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Surviving Spouses

 Surviving Spouses

Alpha Advocacy for Those Left Behind

At Alpha, we honor the ultimate sacrifice made by our fellow disabled veterans. We also honor their families.

We are concerned for surviving spouses who may not be aware of benefits that could be available to them years after their veteran spouses were engaged in military service. Alpha Veterans Disability Advocates help surviving spouses obtain the benefits they are entitled to receive.

Qualifications for Survivor Benefits

The Veterans Administration provides Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits to a surviving spouse and/or dependent children if:

  • The surviving spouse does not remarry prior to age 57
  • The veteran was 100 percent disabled for 10 years prior to death, (for prisoners of war (POW), 100 percent disabled one year prior to death).
  • The cause of death is deemed service-connected:
    • The service-related disability was either the primary or contributory cause of death.
    • The service-related disability contributed to or aggravated the development of another disability which played a causative role in death.
    • The service-related disability assisted in the cause of death.
  • If there is no surviving spouse, DIC benefits are divided among a veteran’s minor children.
  • Older children found to be permanently incapable of self-support prior to turning 18 are eligible for DIC.

Was Your Veteran Spouse’s Death Service-Connected?

VA Casualty Assistance Officers are fully engaged in helping recently widowed survivors apply for DIC benefits.  However, there is another group of survivors that may have been missed.

Many older veterans may have died from service-connected causes but never filed a claim with the VA prior to their death.

For example, a veteran from the Vietnam War may have died many years after combat from a medical condition connected to Agent Orange exposure.  Or, if the Vietnam veteran died 10 years ago from a condition that now qualifies as service-connected, the surviving spouse very likely does not know that they have become entitled to DIC.

Alpha Helps Surviving Spouses Win Service-Connected Benefits

Your veteran spouse’s military service may have caused or contributed to your spouse’s death. Alpha can help you establish service connection and win you entitlement to DIC benefits.  Click the “Wartime Veterans” tab to review service-connected conditions for different war periods.

Our Alpha Advocates are skilled at assessing a veteran’s military history and health-related conditions to find possible relationships of service-connected entitlement to survivor benefits.

You could receive a basic tax-free monthly benefit of $1,154. You may also receive reimbursement of burial expenses up to $2,000.

Please contact Alpha to get started on your claim for DIC benefits.

Burial and Memorial Benefits

Burial in a VA national cemetery is available for eligible veterans, their spouses and dependents at no cost to the family. Benefits include headstones and grave markers, a burial flag, military funeral honors and perpetual care of the gravesite.

Other Benefits

  • Educational assistance for spouses and dependent children
  • Guaranteed home loans by a private lender
  • Secondary medical care (CHAMPVA) for individuals who have Medicare entitlement

Note: All representation coordinated by Alpha is provided by our employees, the Advocates, who are accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). No private organization that trains and employs accredited agents has been legally recognized by the VA for the purposes of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims. This work must be done by the Advocates themselves and not organizations.


295 comments to “Surviving Spouses”

  • Alpha, June 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm


    Unfortunately, you would not be entitled to any benefits.

  • Travis Staples, June 18, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    My father died July 31st, 2009 from Chronic Heart Failure as a result of. Cardiomyopathy. And other significant conditions hypertension, shortness of breath, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and nueropalsy. He also had diabetes and the doctors said that he was prescribed medications consistent with those that have lung cancer. My father was in the navy but switched over to the Marines from 11/12/64 and was discharged honorably in 11/20/68. He passed when I was 15. My sister was 15 as well. A little brother who was 14 and a sister who was 12. I am now looking for money for school and to help me get by as I am homeless but living with a friend for as long as his mom lets me. I was wondering if anyone can help me out.

  • Alpha, June 20, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Hi Travis,

    I’ve sent you am email regarding your post. Please be on the lookout.

