Veterans Affairs

Benefits for Families

DEATH PENSION

What is Death Pension?

Death Pension is a needs based benefit paid to an unremarried surviving spouse, or an unmarried child of a deceased wartime veteran.

How do I know if I'm eligible?

You may be eligible if:

  • the deceased veteran was discharged from service under other than dishonorable conditions, AND
  • the deceased veteran served at least 90 days of active military service 1 day of which was during a war time period. If he or she entered active duty after September 7, 1980, generally he or she must have served at least 24 months or the full period for which called or ordered to active duty. (There are exceptions to this rule.) AND
  • you are the surviving spouse or unmarried child of the deceased veteran, AND
  • your countable income is below a yearly limit set by law (The yearly limit on income is set by Congress).

As you can see, there are a number of criteria that may affect your eligibility to pension benefits. If you are unsure if you meet all criteria, we encourage you to go ahead and file an application, particularly if your countable income appears to be near the maximum. VA will determine if you are eligible and notify you. If you do not initially qualify, you may reapply if you have un-reimbursed medical expenses during the twelve month period after VA receives your claim that bring your countable income below the yearly income limit. (These are expense you have paid for medical services or products for which you will not be reimbursed by Medicare or private medical insurance.)

Are there age requirements, or restrictions?

  • An unremarried spouse can be any age.
  • A childmust be:
    • under 18, or
    • in school and under 23, or
    • was incapable of self support before the age of 18.

What is "countable income" for pension eligibility?

This includes income received from most sources by the surviving spouse and any eligible children. It includes earnings, disability and retirement payments, interest and dividends, and net income from farming or business.

There is a presumption that all of a child's income is available to or for the surviving spouse. VA may grant an exception in hardship cases.

Certain expenses like medical expenses may be excluded from your annual income to lower the total countable income.

What about net worth?

Net worth means the net value of the assets of the surviving spouse and his or her children. It includes such assets as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds and any property other than the surviving spouse's residence and a reasonable lot area. There is no set limit on how much net worth a surviving spouse and his or her children can have, but net worth cannot be excessive. The decision as to whether a claimant's net worth is excessive depends on the facts of each individual case. All net worth should be reported and VA will determine if a claimant's assets are sufficiently large that the claimant could live off these assets for a reasonable period of time. VA's needs-based programs are not intended to protect substantial assets or build up an estate for the benefit of heirs

Are there any exclusions to income or deductions that may be made to reduce countable income?

Yes, there are exclusions. The following are examples of the types of exclusions or deductibles to countable income:

  • Final expenses of the veteran's last illness and burial paid by the surviving spouse or eligible children.
  • Public assistance such as Supplemental Security Income is not considered income.
  • Many other specific sources of income are not considered income, however all income should be reported. VA will exclude any income that the law allows.
  • A portion of un-reimbursed medical expenses paid by the claimant after VA receives your pension claim may be deducted.
  • Certain other expenses, such as a surviving spouse's education expenses, and in some cases, a portion of the educational expenses of a child over 18 are deductible.

 

What are Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits? How Do I Apply?

  • Aid and Attendance is a benefit paid in addition to monthly pension when:
    • The claimant requires the aid of another person in order to perform personal functions required in everyday living, such as bathing, feeding, dressing, attending to the wants of nature, adjusting prosthetic devices, or protecting himself/herself from the hazards of his/her daily environment, OR,
    • The claimant is bedridden, in that his/her disability or disabilities requires that he/she remain in bed apart from any prescribed course of convalescence or treatment, OR,
    • The claimant is a patient in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapacity, OR,
    • The claimant is blind or so nearly blind as to have corrected visual acuity of 5/200 or less, in both eyes, or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less.
  • Houseboundis paid to a claimant when:
    • The claimant is substantially confined to his/her immediate premises because of permanent disability.

The survivor may not receive Aid and Attendance benefits and Housebound benefits at the same time.

How to Apply for Aid and Attendance and Housebound:

  • You may apply for Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits by writing to the VA regional office having jurisdiction of the claim. That would be the office where you filed a claim for pension benefits. If the regional office of jurisdiction is not known, you may file the request with any VA regional office.
  • You should include copies of any evidence, preferably a report from an attending physician validating the need for Aid and Attendance or Housebound type care.
  • The report should be in sufficient detail to determine whether there is disease or injury producing physical or mental impairment, loss of coordination, or conditions affecting the ability to dress and undress, to feed oneself, to attend to sanitary needs, and to keep oneself ordinarily clean and presentable.
  • In addition, it is necessary to determine whether the claimant is confined to the home or immediate premises.
  • Whether the claim is for Aid and Attendance or Housebound, the report should indicate how well the individual gets around, where the individual goes, and what he or she is able to do during a typical day.

How much does VA pay for Death Pension?

VA pays you the difference between your countable income and an annual rate of payment established by Congress. VA provides an on-line table of annual incomes that would qualify you for pension. This difference is generally paid in 12 equal monthly payments rounded down to the nearest dollar. Click here to see an example of how VA arrives at your death pension amount.

Education Assistance Program

Dependents' Educational Assistance provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain veterans. The program offers up to 45 months of education benefits. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. If you are a spouse, you may take a correspondence course. Remedial, deficiency, and refresher courses may be approved under certain circumstances.

Eligibility

You must be the son, daughter, or spouse of:

  • A veteran who died or is permanently and totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability. The disability must arise out of active service in the Armed Forces.
  • A veteran who died from any cause while such service-connected disability was in existence.
  • A servicemember missing in action or captured in line of duty by a hostile force.
  • A servicemember forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power.

 

A servicemember who is hospitalized or receiving outpatient treatment for a service connected permanent and total disability and is likely to be discharged for that disability. This change is effective December 23, 2006.

Period of Eligibility

If you are a son or daughter and wish to receive benefits for attending school or job training, you must be between the ages of 18 and 26. In certain instances, it is possible to begin before age 18 and to continue after age 26. Marriage is not a bar to this benefit. If you are in the Armed Forces, you may not receive this benefit while on active duty. To pursue training after military service, your discharge must not be under dishonorable conditions. VA can extend your period of eligibility by the number of months and days equal to the time spent on active duty. This extension cannot generally go beyond your 31st birthday, there are some exceptions.

If you are a spouse, benefits end 10 years from the date VA finds you eligible or from the date of death of the veteran. If the VA rated the veteran permanently and totally disabled with an effective date of 3 years from discharge a spouse will remain eligible for 20 years from the effective date of the rating. This change is effective October 10, 2008 and no benefits may be paid for any training taken prior to that date.

For surviving spouses (spouses of servicemembers who died on active duty) benefits end 20 years from the date of death.

HOME LOAN

The unmarried surviving spouse of a veteran who died on active duty or as the result of a service-connected disability is eligible for the home loan benefit.

If you wish to make application for the home loan benefit as a surviving spouse, contact one of our VA Eligibility Centers.

In addition, a surviving spouse who obtained a VA home loan with the veteran prior to his or her death (regardless of the cause of death), may obtain a VA guaranteed interest rate reduction refinance loan.

Medical

Eligibility Definitions

TermDefinition
Beneficiary A CHAMPVA-eligible spouse, widow(er), or child.
Child Includes birth, adopted, stepchild, or helpless child as determined by a VA regional office (see the Rules that Impact CHAMPVA Eligibilty section of the CHAMVPA handbook).
Dependents A child, spouse, or widow(er) of a qualifying sponsor.
Qualifying Sponsor A veteran who is permanently and totally disabled from a service-connected condition, died as a result of a service-connected condition, was rated permanently and totally disabled from a service-connected condition at the time of death, or died on active duty and whose dependents are not otherwise entitled to DoD TRICARE benefits.
Service-connected A VA regional office determination that a veteran's illness or injury is related to military service.
Spouse The wife or husband of a qualifying sponsor.
Widow(er) The surviving spouse of a qualifying sponsor.

Overview

The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) is a comprehensive health care program in which the VA shares the cost of covered health care services and supplies with eligible beneficiaries. The program is administered by Health Administration Center and our offices are located in Denver, Colorado.

Due to the similarity between CHAMPVA and the Department of Defense (DoD) TRICARE program (sometimes referred to by its old name, CHAMPUS) the two are often mistaken for each other. CHAMPVA is a Department of Veterans Affairs program whereas TRICARE is a regionally managed health care program for active duty and retired members of the uniformed services, their families, and survivors. In some cases a veterans may look to be eligible for both/either program on paper. However, if you are a military retiree, or the spouse of a veteran who was killed in action, you are and will always be a TRICARE beneficiary, you can´t choose between the two.

Eligibility

To be eligible for CHAMPVA, you cannot be eligible for TRICARE/CHAMPUS and you must be in one of these categories:

  1. the spouse or child of a veteran who has been rated permanently and totally disabled for a service-connected disability by a VA regional office, or
  2. the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who died from a VA-rated service connected disability, or
  3. the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who was at the time death rated permanently and totally disabled from a service connected disability, or
  4. the surviving spouse or child of a military member who died in the line of duty, not due to misconduct (in most of these cases, these family members are eligible for TRICARE, not CHAMPVA).

 

Burial Benefits

Burial in a National Cemetery

Burial benefits available include a gravesite in any of our 131 national cemeteries with available space, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a Government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family. Some veterans may also be eligible for Burial Allowances. Cremated remains are buried or inurned in national cemeteries in the same manner and with the same honors as casketed remains.

Burial benefits available for spouses and dependents buried in a national cemetery include burial with the veteran, perpetual care, and the spouse or dependents name and date of birth and death will be inscribed on the veteran’s headstone, at no cost to the family.  Eligible spouses and dependents may be buried, even if they predecease the veteran.

Burial in a Private Cemetery

Burial benefits available for veterans buried in a private cemetery include a Government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family. Some veterans may also be eligible for Burial Allowances. There are not any benefits available to spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery.

Eligibility of Burial Benefits

To confirm your eligibility for burial benefits, please call a Veteran’s Benefits Counselor at:
1-800-827-1000

Persons Eligible for Burial in a VA National Cemetery

VA national cemetery directors have the primary responsibility for verifying eligibility for burial in VA national cemeteries. A determination of eligibility is usually made in response to a request for burial in a VA national cemetery. VA Regional Offices will also assist in determining eligibility for burial in a VA national cemetery. The toll-free number for the nearest VA Regional Office is 1-800-827-1000.

a. Veterans and Members of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard)

  1. Any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who dies on active duty.
  2. Any veteran who was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. With certain exceptions, service beginning after September 7, 1980, as an enlisted person, and service after October 16, 1981, as an officer, must be for a minimum of 24 continuous months or the full period for which the person was called to active duty (as in the case of a Reservist called to active duty for a limited duration). Undesirable, bad conduct, and any other type of discharge other than honorable may or may not qualify the individual for veterans benefits, depending upon a determination made by a VA Regional Office. Cases presenting multiple discharges of varying character are also referred for adjudication to a VA Regional Office.
  3. Any citizen of the United States who, during any war in which the United States has or may be engaged, served in the Armed Forces of any Government allied with the United States during that war, whose last active service was terminated honorably by death or otherwise, and who was a citizen of the United States at the time of entry into such service and at the time of death.

