How Do You Apply for Veteran’s Surviving Spouse Benefits As a Widow?

Widows of veterans who are eligible for Survivors Pension, which is also known as Death Pension, may apply for benefits using VA Form 21-534EZ, the Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits. Applicants can download this form from the Veterans Affairs website, Mail the completed form to the local regional benefit office, which can be found through the Regional Facility Locator on the VA website. Applicants may have to supply other documents to prove eligibility.

Veterans on active duty on or before Sept. 7, 1980 must have served at least 90 days of active military service for survivors to qualify for benefits. Veterans who entered active duty after this date must have served either 24 months or the full period of active duty service. Both groups must have served at least one day during a war-time period. Eligible war-time periods include the Mexican Border Period, either World War I or II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam era, and the Gulf War. The VA provides the dates for these service periods on its website.

Eligible applicants are low-income, unremarried surviving spouses and/or the unmarried child or children of the deceased veteran. To be eligible, a survivor’s yearly income must be less than the threshold amount determined by Congress. Eligible children must be under age 18; however, children under age 23 are also eligible, as long as they are attending a VA-approved school. Children who were permanently disabled before reaching age 18 are eligible as well.

The VA determines benefits using the difference between a survivor’s household income, or the countable income, and the annual pension limit set by Congress. The U.S. government considers any earnings, disability payments or investment interests to be countable income. Different factors can affect a household’s countable income, including unreimbursed medical expenses.