When it comes to military matters, survivors and their families often face a mountain of challenges in trying to get back to “normal” life.
To help them, the Department of Veterans Affairs runs a host of programs aimed at helping veterans, their spouses, children, and parents.
According My Way Forward, families of veterans or survivors are eligible for benefits regardless of whether their lost love one was serving or already retired at the time of their death.
Here are six survivor benefits you should know about:
1. Burial benefits — From the gravesite to headstones to funeral costs, burials can be expensive. According to Medina County Veteran Services, veterans who die from service-related injuries who were in receipt of pension or retirement pay or those who died in a VA facility are eligible for a funeral allowance.
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The VA also provides allowances for plots or a space in a VA cemetery for a headstone, as well as a flag to drape over the casket.
White Oak Crematorium says these benefits can amount to anywhere between $300 and $2,000 depending on the veteran’s service status at their time of death.
2. Survivor Support Organizations — Once friends and family have paid their respects and life moves on, survivors may struggle with grief and other emotions.
Military.com points out that there are a number of organizations where survivors can find support.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is based in Washington, D.C., but offers a free nationwide peer support network and grief-counseling referral service.
Mothers of fallen soldiers can find support from those who’ve had similar experiences through the American Gold Star Mothers. The Society of Military Widows helps military widows return to mainstream life, while the Veterans' Wives International Network helps them apply for benefits.
The American Red Cross does the same, but also helps families with resources and counselling. There's also the Gold Star Wives of America who specifically help women whose spouses have passed due to service-connected disabilities and Gold Star Awareness, which provides emotional, peer, and resource support.
3. Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) — If your loved one passed away on active duty as a result of service-connected disabilities or was fully disabled for 10 years prior to their death, you may be eligible for a tax free monetary benefit.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, you can apply for DIC of you are a spouse and have been living or cohabitating with your partner for at least a year.
Surviving children who are either younger than 18, or younger than 23 and still studying, are also eligible. According to My Way Forward, children with disabilities can claim for the duration of their lives.
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4. Beneficiary Financial Counseling Services (BFCS) — Once their claims have been processed, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will direct beneficiaries or survivors to FinancialPoint for free financial counselling.
Beneficiaries can choose to contact FinancialPoint through its website, by telephone, or via email and will be provided a personal financial plan. Face-to-face meetings are also available on request.
This important financial advice can help beneficiaries make their benefits stretch further.
5. Education Benefits — For the children of military members who’ve passed on, paying for an education can be a scary prospect. The VA offers education and vocational counselling, the Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA) Program, and the Fry scholarship.
The DEA program has been made available to children of veterans who have been injured or passed away during active duty, offering them education and training.
Children or spouses of veterans who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001, may apply for The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship.
6. Health benefits — The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA) ensures that survivors and dependents will be reimbursed for medical costs.
According to We Honor Veterans, CHAMPVA is available to spouses and children of veterans who have been permanently disabled due to a service-related injury and surviving spouses and children of those who have been killed in the line of duty.
For more information about survivor benefits offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, visit the Frequently Asked Questions page on its website.
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