 

b. Members of Reserve Components and Reserve Officers' Training Corps

  1. Reservists and National Guard members who, at time of death, were entitled to retired pay under Chapter 1223, title 10, United States Code, or would have been entitled, but for being under the age of 60. Specific categories of individuals eligible for retired pay are delineated in section 12731 of Chapter 1223, title 10, United States Code.
  2. Members of reserve components, and members of the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard, who die while hospitalized or undergoing treatment at the expense of the United States for injury or disease contracted or incurred under honorable conditions while performing active duty for training or inactive duty training, or undergoing such hospitalization or treatment.
  3. Members of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps of the Army, Navy, or Air Force who die under honorable conditions while attending an authorized training camp or on an authorized cruise, while performing authorized travel to or from that camp or cruise, or while hospitalized or undergoing treatment at the expense of the United States for injury or disease contracted or incurred under honorable conditions while engaged in one of those activities.
  4. Members of reserve components who, during a period of active duty for training, were disabled or died from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in line of duty or, during a period of inactive duty training, were disabled or died from an injury or certain cardiovascular disorders incurred or aggravated in line of duty.

 

c. Commissioned Officers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

  1. A Commissioned Officer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (formerly titled the Coast and Geodetic Survey and the Environmental Science Services Administration) with full-time duty on or after July 29, 1945.
  2. A Commissioned Officer who served before July 29, 1945, and,
    1. Was assigned to an area of immediate military hazard as determined by the Secretary of Defense while in time of war, or in a Presidentially declared national emergency; or,
    2. Served in the Philippine Islands on December 7, 1941, and continuously in such islands thereafter.

 

d. Public Health Service

  1. A Commissioned Officer of the Regular or Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service who served on full-time duty on or after July 29, 1945. If the service of the particular Public Health Service Officer falls within the meaning of active duty for training, as defined in section 101(22), title 38, United States Code, he or she must have been disabled or died from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.
  2. Commissioned Officer of the Regular or Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service who performed full-time duty prior to July 29, 1945:
    1. In time of war;
    2. On detail for duty with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard; or,
    3. While the Service was part of the military forces of the United States pursuant to Executive Order of the President.
  3. A Commissioned Officer serving on inactive duty training as defined in section 101(23), title 38, United States Code, whose death resulted from an injury incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.

 

e. World War II Merchant Mariners

  1. United States Merchant Mariners with oceangoing service during the period of armed conflict, December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946. Prior to the enactment of Public Law 105-368, United States Merchant Mariners with oceangoing service during the period of armed conflict of December 7, 1941, to August 15, 1945, were eligible. With enactment of Public Law 105-368, the service period is extended to December 31, 1946, for those dying on or after November 11, 1998. A DD-214 documenting this service may be obtained by submitting an application to Commandant (G-MVP-6), United States Coast Guard, 2100 2nd Street, SW, Washington, DC 20593. Notwithstanding, the Mariner’s death must have occurred on or after the enactment of Public Law 105-368.
  2. United States Merchant Mariners who served on blockships in support of Operation Mulberry during World War II.

f. The Philippine Armed Forces

  1. Any Philippine veteran who was a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States at the time of their death; and resided in the United States at the time of their death; and,
    1. Was a person who served before July 1, 1946, in the organized military forces of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, while such forces were in the service of the Armed Forces of the United States pursuant to the military order of the President dated July 26, 1941, including organized guerilla forces under commanders appointed, designated, or subsequently recognized by the Commander in Chief, Southwest Pacific Area, or other competent authority in the Army of the United States, and who died on or after November 1, 2000; or,
    2. Was a person who enlisted between October 6, 1945, and June 30, 1947, with the Armed Forces of the United States with the consent of the Philippine government, pursuant to section 14 of the Armed Forces Voluntary Recruitment Act of 1945, and who died on or after December 16, 2003.

