivor for three years following your spouse’s death. After that, you’ll remain eligible to receive TRICARE benefits and you’ll pay retiree rates under TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Standard, or TRICARE Extra.
If you don’t qualify for TRICARE, you may also be able to receive healthcare through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). Through this program, the VA will cover some of your healthcare costs, provided your spouse meets one of the following:
Some of the services offered through CHAMPVA include inpatient and outpatient care, hospice, skilled nursing care, pharmacy, and mental health services.
Home Loans and Housing Assistance for Military Widows and Widowers
Whether you’re considering buying, selling, or refinancing as a result of your military spouse’s death, there are programs in place to provide you with much-needed assistance and support.
VA HOME LOAN GUARANTY
If your spouse was a veteran or service member who died because of a service-connected disability or is listed as MIA or POW, you may be eligible to receive a VA home loan.
You must be either unmarried or remarried after the age of 57 to be eligible. VA loans can be used to buy, build, improve, or refinance a home.
The VA also has programs in place that can help you avoid foreclosure if you’re having trouble making mortgage payments or have fallen behind on payments after the death of your military spouse.
BASIC ALLOWANCE FOR HOUSING BENEFITS
The VA has a housing safety net for widows and widowers of active duty military spouses that lasts for an entire calendar year upon their death.
If your military spouse died while you were living in government housing, you have the option of either staying in that housing for a full year or relocating to another private home and receiving one year of Basic Housing Allowance (BAH).