  • Sonia Addi, July 27, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    I’m trying to help my mother see if she is entitled to any suvivor benefits through the VA. She was married to a Vietnam vet for 19 yrs and they had 1 child together. They did divorce but he moved back in with my mother when he became sick. He died of cancer causes by agent orange and was recieving full disability from the va at the time of his death. They had lived in the same home together for almost 2 yrs when he died, but they were divorced and did not remarry. I have had a number of people tell me she is eligible for benefits but when she applied she was denied. She did receive benefits from social security as a surviving widow. Should she be eligible for any type of benefits through the VA? any help is appreciated.
    thank you for your time
    Sonia Addi

  • Alpha, July 29, 2013 at 1:18 pm


    First since they divorced, it may mean she is not entitled to benefits. But if they resided in a state that recognizes common law marriage she may be entitled to benefits.

    1. If the veteran died of a cancer linked to Agent Orange she may be entitled to DIC.
    2. If what caused his death cannot be service connected she may be entitled to Death Pension.

    On the other hand if they resided in a state that does not recognize common law marriage there is a quirk in the law they states if she was not aware the state did not recognize common law marriage she may be entitled to benefits. I am not sure we can assist your mother at this time, but she might want talk to someone at the VA and see is she would be eligible.

  • Olga, August 6, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Hello my name is Olga I’m 18 years old. My father was a veteran from the Vietnam War. He passed away in November of 2011. He was 67 years of age when diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and died 1 month after turning 68 y.o, from a stoke. My father was never married to my mother. My mother lives in Mexico and I live in California by myself I was born in Visalia CA, and have been struggling a lot do to my young age and no employment experience. I really want to finish school to become a Probation Officer. I want to know if I am eligible for any benefits.

    thank you

  • Alpha, August 9, 2013 at 3:57 pm


    I would suggest that you contact a Veterans’ Service Organization or go to the nearest regional office for assistance. If your mother and father lived in a state that recognizes common law marriage then your mother may be entitled to DIC. Also, as the daughter of a Vietnam veteran that died of what could become a service connected death, you would be eligible for educational benefits. Good luck.

  • Bicbic, August 17, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    I am receiving DIC because my spouse died. My question is, will I be able to collect social security survivor’s benefits when I turn 60? Can I collect both benefits?

  • Alpha, August 21, 2013 at 1:19 pm


    You should be able to collect both. I would recommend contacting the VA. Good luck

  • Anonymous, August 31, 2013 at 1:29 am

    is there a time frame on being married to a vet that dies. will the spouse get to draw his benifits through the va

  • Alpha, September 5, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Must be married to the veteran for 1 year or had a child. If you remarry before the age of 55, you would lose it; however, you could re-apply after you turn 55.

  • Crystal, September 17, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    My husband was a Vietnam Vet who passed away in Nov. of 2010. he had several heart and lung problems including COPD, Pulmonary Fibrosis(causes lungs to harden),breathing problems, and an Aortic Aneurysm. How do I know if any of these could have been caused by Agent Orange. I couldn’t get him to fill out the paperwork. He didn’t want to talk about it.

  • Alpha, September 25, 2013 at 11:46 am


    I am having one of our representatives reach out to you to see if we can assist in any way. She will be emailing you shortly.

  • Jessica, October 16, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Hi there, My husband passed away just over 4 years ago. He was medically discharged from U.S.M.C. due to a service related injury and mental issues. (P.T.S.D., bi-polar, anxiety, etc.) He did receive V.A. disability benefits and was rated at 70% disabled. He committed suicide. I did file for surviving spouse benefits a few months after his death for myself and dependent minor children (7 & 4 at his time of death). My claim was in limbo for over 2 years, and then I received a denial of benefits letter stating that his death was not service related. He was being treated for all mental issues by the local V.A. facility, taking medications prescribed by V.A. physicians for the mental disorder, had tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide a few months prior that was documented by V.A., and the therapist that he saw within V.A. determined that he was potentially at risk for suicide. I was pretty devastated when I received the denial letter to say the least. Until I began looking for support sites, I was unaware that I could really fight the decision. The letter I received did say that I had the right to appeal as long as I had further proof that this was service related, but I assumed that because they denied the first time that it would be pointless to try again. My one year deadline to appeal has lapsed. Is there anything I can do now to try and file again for benefits? I really wish that my children could at least get the benefits their dad worked so hard for. I appreciate any advice that you can provide. Thanks in advance.

