It’s no secret that our spouses and families served our country while they were supporting us when we were active duty. That is why they should feel good about getting the most from the veterans benefits for spouses and survivors that are available—and there are a lot of ‘em!
If you’re a veteran’s spouse or widow and are new to finding and applying for retired military spouse benefits, we can get you on the right path. Let’s get started and run through some standard entitlements!
If you are in immediate need of support, please call the VA Crisis Line at 1 (800) 273-8255 (and press 1).
1. Health Care Benefits
We’re going to try to keep this very simple, because talking about military health insurance for veterans spouses can get complicated very fast. Ready?
Generally, veterans spouses are eligible for TRICARE or CHAMPVA—but if you are eligible for one, you are ineligible for the other. Easy enough, right?
Most simply, TRICARE is a health insurance plan for active-duty military, veterans and their dependents. If you are eligible for this, just stop here, because this is the plan you want to have.
Sticking with our theme of keeping things simple, CHAMPVA is insurance for veterans’ dependents that are not eligible for TRICARE.
The main difference is CHAMPVA benefits for spouses don’t cover as much of the costs as TRICARE.
Related Phone Numbers
Caregiver Stipend: 1 (877) 733-7927
Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA): 1 (800) 733-8387
2. Financial Benefits
There are countless VA spouse benefits that entitle you to pensions and other financial support.
VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC)
DIC is one of the most helpful surviving spouse military benefits. It provides tax-free monthly benefits to spouses and dependents of veterans that either died in the line of duty or from a service-related injury or illness.
The monthly rate for a veteran’s surviving spouse starts at $1,357.56. Dependents younger than 18 years in the surviving spouse’s care add $336.32 to the DIC award + $288.27 for the first two years to ease the transition.
VA Survivors Pension
Survivors Pension is an income-based, tax-free VA survivor benefits for unmarried dependents and surviving spouses who do not remarry.
Annual income from other sources, like Social Security, will reduce how much veterans pension for widows is paid.
DIC vs. VA Survivors Pension
If you’re eligible for DIC and Survivors Pension benefits, you will receive whichever one gives you the most money.
VA Home Loans
There are many kinds of VA Home Loans, some of which are among the best VA benefits for spouses.
Rather than go into detail about the many types of loans and what you can do with them, the main thing to know is being a veteran spouse, widow and survivor makes you eligible for:
- Home loans to buy real estate
- Home loan refinancing
- Loans for improvement and repairs
The other thing to know is if you are a surviving spouse, you’ll need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE).
Related Phone Numbers
Debt Management Center: 1 (800) 827-0648
Home Loans: 1 (888) 827-3702
Pension Management Center: 1 (877) 294-6380
3. VA Death Benefits for Spouse
Losing a loved one for any reason is never easy—and it’s even more difficult if the deceased’s spouse and family relied upon them for income. However, there are some military death benefits for spouses and dependents that can soften the financial impact so you can focus on caring for your emotional needs.
Death Gratuity Payment
Military services pay a death gratuity of $100,000 tax-free to the next of kin of service members that die while on active duty due to service-connected injury or illness. Service members may designate this benefit to more than one person.
The service member’s last military command will usually make the payment within 72 hours of notification
VA Death Benefits
The VA National Cemetery Administration honors veterans and their families with final resting places and tributes that memorialize their service and sacrifice to our nation. For example, one of your VA widow benefits includes a gravesite in a VA national cemetery or a VA-funded state/tribal cemetery for your spouse.
Additional VA burial benefits include:
Travel and Transportation
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and other federal agencies can provide assistance with transporting your loved one.
The service member’s surviving spouse, children and siblings, and the parents of the service member and surviving spouse receive travel entitlements for round-trip transportation and two days per diem at the interment site.
Related Phone Numbers
Bereavement Counseling: 1 (202) 461-6530
Headstones and Markers: 1 (800) 697-6947
National Cemetery Scheduling Office: 1 (800) 535-1117
Presidential Memorial Certificate Program: 1 (202) 565-4964
4. Veteran Spouse Education Benefits
It doesn’t matter where you or your children attend, education is usually pretty expensive.
Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Veterans Administration (VA) has several GI Bill benefits that are available to spouses, survivors and dependents of veterans. Here are two popular programs that might make the grade for you.
Survivors’ & Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA)
The DEA program helps eligible children and spouses of veterans pay for school or job training.
The program is for spouses and dependents of veterans that either:
- Were disabled by a service-related condition
- Died on active duty or from a service-related illness
These VA spouse education benefits may be awarded for up to 45 months to pursue:
- College degrees
- Studying abroad
- Cooperative training
- Trade apprenticeships
- Farm cooperative courses
- Independent study courses
- On-the-job training programs
- Business, technical or vocational certifications
- Preparatory courses for admission tests to a university or college
The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship also helps eligible children and spouses of veterans pay for school or job training.
The difference here is Fry Scholarships are for spouses and dependents of veterans active-duty service members that died in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001.
Benefits may be awarded for up to 36 months.
Related Phone Numbers
1 (888) 442-4551
Where to get more help with veterans benefits for spouses:
Embrace the help. We all need it, especially for life-changing events.
What other benefits for military spouses, widows, survivors or dependents do you recommend? Do you have any experiences with any that we mentioned? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.