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Survivors' Dependency And Indemnity Compensation (DIC): What You Need To Know

September 21, 2023

The sacrifices made by our military service members and veterans are immeasurable. While their dedication and commitment ensure our nation's safety and freedom, it's crucial to recognize that their families also bear a significant burden, especially when faced with the loss of their loved one. The Survivors' Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a testament to the nation's commitment to supporting veteran families during their most challenging times. 

This comprehensive guide delves into the intricacies of DIC, shedding light on its purpose, eligibility criteria, benefit rates, and the application process. Whether you're a surviving spouse, child, or parent of a deceased service member or veteran, this article aims to provide you with the essential knowledge to navigate the DIC benefits system, ensuring that you receive the support and compensation you rightfully deserve.

Program Contact1-800-827-1000
Additional InfoDepartment of Veterans Affairs Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Managing AgencyDepartment of Veterans Affairs

Overview Of Survivors' Dependency And Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

Survivors' Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free monetary benefit provided to eligible survivors of military service members who have passed away. This compensation is specifically designed for the surviving spouse, child, or parent of a service member who died in the line of duty or the survivor of a Veteran who died from a service-related injury or illness.

Purpose Of DIC

The primary purpose of DIC is to provide financial support to the families of deceased service members and veterans. The compensation aims to alleviate the financial burdens faced by these families due to the loss of their loved one. The eligibility and amount of compensation depend on various factors, including the relationship to the deceased, the circumstances of the death, and other specific criteria.

Eligibility Criteria For DIC Benefits

  1. For Surviving Spouses:

    • Must have lived with the Veteran or service member without any separation until their death. If separated, the surviving spouse should not be at fault.

    • Must have married the Veteran or service member within 15 years of their discharge from the period of military service during which the qualifying illness or injury began or worsened.

    • Alternatively, they should have been married to the Veteran or service member for at least one year or had a child with them.

    • If the surviving spouse remarried after the Veteran's death, they can still receive or continue to receive compensation under certain conditions.

  2. For Surviving Children:

    • Must be unmarried.

    • Should not be included in the surviving spouse's compensation.

    • Must be under the age of 18 (or under 23 if attending school).

  3. For Surviving Parents:

    • Must be the biological, adoptive, or foster parent of the Veteran or service member.

    • Their income should be below a specified amount.

Evidence Required for DIC:

To claim DIC, survivors need to provide evidence that:

  • The service member died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive-duty training.

  • The Veteran died from a service-connected illness or injury.

  • The Veteran was eligible to receive VA compensation for a service-connected disability rated as totally disabling for a specific period.

It's worth noting that if a Veteran died from COVID-19 and a service-related condition exacerbated their illness, their survivors might be eligible for VA DIC.

Active Duty Military Service Requirements

For survivors to be eligible for DIC benefits, the deceased Service member must have met specific active duty requirements:

The Service member died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.

Service-Connected Disabilities

The Veteran must have had a service-connected disability for which they were receiving, or were entitled to receive, VA Compensation. This disability should have been rated as totally disabling:

  • For at least 10 years immediately before death

  • Since the Veteran's release from active duty and for at least five years immediately preceding death,

  • For at least one year before death if the Veteran was a former prisoner of war who died after September 30, 1999.

Service-Related Injury Or Death

The Veteran must have died from an injury or disease deemed to be related to their military service. This includes:

  • Deaths resulting from a service-related injury or disease.

  • Deaths in the line of duty while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.

Time Of Death

The time of the Veteran's death in relation to their service and the onset or aggravation of their qualifying illness or injury is crucial. For instance, if the Veteran's death was due to a condition that began or worsened during a specific period of their military service, this could affect the eligibility of their survivors for DIC benefits.

Willful Misconduct Exclusion

It's essential to note that if a Service member's death is determined to be self-inflicted, the benefits for surviving family members may be subject to modification in accordance with 38 CFR 3.302, which pertains to Willful Misconduct and Line of Duty. In such cases, the DIC benefits might be adjusted or denied based on the circumstances surrounding the death.

