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Are veterans' disability benefits available for vets' survivors?

Disabled Tennessee veterans may be able to obtain Social Security disability benefits for their disabilities. What happens, however, when a veteran dies and leaves behind survivors who may have relied financially on their loved one's disability benefits? Fortunately, under the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation program, certain survivors of disabled veterans are eligible to receive veterans disability benefits.

Those dependents who may be eligible to receive benefits include children who are either disabled, under age 18 or students, as well as surviving spouses and low-income parents. In order for these dependents to qualify for benefits, a veteran must have died from a disability that was compensable by the Department of Veterans Affairs, or from an injury that occurred or was aggravated while a veteran was serving on inactive duty training, or from an injury or disease that occurred or was aggravated while a veteran was on active duty, or training for active duty.

The amount of benefits a survivor may receive will vary. Benefits for low-income surviving parents will depend on the parents' income. Benefits for surviving spouses will depend on the veteran's pay grade.

Significantly, even the survivor of a veteran who was disabled due to his or her service, but died from a cause unrelated to his or her disability, may be eligible for disability benefits. In order for such a survivor to qualify, the veteran must have been rated as totally disabled for a continuous period of at least 10 years immediately prior to his or her death, or rated as totally disabled for at least five years following the veteran's discharge from service.

If you are the survivor of a disabled veteran, you may be eligible for benefits due to the veteran's war-related injuries. An attorney with experience in veterans' issues may be able to provide guidance regarding the availability of benefits.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Programs for Specific Groups," accessed March 11, 2016

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