Spouses of military veterans with service-connected disabilities are eligible for a wide range of benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA). In most cases, the veteran must have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions for the spouse to receive benefits. Since benefit amounts are determined by applicable federal laws, potential recipients of benefits must check with the VA for the specific dollar amounts that will be received at the time an application is approved.
Spouses of veterans who have been rated permanently and totally disabled from a service-connected disability are eligible for health care services under the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Veterans Administration (CHAMPVA). Surviving spouses of deceased veterans who were rated totally and permanently disabled are also eligible for health care under this program. Benefits include inpatient and outpatient care, prescriptions, mental health services and skilled nursing care. Spouses covered under the military TRICARE medical program for dependents are not eligible for this health care program.
A Death Gratuity Payment is provided to surviving spouses and dependents of service members who die as a result of injury or illness incurred during active service. Spouses of service members who die from injuries or illness incurred during active service within 120 days of separation from active service are also eligible for this payment. In 2011 the Death Gratuity payment is $100,000. If there is no spouse or dependents the service member can designate other relatives to receive this payment.
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Monthly Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits are paid to eligible surviving spouses of service members who died from injury or illness directly connected to a service-connected disability. This benefit is also available to eligible surviving spouses of service members who were permanently and totally disabled but who died of causes not related to a service-connected injury or illness. Surviving spouses are eligible for a basic monthly benefit with additional benefits for dependents and for nursing care if needed.
Death pensions are available for low-income surviving spouses of veterans who had wartime active service. To be eligible the surviving spouse must not have remarried. Death pensions are also available to surviving children under age 18, or age 23 if enrolled in a Veterans Administration (VA) approved college or vocational school. The actual amount of the monthly benefit depends on the limits set by federal law at the time of application. Higher amounts may be paid if the surviving spouse is living in a nursing home.
Eligible spouses and dependents may receive educational benefits to attend an approved college or vocational training. Eligibility is based on the veteran having a service-connected injury or illness at the time or death, or being permanently and totally disabled from active service, or who was captured in the line of duty or listed as Missing in Action (MIA) for 90 days or more. Surviving spouses lose eligibility if remarried before age 57. Eligibility can be restored if the spouse is later divorced or becomes a widow or widower again.