A veteran’s spouse receives VA benefits under assistance programs designed to assist spouses in situations where the service member dies or becomes disabled in the course of performing military duties. Eligibility and the type of benefits spouses receive depends on whether the military service of the veteran qualifies for a particular benefits program. Since each program imposes distinct eligibility criteria, spouses may be entitled to some programs but not others.
Spouses are eligible for education benefits through the Dependents’ Educational Assistance program. The Dependents’ Educational Assistance program gives veteran spouses a maximum of 45 months of benefits to help pay for the cost of higher education, job training or correspondence courses. As of Oct. 1, 2009, the monthly assistance rate under this program was $925 if the spouse was in full-time training. The spouse of a service member is eligible for education benefits under this program if the service member dies or becomes disabled in the course of military service or is captured for more than 90 days by an enemy force.
Spouses qualify for VA health care through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs. CHAPMVA helps qualifying spouses pay for the cost of health supplies and services. As of January 2011, the program covers only select categories of dependents. For example, the spouse of a veteran who is completely disabled because of military service qualifies for health care coverage under CHAMPVA. In addition, spouses of military personnel who die while conducting military duties qualify for health care coverage under the TRICARE program, which normally covers the dependents of active duty service members.
VA Home Loan
Spouses have the opportunity to buy a home with a mortgage that is backed by VA mortgage insurance or to refinance an existing VA mortgage. According to the VA, surviving spouses qualify for the program as long as the surviving spouse does not remarry. The program helps facilitate the buying process to build, buy, fix or upgrade a home with energy-efficient improvements. Spouses must still qualify for the loan based on credit history, debts and income. Spouses must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the VA to verify the right to use the VA home loan program.
The spouse of a veteran is eligible for a special pension if the veteran dies because of an illness, injury or disability that occurred or worsened while on active duty service. The VA also specifies that a heart attack or stroke that occurred or worsened through the rigors of military duties and training also qualifies a surviving spouse for death benefits under the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation program. According to the VA, spouses of veterans who pass away after Jan. 1, 1993, receive a basic monthly payment of $1,154 as of May 2010, which increases by $286 per month per dependent child.