Benefit Amounts & Rates

Survivors' Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free financial benefit that the United States Department of Veterans Affairs provides to eligible survivors of military personnel who died in the line of duty or veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease. The benefit amount and rates for DIC can vary depending on various factors such as the recipient's relationship to the veteran, the veteran's rank, whether the recipient has dependents, and the recipient's income level. 

Monthly Payments For Dependent Children

For 2023, an additional allowance of $365.58 is provided for each dependent child under the age of 18. This allowance is added to the DIC benefit amount received by the surviving spouse.

Monthly Rate For Surviving Spouse

The monthly Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) rate for a surviving spouse is $1,562.74 for the year 2023.

Additional DIC Allowances For Surviving Spouse:

  • An extra $331.84 is added if, at the time of the veteran's death, the veteran was rated 100% disabled or unemployable due to a disability. The veteran must have had this rating continuously for at least 8 years immediately before their death, and the surviving spouse must have been married to the veteran during those 8 years.

  • If the surviving spouse is entitled to Aid and Attendance (A&A), an additional $387.15 is added.

  • If the surviving spouse is housebound, an extra $181.37 is added.

  • If the surviving spouse has one or more children under the age of 18, an additional $387.15 is provided.

Special Reduction In Monthly Payment

Surviving spouses cannot receive both the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) payments and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) simultaneously, as both would technically be paid on behalf of the deceased veteran. To address this, Congress introduced the "Special Spouse Indemnity Allowance (SSIA)" or the SBP/DIC offset. If a survivor is entitled to both SBP and DIC, the Defense Pay Center will deduct the DIC amount from the SBP payments and pay the remaining SBP amount to the survivor under the SBP/DIC offset. This payment method is being phased in through 2023.

Education Benefits For Dependent Children Under Age 18 Or 23

Surviving children who are unmarried and under the age of 18, or between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending school are eligible for DIC benefits. Certain helpless adult children may also be entitled to DIC. These benefits can assist in covering educational expenses and provide financial support during their academic years.

Application Process For DIC Benefits

Applying for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits requires a structured process to ensure that all necessary information is provided and that the application is processed efficiently.

Required Documentation And Forms To Complete The Application Process

Application Forms:

  • For Surviving Spouses And Children: Use VA Form 21P-534EZ, titled “Application for DIC, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits.” This form can be accessed and filled out online at the official VA website.

  • For Parents: Use VA Form 21P-535, titled “Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation by Parent(s).” This form is also available on the VA website.

Submission Methods:

  • Documents can be submitted in various ways:

    • By Mail: Send your application and supporting documents to the following address:

Department of Veterans Affairs 
Pension Intake Center
P.O. Box 5365
Janesville, WI 53547-5365

  • In Person: You can bring your application to a VA regional office near you. To locate the nearest VA regional office, visit the official website

  • Electronically: VA recommends submitting correspondence electronically as it's the fastest method of receipt. You can also use AccessVA to digitally upload any correspondence using Direct Upload.

Additional Information On DIC Benefits:

  • The basic monthly rate of DIC is $1,562.74 (effective from December 1, 2022).

  • Additional allowances can be added based on specific criteria, such as the length of time the Veteran had a totally disabling service-connected disability, the presence of dependent children, and whether the surviving spouse requires Aid and Attendance or is housebound.

  • For more detailed information on the application process, eligibility criteria, and other related topics, you can call the VA helpline at 800-827-1000 or contact your local VA regional benefit office.

  • If you need assistance with the application process, you can find a local, accredited representative at VA VSO.

Getting Support With Survivors' Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)

The Survivors' Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) serves as a vital support system for the families of deceased service members and veterans. Understanding the intricacies of eligibility, benefit rates, and the application process can be overwhelming, but with the right information and resources, survivors can navigate the system more efficiently. It's essential to remember that these benefits are a testament to the sacrifices made by our service members and veterans. By staying informed and proactive, families can ensure they receive the support and compensation they rightfully deserve.

Discover more opportunities for American veterans and how to assess additional benefits by reading our guide on Combat-Related Special Compensation pay calculator. Visit American Veteran to find comprehensive online resources dedicated to American Veterans.

Michael Blair contributes his expertise to help veterans access government benefits and resources. Through his informative articles and guides, he plays a vital role in empowering veterans and improving their quality of life.
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