Compton: Is widow eligible for VA benefits?

By George Compton

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Q. My mother applied for benefits from the VA upon the death of my father, and her letter from the VA stated that my father’s death was service connected but my mother’s income was too high to be awarded a pension. Will she receive benefits?

A. Your mother’s application included a death certificate that stated the cause of your father’s death, and he was service connected for that condition, so your mother will receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation. Currently, with DIC she will receive $1,067 per month and be eligible for health benefits (CHAMPVA), a reduction of property taxes, and other benefits. DIC payments change every December based on a cost-of-living adjustment.

In the application, your mother also included her income and expenses. With that data, the VA considered her for Death Pension, which is paid with a nonservice connected death if the widow is below the income limit. Death Pension is less than DIC so everything is fine.

Have your mother contact this office, and we will help her with the ancillary benefits.

Q. I recently retired from the military, and I am now going to get married for the first time. Will my wife be automatically covered under the Survivor Benefit Plan?

A. Because you did not have an eligible beneficiary when you retired, she will not be automatically enrolled. You need to make a decision on SBP coverage within one year of marriage.

Q. I am considering relocating to my family home in Kansas, and I have two questions. Does Kansas tax military retired pay and will my son continue to be eligible for the college fee waiver?

A. Kansas is one of 15 states that do not tax military retired pay. The rationale not to tax retired pay is to attract skilled workers who have their own health coverage.

As long as your son maintains residence in California, he will remain eligible for the college fee waiver.

— George Compton, retired Army colonel, is the veterans service officer for the County of Ventura, Human Services Agency. Send your questions to Veterans Service Office, 1701 Pacific Ave., Suite 110, Oxnard, CA 93033; phone number: 385-6366; fax: 385-6371; or e-mail: [email protected].