 

g. Spouses and Dependents

  1. The spouse or surviving spouse of an eligible veteran is eligible for interment in a national cemetery even if that veteran is not buried or memorialized in a national cemetery. In addition, the spouse or surviving spouse of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States whose remains are unavailable for burial is also eligible for burial.
  2. The surviving spouse of an eligible veteran who had a subsequent remarriage to a non-veteran and whose death occurred on or after January 1, 2000, is eligible for burial in a national cemetery, based on his or her marriage to the eligible veteran.
  3. The minor children of an eligible veteran. For purpose of burial in a national cemetery, a minor child is a child who is unmarried and:
    1. Who is under 21 years of age; or,
    2. Who is under 23 years of age and pursuing a full-time course of instruction at an approved educational institution.
  4. The unmarried adult child of an eligible veteran. For purpose of burial in a national cemetery, an unmarried adult child is:

    Of any age but became permanently physically or mentally disabled and incapable of self-support before reaching 21 years of age, or before reaching 23 years of age if pursuing a full-time course of instruction at an approved educational institution. Proper supporting documentation must be provided.

 

h. Others

Such other persons or classes of persons as designated by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (38 U.S.C. § 2402(6)) or the Secretary of Defense (Public Law 95-202, § 401, and 38 CFR § 3.7(x)).

Persons NOT Eligible for Burial in a VA National Cemetery

a. Former Spouses
A former spouse of an eligible individual whose marriage to that individual has been terminated by annulment or divorce, if not otherwise eligible.

b. Other Family Members
Family members of an eligible person except those defined as eligible in Section III, paragraph g.

c. Disqualifying Characters of Discharge
A person whose only separation from the Armed Forces was under dishonorable conditions or whose character of service results in a bar to veterans benefits.

d. Discharge from Draft
A person who was ordered to report to an induction station, but was not actually inducted into military service.

e. Person Found Guilty of a Capital Crime
Under 38 U.S.C. § 2411, interment or memorialization in a VA national cemetery or in Arlington National Cemetery is prohibited if a person is convicted of a Federal or State capital crime, for which a sentence of imprisonment for life or the death penalty may be imposed and the conviction is final. Federal officials may not inter in veterans cemeteries persons who are shown by clear and convincing evidence to have committed a Federal or State capital crime but were unavailable for trial due to death or flight to avoid prosecution. Federally funded State veterans cemeteries must also adhere to this law. This prohibition is also extended to furnishing a Presidential Memorial Certificate, a burial flag, and a headstone or marker.

f. Subversive Activities
Any person convicted of subversive activities after September 1, 1959, shall have no right to burial in a national cemetery from and after the date of commission of such offense, based on periods of active military service commencing before the date of the commission of such offense, nor shall another person be entitled to burial on account of such an individual. Eligibility will be reinstated if the President of the United States grants a pardon.

g. Active or Inactive Duty for Training
A person whose only service is active duty for training or inactive duty training in the National Guard or Reserve Component, unless the individual meets the eligibility criteria listed in Section III.1.b. of this information sheet.

h. Other Groups
Members of groups whose service has been determined by the Secretary of the Air Force under the provisions of Public Law 95-202 as not warranting entitlement to benefits administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Burial Flags

Why Does VA Provide a Burial Flag?
A United States flag is provided, at no cost, to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran who served honorably in the U. S. Armed Forces. It is furnished to honor the memory of a veteran’s military service to his or her country. VA will furnish a burial flag for memorialization for each other than dishonorable discharged

  • veteran who served during wartime
  • veteran who died on active duty after May 27, 1941
  • veteran who served after January 31, 1955
  • peacetime veteran who was discharged or released before June 27, 1950
  • certain persons who served in the organized military forces of the Commonwealth of the Philippines while in service of the U.S. Armed Forces and who died on or after April 25, 1951
  • certain former members of the Selected Reserves

 

Who Is Eligible to Receive the Burial Flag?
Generally, the flag is given to the next-of-kin, as a keepsake, after its use during the funeral service. When there is no next-of-kin, VA will furnish the flag to a friend making request for it. For those VA national cemeteries with an Avenue of Flags, families of veterans buried in these national cemeteries may donate the burial flags of their loved ones to be flown on patriotic holidays.

