Larry Dandridge

Are you missing out on a surviving spouse or unmarried child’s VA pension?


According to the VA Survivors Pension Benefit Fact Sheet, Survivors Pension, which was formerly referred to as Death Pension, is a tax-free benefit payable to a low-income, un-remarried surviving spouse or unmarried child(ren) of a deceased Veteran with wartime service.

The VA website at www.va.gov states, “A VA Survivors Pension offers monthly payments to qualified surviving spouses and unmarried dependent children of wartime veterans who meet certain income and net worth limits set by Congress.”

A surviving spouse or unmarried child of a deceased veteran with wartime service can find out if they qualify and how to apply by reading the information at https://www.va.gov/pension/survivors-pension/ and the VA Survivors Pension Fact sheet at https://bit.ly/3oBnGNs.

Surviving spouses and unmarried children can get the latest information about VA in-person services, claim exams, extensions, decision reviews, appeals, and how to contact the VA during this pandemic by reading the information at https://bit.ly/3JeEnWU. Your local S.C. County Veterans Service Office can also help with this information.

Spouse Eligibility Requirement 1

Surviving spouses may be eligible for a Death Pension (VA Survivors Pension) if he or she has not remarried after the veteran’s death, if the deceased veteran did not receive a dishonorable discharge, and if the veteran’s service meets at least one of the following requirements.

The veteran entered active duty on or before Sept. 7, 1980, and served at least 90 days on active military service, with at least 1 day during a covered wartime period or

The veteran entered active duty after Sept. 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months or the full period for which he or she was called or ordered to active duty (there are some exceptions), with at least 1 day during a covered wartime period or

The veteran was an officer and the Veteran was an officer and started on active duty after Oct. 16, 1981, and hadn’t previously served on active duty for at least 24 months.

Spouse Eligibility Requirement 2

Additionally, to be eligible for VA Survivors Pension the spouse’s yearly family income and net worth must meet certain limits set by Congress. The spouse’s net worth is defined as, “the value of everything the spouse owns, except for the spouse’s house, car, and most home furnishings, minus any debt the spouse owes.

Child Eligibility

The deceased wartime veteran’s child may be eligible for VA Survivors Pension if the veteran’s unmarried child is under the age of 18 or under age 23 and attending a VA approved school, or is unable to care for himself or herself due to a disability that happened before age 18.

VA Wartime Periods Recognized

Under current law, the VA recognize the following wartime periods to decide eligibility for VA Survivors Pension Benefit.

Mexican Border period (May 9, 1916, to April 5, 1917, for Veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders, or in adjacent waters)

World War I (April 6, 1917, to Nov. 11, 1918)

World War II (Dec. 7, 1941, to Dec. 31, 1946)

Korean Conflict (June 27, 1950, to Jan. 31, 1955)

Vietnam War era (Nov. 1, 1955, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served outside of the Republic of Vietnam.)

Gulf War (Aug. 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)

How to apply for VA Survivors Pension Benefit

A surviving spouse or unmarried child of a deceased wartime veteran can apply for a VA Survivors Pension in any of the following ways.

Use a Trained Professional. With the help of a trained professional, the spouse of child can work with a trained professional, called an accredited representative, to get help applying for VA survivors pension benefits. You can find a nationwide list of and the contact information for accredited representatives and Veterans Service Officers (VSOs) at https://bit.ly/3uBWCl2. Accredited representatives and VSOs must pass an exam, pass a background check, and take continuing education courses to make sure they are providing the most up to date information to veterans and their families. Recognized organizations like the VFW, American Legion, DAV, AMVETs, etc. and individuals can legally represent a veteran, service member, dependent, or survivor before the VA. Non-recognized organizations and individuals can provide information, but can not be representatives.By the way, Veterans Service Officers work for either a Veterans Service Organization (AMVETs, VVA, DAV, etc.) or for the local (county) government Veterans Service Office. Both Veteran Service Officers and Veteran Service Organizations are called VSOs.

Apply Online. Use the direct upload tool through Access VA to upload your (spouse or child) application form online at https://bit.ly/3LjBHZP.

Apply by mail. Fill out an Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits (VA Form 21P-534EZ). Applicants can download the form at https://bit.ly/3JgOpGH. The official title of this form is “NOTICE TO SURVIVOR OF EVIDENCE NECESSARY TO SUBSTANTIATE A CLAIM FOR DEPENDENCY AND INDEMNITY COMPENSATION, SURVIVORS PENSION, AND/OR ACCRUED BENEFITS.” Mail your completed application to Department of Veterans Affairs, Pension Intake Center, P.O. Box 5365, Janesville, Wis. 53547-5365.

Apply In person. Bring your application to a VA regional office near you. You can find your nearest VBA regional office at https://www.va.gov/find-locations/?facilityType=benefits. The nearest VA Regional Office Headquarters to the coastal S.C. counties is the Columbia Regional Office, located at 6437 Garners Ferry Road, Columbia, S.C. 2920. The Columbia VBA Regional Office website is found at https://www.benefits.va.gov/Columbia/. The Columbia office phone number is 803-647-2488 and the email address is VetAsst.VBACMS@va.gov.

If you call, make sure you give or leave your name, contact information, and the best time of day for contact between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.. A VA representative will call or email you back within 24 hours to assist. You can also request a “Virtual Face-to-Face” meeting with a VA representative by sending an email to VetAsst.VBACMS@va.gov and providing the same information. If you need to call the VA outside of regular hours, spouses and dependent children may also apply for benefits online through va.gov, emailing the VA or calling the VA National Call Center at 1-800-827-1000.

Regional VBA Satellite Offices

Regional offices also have satellite offices. Here are VBA satellite offices in the footprint of The Island News newspaper.

Savannah, Ga. Veteran Center is 39.1 miles from Beaufort. It is located at the Savannah Vet Center, 321 Commercial Drive, Savannah, Ga. 31406. Phone number 912-961-5800. This office has limited services and hours of operation.

Charleston, S.C. Vet Center is 47.7 miles from Beaufort. It is located at 3625 West Montague Avenue, North Charleston, S.C. 29418. Phone number is 843-789-7000.

Intent to File Form

Spouse and child survivors of deceased veterans may want to submit an Intent To File A Claim Form, VA Form 21-0966, before they apply for VA Survivors Pension benefits. Filling this form give the survivor the time they need to gather their evidence, while avoiding a later potential start date (also called an effective date). When spouses or dependent children notify the VBA of their intent to file, they may be able to get retroactive payments (payments that start at a point in the past). Go to https://bit.ly/34rQDo6 to see how to file an Intent to File form.

As I always do, I recommend that you use your county Veterans Service Office and Officer to help you determine what your benefits are and help you file your claims. You can find a list of all S.C. County Veterans Service Officers and Offices at https://bit.ly/3HOPkx.

The Beaufort County Veterans Service Office is located at 100 Clear Water Way, Beaufort, S.C. 29906, The phone no. is 843-255-6880 and the FAX is 843-255-9445. The office is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., by appointment only. The website is https://www.beaufortcountysc.gov/veterans-affairs/index.html

Please share this article with veterans and veterans’ family members that you know.

Larry Dandridge is a retired Lt. Col. In the U.S. Army. He is a Vietnam War era wounded warrior, a combat and 100 percent disabled veteran, a former Infantryman, former Warrant Officer and pilot. Dandridge is also a past Veterans Service Officer, and a current volunteer Patient Adviser, CEO Advisory Council Member, and Patient and Family Advisory Committee Member at the RHJ VA Medical Center, as well as a published author and freelance writer. He can be reached at LDandridge@earthlink.net.

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