  • Alpha, October 21, 2013 at 3:45 pm


    I recommend contacting Alpha regarding your late husband. We might be able to assist you apply for DIC benefits, if we can prove your husbands death was due to his mental issues (PTSD, bi-polar, etc). I hope you give us a call at 877-611-7724. I wish you the best of luck.

  • Elaine, October 23, 2013 at 12:01 am

    Hi, I was married to a vietnam veteran for 6 weeks before he died of lung cancer and we had a child together. Could I get DIC ?

  • Alpha, October 23, 2013 at 3:46 pm


    I recommend contacting Alpha and speaking to one of our eligibility consultants. They will be able to answer your questions regarding DIC benefits. Good luck.

  • Rebecca, October 30, 2013 at 2:57 am

    I was receiving benefits from chapter 35, surviving spouses education benefits uNtil June of this year. My husbands death was military related and I was told my Benefits have run out. He passed away in 2002 and I thought the new rules in titled me to twenty years. Also, he had the the GI bill as well. I was told I could not use any of his funds from his GI bill nor his post 911 because he had to be alive to sigh it over to me. Please tell me were I can find all of this in writing. Currently I am enrolled in a PhD program and am two years from graduating.

  • Alpha, November 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm


    You will either have to reach out to the VA at 1-800-827-1000 or go down to your local regional office and inquire there. As of 2010 the benefits for surviving dependents only receive a period of eligibility for education benefits 10 years from the date they are awarded so if her husband passed away in 2002 and became eligible shortly after then the time stopping in June of 2013 sounds about right according to this. The 20 year rule only applies to those 10 year time periods that would expire before the law change in 2004. This unfortunately means, the rule doesn’t apply to you in this case, but I would confirm with your regional office.

    In regards to the GI bill, the law states that the VA will pay a special MGIB (Montgomery GIL Bill) death benefit to a designated survivor in the event of the service-connected death of a servicemember while on active duty or within one year after discharge or release. Hope this helps.

  • Norman, November 4, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    My mother was denied DIC because she remarried after my father passing in 1984. She is now 79 and has been divorced from her 2nd husband for over 18 years. Is there any possibility that an appeal for benefits would be successful? They were married for 30 years.

  • Alpha, November 5, 2013 at 11:05 am


    According to VA law a surviving spouse loses eligibility if they remarry before the age of 57 or are living with another person who has been held out publicly as their spouse. They can however regain eligibility if their remarriage ends by death OR divorce or if they cease living with the person. The spouse will need to supply not only a marriage certificate for the time she was married to the veteran before they passed away, but also a marriage certificate and divorce decree from the individual she was married to after the veteran passed away. Now on another note if the spouse divorced the veteran before he passed away she gives up any and all rights to benefits because of the divorce, but if she was still married to him when he passed away then as long as she can provide evidence that she was married to the veteran before death, didn’t marry until after he was passed away, and supplies evidence that she is no longer married to that person any more then she needs to supply this to the VA and appeal the decision. I hope this helps.

  • pam reid, November 18, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    I am 45 year old woman, My father passed away over 20 years ago. I am wondering are there any benefits that I could receive being his child. He was in the military and served fo

  • Alpha, November 22, 2013 at 9:44 am


    The only way a child can receive benefits from the VA is if they are under the age of 18 and are incapable of taking care of themselves (medically proven). If they are able to take care of themselves and over the age of 18, then they would have to substitute themselves in a claim that was already filed by the veteran, the claim is still being processed, and the veteran had to pass away while the claim(s) is still pending. The substitution only allows for the person to received the accrued benefits awarded and nothing forward. If they can take care of themselves, are over the age of 18, and the veteran didn’t have a claim already pending, then they are not eligible for anything related to VA benefits.

    If the veteran had a spouse then she might be eligible for something, but seeing as how he passed away 20 years ago that would be difficult to handle unless he served in Vietnam and passed away from an illness associated with Agent Orange exposure. Even if that were the case, the children still wouldn’t receive any benefits and it would be directed toward the spouse instead.

  • M. Davis, December 11, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    My dad was in the Navy for I believe 6-8 yrs and was medically discharged due to service related injuries (back), etc. He was on some ships that where in the area of Agent Orange but not sure if he was close enough for that to be a possible claim on getting paid extra for that. Once he was discharged he did not start out getting 100%. He fought for a long time to get 100% disability as it got to where he was unable to work and support our family. When he finally did get 100% he only got to enjoy it for about 5 years and passed with a liver disease, chronic Hep. C, COPD, shortness of breath, etc. My mom thought for sure she would continue to get the 100% but every nickel was taken from her it except for a little over $600 a month because he did not live for 10 yrs and 1 day from the time he first started receiving it per VA rule. I don’t feel this is right, especially since he did serve his country and they where married for 40 yrs.for her to have to live on such a small amount with the way the economy is and she does not and never has worked. She recently started getting his SSN but both amounts is a little hard to live on trying to pay bills and keep medical insurance on her self and any of her other necessities that may come up. Is there a way to help her get the 100% back they where receiving before my dad passed.

  • Alpha, December 13, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    The only way a spouse can be eligible for Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is by the veteran passing away due to a service connected condition, due to a condition secondary to a service connected condition, being rated at 100% for 10 years, being rated at 100% for 5 years which was granted upon discharge from service and still had it at the time they passed away, or passed away from a condition that is associated with Agent Orange.

    Right now it seems she is receiving Widow’s Death Pension, which is income based and means that the veteran didn’t qualify in one of the areas I mentioned above. With her receiving income outside of the VA, they will adjust the amount paid out by the VA to ensure she still falls within the poverty level. The more money she receives the lower the pension paid out by the VA will come.

    I see that you mentioned that your mother is now receiving SS benefits on behalf of her late husband. If that is the case this needs to be reported to the VA before they find out on their own. They will drop her amount even more, but if they are not informed they will eventually find out and this will create an overpayment and they will try to collect the whole amount due in a very short period of time. They usually take anywhere between 6 months to 2 years before they discover it on their own, which will create a rather large overpayment.

    If she would like to try and switch it over to DIC instead of Pension, she should try and get a doctor to state that his cause of death (labeled on the death certificate) was due to a service connected disability, associated with Agent Orange, or due to military service (Navy personnel with exposures to asbestos). They need to find out exactly what the cause of death was and what is labeled on the death certificate before trying to fight for DIC.

  • Alice owens, January 18, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    My husband served in the Army from 1972 to 1976, no injuries, and he passed away in 2007 in car accident, I was wandering if there is any benefits I would quatifly for due to I only work four days a week,, and hard to make ends meet, I am now 55yrs old, i have a daughter by my husband who is 36 and bilpolar,, and i have to help her in so many ways,, is there any help for us,, thank you.

  • Alpha, January 29, 2014 at 10:19 am


    The only thing that might work in your case would be Widower’s Death Pension. You would need to file for pension with the VA since your husband’s death was not service related nor related to a disability. If your daughter is in need of special care, such as at home aid and attendance or is permanently housebound, then you could be eligible for more, but regardless you will need to file. If you haven’t filed for Social Security then I would recommend you look into both and decide which one you would benefit from more on a monthly basis. I wish you the best of luck.

  • Kimberly, February 16, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    I am a female veteran that purchased my home, utilizing my va home loan benefit while single. I plan to marry in July, 2014. If I were to die before my spouse, can she remain in the house since it is a va loan?



  • Alpha, February 18, 2014 at 10:34 am


    If your spouse out lives you and as long as they pay on the balance of the morgage, they will be able to stay in the house. I do suggest that a will be drawn up to protect all parties.

  • abbygail, February 23, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    My ex-husband and I were married for almost 18 years. He died in 2000. I am almost 60 years old and have never remarried. He was initially rated 100% disabled and received benefits at 100% for approximately 6 years. The disability percentage was reduced to 60% which he received for approximately 26 years. Am I entitled to receive his VA disability income?

  • Alpha, March 3, 2014 at 3:48 pm


    I would recommend speaking to one of our Eligibility Consultants here at Alpha. They will ask you a few questions about your husbands time in the services and determine your eligibility for benefits. I hope you will give us a call at (877) 611-7724. Good luck.

