Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

When a Veteran passes away, it is a tragic loss for family members. The Veteran’s surviving family members need to know that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may owe them specific benefits due to the deceased Veteran’s service.   

The Department of Veterans Affairs defines Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) as “a tax-free monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of Veterans who died in the line of duty or eligible survivors of Veterans whose death resulted from service-related conditions.”

Who Is Eligible to Receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation?

Certain family members of a deceased Veteran are often qualified to receive DIC payments. Eligible surviving family members usually include the Veteran’s surviving spouse, dependents, and parents. The VA’s eligibility and evidence requirements for each to receive DIC benefits are as follows:

Surviving Spouses

You are considered a surviving spouse if you meet the following conditions:

  • You lived with the Veteran or service member without a break until their death, or
  • If you’re separated, you weren’t at fault for the separation

AND one of these must be true: 

  • You 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 started or got worse, or
  • You were married to the Veteran or service member for at least 1 year, or
  • You had a child with the Veteran or service member

If you remarried, you may still receive compensation if any of the following are true:

  • You remarried on December 16, 2003, or after, and you were at least 57 years old at the time.

–       OR –

  • You remarried on January 5, 2021, or after, and were at least 55 years old at the time.

Surviving Children

To qualify to receive VA DIC benefits as a surviving child, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You’re under 18 years of age (or 23 if you’re attending school).
  • You’re unmarried.
  • You’re not on the surviving spouse’s compensation. 

You may still qualify for compensation if you were adopted out of the Veteran’s family but meet all the other criteria.

Evidence Requirements for Surviving Spouses and Children

Whether you’re an eligible surviving spouse or child of a deceased Veteran, you must submit evidence with your claim to show that at least one of the following conditions is true:

  • The Veteran died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. 
  • The service member died due to a service-connected disease or injury.
  • The Veteran did not die from a service-connected injury or illness but qualified to receive compensation from the VA for a service-connected that had a total disability rating for a certain period of time.

If the Veteran was eligible for benefits because of a total disabling rating, meaning their illness or injury prevented them from working, one of the following conditions must apply:

  • They had this rating at least 10 years before they died.
  • They had the rating since their release from service and at least five years before they died.
  • If they were a former prisoner of war and died after September 30, 1999, they must have had the rating for at least one year prior to their death.

Surviving Parents

You may qualify for VA DIC benefits if you’re a surviving parent of a service member or Veteran and meet each of the following criteria:

  • You are the service member or Veteran’s biological, foster, or adoptive parent. The VA defines a foster parent as one who served as a parent to the service member or Veteran “before their last entry into active service.”
  • Your income falls below a certain amount as defined on the DIC rate table. Your income includes how much you earned during a calendar year, including wages or salary, rental properties, investments, gifts, and other forms of income. If you remarried and currently living with your spouse, you must include your spouse’s income.

Evidence for Surviving Parents

The evidence requirements differ from the requirements for surviving spouses and children. To qualify, you must show:

  • The service member or Veteran died due to an illness or injury while on active duty, in the line of duty, or during active-duty training, or
  • The service member died due to an illness or injury in the line of duty while conducting inactive training, or
  • The Veteran died because of a service-connected injury or illness.

For all types of survivors seeking DIC benefits, you must submit evidence or grant the VA permission to gather evidence from the following sources:

  • Service treatment and personnel records from the Veteran’s National Guard or Reserve Unit.
  • The Veteran’s private medical records.
  • The Veteran’s treatment records from a VA medical center or other federal facility.
  • Evidence of chronic disability symptoms from someone other than a trained professional (layperson).

Note: If the Veteran died from COVID-19, or the virus made their service-connected illness worse, survivors may still qualify to receive VA DIC benefits. The VA will review the survivor’s application to determine whether the Veteran’s death was caused by a service-connected condition.

2024 VA DIC Rates for Surviving Spouses

As of December 1, 2023, the VA DIC rate for surviving spouses is $1,612.75 per month if the Veteran died on or after January 1, 1993.

If the Veteran died before January 1, 1993, the VA will use a different method to determine your DIC payment based on the Veteran’s last pay grade. Consider the following examples:

Enlisted Veterans

  • E-1 to E-6 = $1,612.75
  • E-7 = $1,668.49
  • E-8 = $1,761.43
  • E-9 Regular = $1,837.07
  • E-9 Special = $1,983.09

Warrant Officers

  • W-1 = $1,703.03
  • W-2 = $1,770.71
  • W-3 = $1,822.47
  • W-4 = $1,928.66


  • O-1 = $1,703.03
  • O-2 = $1,761.43
  • O-3 = $1,882.19
  • O-4 = $1,995.01
  • O-5 = $2,195.47
  • O-6 = $2,475.55
  • O-7 = $2,671.96
  • O-8 = $2,934.81
  • O-9 = $3,139.21
  • O-10 Regular = $3,443.18
  • O-10 Special = $3,695.39

You may also receive additional monthly benefits if:

  • The Veteran had a total disability rating for at least eight years prior to their death, and you were married to them for all of eight years, you could receive an additional $342.46.
  • You could also receive an additional $399.54 for each child you have with the Veteran, plus an additional $399.54 for “Aid and Attendance,” if you need to help the Veteran with daily activities, such as feeding and bathing.
  • You may also receive a “transitional benefit” of $342.00 for the first two years following the Veteran’s death if you have one or more children under 18 with the Veteran.

