Military service repays veterans and their families with a variety of benefits. If the veteran herself has passed on, her spouse will lose some benefits, such as retirement pay, but may still be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) or the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP). The Department of Veterans Affairs provides information online to help spouses figure out their rights.
If your spouse died of a service-related injury or disease, you may qualify for DIC. You may qualify even if your spouse died of a nonservice-related cause, if he was rated totally disabled from a service-related disability at least 10 years before his death. DIC pays a base rate that is increased if you have dependent children or if you're housebound because of your health. If you separated before his death, you may still qualify if you haven't remarried.
Military retirement pay stops when the retiree dies. Veterans can protect their spouses against a lack of income by paying into the SBP, which pays a monthly annuity to widows and widowers. Once you retire, the premiums are automatically deducted from your military pay unless you and your spouse both sign a document opting out. You can also choose to pay more to increase the benefits above the minimum; after 30 years of payments, retirees older than 70 no longer have to pay to keep the plan going.
Survivor's and Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA) offers educational benefits to veterans' widows and widowers. The program pays up to 45 months of benefits, including degree programs, remedial studies, job training and apprenticeships. You may be able to qualify if your spouse died of service-related causes or died of any cause while suffering a service-related total disability. The window of opportunity is limited: you have to claim your benefits within 10 years of your spouse's death.
In addition to the federal benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, some states also offer programs or special tax breaks that benefit you. In Alabama, for example, you may qualify for a property tax break on your home as long as you continue to live there without marrying. Florida offers a similar benefit to veterans and their surviving spouses; the state also offers grants for college to veterans' widows and widowers who live in the state.
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