  • Douglas Drumheller, March 23, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    I am a Vietnam veteran who is currently on 90% disability compensation ($1,857.34 monthly). My spouse and I have been married 45 years. If i die what per cent of my disability compensation would my wife receive.

  • Alpha, April 2, 2014 at 9:44 am


    It is not a percentage, it’s actually just a monthly set amount. You will have to contact the VA and talk to them about DIC benefits for your wife. Good luck.

  • Debby, July 19, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    My husband passed in Nov 2010. He was in Vetnam and was exposed to agent orange. He had all the symptons of lung cancer. The Va wanted to do a biopsy but due to his poor health he could not do the biopsy. On his death cert the cause of death was respiratory failure and mediastinal mass. He had two masses. I went to the agent orange doctor at the VA and he wrote me a letter and this is what he said about his death. Clinically, it was more likely than not likely, that he died with lung cancer or lymphoma which are both on the agent orange list. ( medical records reviewed) and these conditions contributed to the vetran’s death. Why I am writing this is because I had a dav tell me that they could turn me down for my DIC. I was denied because he used the workd possilbe insead of more than likely than not likely. The dav that is working on my case did not say that. If anyone has any thing that could help me understand why they could or could not get my dic I would appreciate any feed back. Thank you for your time for reading this.My dav has filed my case again after the agent orange changed the letter.

  • Alpha, July 21, 2014 at 12:57 pm


    Please contact one of our experienced agents by calling 877-611-1724. In order to determine your eligibility they will have to ask you some additional questions.


  • Tanya j. Redmond, September 27, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    My husband was on 100 percent disability from the military my name was on the money also he died in a car accident on 5/30/2014 am I granted part of his disability pension .

  • Kenneth R Barker, October 20, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    My husband was exposed to radiation in Nevada while serving in the Korean War. Claim that was filed was denied. The va in New Orleans La has all the information on file. Please get in touch with us.

  • Alpha, October 30, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Hi Kenneth,

    I will have one of our representatives get in touch with you today.

    Thank you,

  • Alpha, October 31, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Hi Tanya,

    Please give us a call at 877-611-1724. One of our experienced representatives will be able to assist you.

    Thank you and have a great day!

  • susan ball, January 19, 2015 at 11:33 am

    I was married to a vietnam veteran from 1974 till 1999 at which time we divorced due to his problems from PTSD and drug related issues also caused from PTSD. He was drawing 110% disability due to PTSD since aprox.1980. He passed away in Sept of 2014 due to cancer. I have been told that I could possibly be eligible for some VA benefits due to the legnth of our marriage and his problems related to his PTSD being the reason we divorced. Can you advise me if I should pursue this or not. I never remarried. Thank you.

  • Alpha, January 21, 2015 at 9:49 am

    Hi Susan,

    Based on the information you have provided, it sounds like you might be eligible for spousal benefits through the VA. We can help you with the claim. Please give us a call at 877-611-1724 and one of our representatives will be able to assist you.

    Thank you and have a great day!

  • Joan Figgs, January 25, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    I was married to a Vietnam vet from 1980 to 1996 at which time we divorced due to his problems from PTSD (drinking & drugs) went through numerous treatments as a family but to no avail never could save for retirement because always had to use 401Ks to make up for this unemployment constantly due to his drinking and losing jobs I never remarried he was receiving disability when he passed away Dec 22, 2014 is it possible that I could be eligible for his disability benefits as a surviving spouse? What do I need to do.

  • Alpha, January 29, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    You might be eligible for surviving spouse benefits through the VA. We can assist you with that claim. Give us a call at 877-611-1724 and one of our representatives will ask you some additional questions to fully determine your eligibility.

    Thank you and have a great day!

  • Edith Davis, March 3, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    My husband passed away in 2014 from a rare form of cancer. he applied to benefits but was denied because they had his records missed up(showed he was dishonorably discharge) however it was fixed just be he passed away. now they are saying I can’t get benefits because he never applied. I have the letter and ssa have the letter showing he was denied. is their anything that can be done?

  • Alpha, March 12, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Hi Edith,

    It sounds like we may be able to assist you with that claim. Please contact us at 877-611-7724.

    Alpha Team