If an eligible survivor can show that the Veteran died from a medical condition that was or could have been service-connected (related to military service), then the survivor may be eligible for DIC.
Here are three (3) examples of classic DIC Eligibility Scenarios:
Example 1: If a soldier dies on active duty (even soldiers MIA & presumed KIA), VA should conclude that the death was service-connected and grant survivor DIC to the eligible surviving spouse, child or parent.
Example 2: When primary cause of death on death certificate was "service-connected" before death, or a "service-connected" condition medically contributed to the cause of death, VA should grant DIC to eligible survivors.
Example 3: When Veteran, at the time of his or her death, had a claim for Compensation pending, VA should allow Veteran's eligible survivor an opportunity to prove the Veteran would have qualified for service-connection during his lifetime.
Second Type of DIC
The second type of DIC is "Section 1318". This is a complex rule; you may need some help from an attorney. Section 1318 is a "liberalizing" rule to allow more eligible survivors to recover DIC in the event that the cause of death was not service-connected.
Here are 4 Rules that apply to Section 1318:
a) 10 year rule. Vet was entitled to received total disability (100%) for 10 years prior to the date of death, regardless of the cause of death. (Even if benefits being withheld due to overpayment, payment to third party, or because vet recevied retirement pay)
b) 5 year rule. Veteran was or should have been receiving total disability compensation for not less than five years, from time of discharge to death.
c) POW One Year rule. This is a rarely rule: please contact an attorney.
d) CUE Rule. If, but for "Clear and Unmistakeable Error" by VA, the Vet would have received 100% disability for a service connected condition for ten (10) years prior to Vet's death.
Who is eligible to apply for DIC?
1) Surviving Spouse. If the surviving spouse has minor children, there is an enhanced payment to the spouse for each minor child.
2) Surviving Children. Absent a surviving spouse, or a claim from a surviving spouse, eligible surviving children are next in line for DIC. Eligible surviving children fit into one of 3 categories:
a) minors (i.e., under the age of 18), paid to a person called the "fiduciary-payee" - usually parent or guardian;
b) between the ages of 18 and 23 and enrolled in a course of instruction at an approved educational institution, paid in the child's own name, but child will have to elect between DIC and certain educational benefits available to children of Veterans who die of service-connected conditions.
c) what the VA calls a "helpless adult child", paid in the child's own name.
3) Dependent Parents are eligible for DIC based on strict income qualifications. Parents can be divorced, remarried, or living separate from each other.
When to apply for DIC?
You can, technically, apply for DIC anytime after the Veteran's death. However, this can affect how much you might recover from VA.
Eligible survivors that apply within one (1) year from the date of the Veteran's death will recover past-due benefits back to the date of death if VA finds the survivor eligible.
Eligible survivors that apply after that 1st year will only recover past-due benefits back to the date of their application if VA finds the survivor eligible.
What payments can I receive if I am approved for DIC?
This depends, largely, on when your spouse died.
If the Veteran died on/after January 1, 1993, the eligible survivor will receive a base monthly amount for DIC (as of 12/1/2012, $1,215 per month) plus additional allowances in certain situations (dependents, aid/attendance, enhanced DIC amounts).
If the Veteran died before January 1, 1993, the eligible survivor's payments will be calculated based on the Veteran's final military rank.
Special Note on soldier suicides and certain deaths
When a soldier's in-service deaths involves suicide, a disease occurring in the first 6 months of service, and/or deaths resulting from misconduct, VA may have to make a separate determination whether the cause of death was service-connected.
Additional resources provided by the author
VA Website discussing DIC types and calculations:
Special considerations for eligible survivors of Vietnam Veterans: