All About Benefits for Surviving Military Families

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You’ve met a veteran without knowing it. Roughly 19 million Americans are veterans. Millions of others are family members of veterans. 

Military families cut across all demographics. That’s why the United States federal government extends substantial benefits to all military families, even after a veteran passes away.

What kinds of pensions can military families receive? What are some health care and educational benefits? What do burial benefits for surviving spouses look like? 

Answer these questions and you can provide for your family with little effort. Here is your quick guide.

Compensation and Pensions for Military Families

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) provides cash benefits to the surviving spouse of a military member. The spouse can receive thousands of dollars a year, depending on what their financial situation is like. Checks come on a monthly basis.

Only married spouses or partners who had children with military personnel can apply. An applicant must provide evidence that the veteran died due to actions related to their service. 

Another surviving family member can apply for DIC, though their applications are less common. A surviving child under the age of 18 can apply as can a surviving parent living with a low income. 

The VA Survivors Pension is a monthly cash payment to surviving spouses. An applicant must have a low income, and a spouse will lose their pension if they remarry.

Health Care

TRICARE is the military’s health care system. It provides services for the survivors of service members, including retired and Reserve members.

A spouse can choose from one of several TRICARE programs, each of which has different perimeters. Anyone looking for health care benefits should examine programs to find the right one for them.

The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) covers some health care expenses for surviving family members. A person cannot receive TRICARE and CHAMPVA at the same time. 

CHAMPVA covers most hospital services, including mental health and outpatient services. But it does not cover dental and eye care. 

There are additional health care programs reserved for specific groups of people. The VA’s Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program helps the children of Vietnam veterans who have spina bifida. These programs do not receive much funding, but they can help with physical therapy.

Life Insurance

Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) is the life insurance policy for active-duty service members. A surviving spouse can receive an insurance payout within days after the death of a member. Family members of retired veterans can also receive payouts.

Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) offers life insurance for the spouse and children of military members. A spouse can receive up to $100,000 of coverage, with an additional $10,000 for each dependent child. 

A spouse can convert their life insurance into an individual insurance policy after a service member dies. This lets them keep their insurance for as long as they live, even if they remarry. They should contact a veterans aid lawyer so they convert the insurance properly.

Education 

There are two separate programs that supply education benefits for survivors. The Survivors’ and Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA) program sends monthly checks to students. The students can then use them for their educational needs. 

The Fry Scholarship helps the survivors of service members who died after September 11, 2001. Fry sends tuition payments directly to the school. They then send money for books and a housing allowance to the student. 

There is no time limit on using Fry’s benefits. The scholarship program covers all educational opportunities, including vocational flight training. 

If a family member needs additional benefits, they can receive some from the GI Bill. A veteran can name a dependent and have the administrators of the Bill transfer benefits after they die. Benefits can cover the cost of tuition, including at international schools.

Anyone who is receiving DEA benefits can get benefits for job training. The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program can help with all forms of career training. A surviving family member can get career counseling and learn about their other military benefits.

Housing 

The VA can back the home loans of surviving spouses. If a spouse is already receiving DIC payments, they just need to fill out a simple form. A spouse who is not on DIC needs to apply for it first. 

The VA does not provide the home loans themselves. A spouse needs to go to a private bank or mortgage company and receive one. They will then get backing from the VA after an appraisal.

Funerals and Burials 

Nearly all veterans can be buried in a national cemetery. Their dependents can be buried alongside them, including children. Some spouses can be buried in a VA cemetery regardless of where the veteran is buried.

The VA can provide complete burial benefits, including a free headstone and perpetual care of the grave. A family needs to send an application, but the VA rarely turns applications down. Family members can receive bereavement counseling if a service member died in the line of duty.

The Best Benefits for Military Families

Military families can gain a lot from their loved ones’ service. They can receive a monthly pension and comprehensive health care. 

If they had a military life insurance policy, a spouse can continue it after their loved one dies. They can also get education benefits that cover the costs of tuition and books. 

The VA does not provide loans, but they can back a spouse’s claim for one. The VA provides total burial benefits if a veteran is buried at a national cemetery. 

Benefits are one component of military life. Read more military lifestyle guides by following our coverage.

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