To calculate your payment, you simply add up the total amount of additional benefits with the monthly survivor rate that applies.


2024 VA DIC Rates for Surviving Children

If you’re the surviving child of a Veteran who is under 18 (or 23 if attending school) and have not married, and the Veteran has no surviving spouse who is eligible for DIC benefits, your monthly rate is $680.94. If you’re over 18 but have a permanent disability that prevents you from supporting yourself, you may also qualify.

Note that the monthly rates decrease with subsequent children, and you should consult the VA’s DIC survivor rate website for specific information pertaining to your circumstances.

If the Veteran has a surviving spouse who is eligible for DIC benefits, and you are an adult child of the Veteran, you may receive $338.49 if you’re between 18 and 23 and attending school. If you are a “helpless child” over 18 in the same circumstance, you may receive $680.94.

Note that if you qualify for Survivors Pension benefits and DIC benefits, the VA will pay you whichever benefit provides you with the most money.

Additionally, the Department of Defense’s Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) offers a Survivor Benefit Program that service members may purchase as a retirement benefit for family members. Veterans may buy a Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) or Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan (RCSBP) depending on their service.

You may receive full DIC payments along with full SBP or RCSBP payments as of January 1, 2023.

How to Apply for DIC Benefits

To receive DIC benefits, you must apply, which will depend on your survivor status.

  • Surviving spouses or children of service members who died on active duty must complete VA Form 21P0534a and mail it to the appropriate regional VA office.
  • Surviving spouses or children of Veterans must complete VA Form 21P-534EZ.
  • Surviving parents of service members or Veterans must complete VA Form 21P-535.

For help, you can work with an accredited representative or a VA disability benefits attorney. The VA also recommends that you submit an “intent to file” form before applying for DIC benefits. Doing so will provide you time to gather the evidence you need to support your claim so that you do not push back your potential start date (effective date). Notifying the VA of your intent to file may mean you receive retroactive payments.

Other Benefits for Spouses, Dependents, and Survivors

Along with DIC benefits, you may also qualify to receive other types of benefits as the surviving spouse or dependent child of a service member or Veteran. Some of these benefits include:

  • Health care through the CHAMPVA or TRICARE programs or another program related to the Veteran’s service-connected disability.
  • Education and training benefits to help pay for school or occupational training.
  • Burial benefits, including guidance on interment in a VA national cemetery or a state or tribal Veterans’ cemetery. You could apply to receive help to pay for burial costs and memorial items, as well as grief counseling and transition support. You may also receive advanced eligibility to have the Veteran buried in a VA national cemetery to help with planning purposes.
  • Life insurance benefits through the Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance policy. You can also get assistance on how to obtain these benefits if you’re the Veteran’s beneficiary.
  • Home loans and financial counseling to help you buy a home, make repairs, or refinance a house. You could also receive assistance with VA-backed mortgage loans to avoid foreclosure if you’re having trouble making payments.
  • Survivors pensions if you’re the surviving spouse or child of a Veteran who had wartime service.
  • Employment services, such as career counseling and other educational benefits.

Additionally, caregivers of Veterans may receive special benefits to help them care for the Veteran.

Do You Need a Lawyer to File a DIC Claim?

While you are not required to have a lawyer to file a DIC claim, it is a good idea to have legal counsel on your side. Surviving spouses and children are often denied DIC benefits due to a mistake by the VA, or the claim is denied because the VA determined that the Veteran’s death was not related to his or her military service. 

If your DIC claim is denied, you may need the experienced VA benefits lawyers at Berry Law to help you file an appeal. We handle DIC benefits claims related to combat injuries, traumatic brain injuries, vehicle accidents, chemical exposure, infectious illnesses, and other service-related conditions that may have caused your loved one’s death. 

Our legal team can collect evidence to prove your loved one had a service-connected condition that contributed to his or her death. We will represent you and fight for your interests every step of the way, including appeals to the Regional Office, the Board of Veterans Appeals, and the Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims.

Contact Berry Law Now

Vietnam Veteran and attorney John Stevens Berry Sr. founded our law firm in 1965 with a mission to deliver the highest level of representation possible to those who sacrificed so much in the service of our country. We are a team of dedicated attorneys who fight hard to defend the rights and interests of Veterans across the country, and we have helped thousands of former service members obtain the VA disability benefits and other benefits they deserve.

If you’re the surviving spouse, child, or parent of a deceased service member or Veteran, let us help you get the DIC benefits you need. Contact us online or by phone for a free consultation today.

John S. Berry, , Lawyer for 
Military Sexual Trauma
Veterans Benefits Attorney, John S. Berry,
Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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