How Can You Apply?
You may apply for the flag by completing VA Form 21-2008, Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes. You may get a flag at any VA regional office or U.S. Post Office. Generally, the funeral director will help you obtain the flag.

Can a Burial Flag Be Replaced?
The law allows us to issue one flag for a veteran's funeral. We cannot replace it if it is lost, destroyed, or stolen. However, some veterans' organizations or other community groups may be able to help you get another flag.

How Should the Burial Flag Be Displayed?
The proper way to display the flag depends upon whether the casket is open or closed. VA Form 21-2008 provides the correct method for displaying and folding the flag. The burial flag is not suitable for outside display because of its size and fabric. It is made of cotton and can easily be damaged by weather.

To Claim VA Life Insurance

VA Life Insurance

Filing a Death Claim (except SGLI/VGLI)

Where to Mail or Fax Your Claim

Mailing Address:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Regional Office and Insurance Center
P O Box 7208
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19101

Toll Free Fax Number: (888) 748-5822

How to File A Claim

If you are the:You should send us:
Principal Beneficiary A VA Form 29-4125, Claim for One Sum Payment. Download this form, complete it and mail or fax it to us (address and fax # above). You must also send a death certificate (or photocopy) showing date and cause of death of insured.
Contingent Beneficiary A VA Form 29-4125, Claim for One Sum Payment. Download this form, complete it and mail or fax it to us (address and fax # above). You must also send death certificates (or photocopies) showing date and cause of death of the insured and of the principal beneficiary or beneficiaries.
Representative of the Estate A VA Form 29-4125, Claim for One Sum Payment. Download this form, complete it and mail or fax it to us (address and fax # above). The claim form must be signed by the executor or administrator of the estate. You must also send a death certificate (or photocopy) showing date and cause of death of the insured. In addition, copies of letters testamentary, letters of administration, or a court order of distribution must be submitted. If these are not available, a statement that there will be no administration of the estate, and VA Form 29-541, Certificate Showing Residence and Heirs of Deceased Veteran, must be filed.
A Minor or an Incompetent Person A VA Form 29-4125, Claim for One Sum Payment. Download this form, complete it and mail or fax it to us (address and fax # above). The claim form must be signed by the next of kin, personal representative (guardian, custodian, etc.) or logical person to receive payment for the minor or incompetent. Also, include letters of guardianship, conservatorship, etc. (if any) and address of minor or incompetent. You must also send a death certificate (or photocopy) showing date and cause of death of the insured.
Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance Claims A payoff statement from the veteran's mortgage lender showing the outstanding mortgage balance owed as of the date of the veteran's death. You must also send a death certificate (or photocopy) showing date and cause of death of the insured.
If monthly payments are desired instead of one lump sum If the beneficiary desires monthly payments instead of one lump sum, additional information is needed. Please call us toll-free at 1-800-669-8477 for instructions.

Bereavement Counseling

What is Bereavement Counseling?
Bereavement counseling is assistance and support to people with emotional and psychological stress after the death of a loved one. Bereavement counseling includes a broad range of transition services, including outreach, counseling, and referral services to family members.

Does VA Have Bereavement Counseling for Surviving Family Members?
The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) offers bereavement counseling to parents, spouses and children of Armed Forces personnel who died in the service of their country. Also eligible are family members of reservists and National Guardsmen who die while on duty.

Where Is Counseling Offered?
VA's bereavement counseling is provided at community-based Vet Centers located near the families. There is no cost for VA bereavement counseling.

How Can You Obtain These Services?
Services are obtained by contacting Readjustment Counseling Service at 202-273-9116 or via electronic mail at vet.center@va.gov both of which are specific to this specialized service. RCS staff will assist families in contacting the nearest Vet Center. Often counseling can be made available in the family's home or where the family feels most comfortable.