Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits may be forfeited without proper vigilance amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
DIC is a tax-free monetary benefit generally payable to a surviving spouse, child or parent of service members who died while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training or to survivors of veterans who died from their service-connected disabilities. However, the cause of death must be in some way linked to service-connected disabilities in order for a survivor to receive DIC.
“The problem is, in certain areas, due to (COVID-19), a lot of people like morticians or coroners may not be familiar with military protocol,” said Lou Alers, retired affairs officer, Marine Corps Installations East. “If a cause of death is listed only as ‘COVID-19’ then a spouse will not be eligible for DIC. Veterans will still receive military honors but survivors will not be eligible for DIC.”
Alers explained that COVID-19 presents a worrisome hurdle.
“For instance, if the cause of death was a heart attack: In the military, if the service member was treated for high blood pressure or had hypertension, type 2 diabetes or so on while they served, then you can tie it back to the service.” Alers elaborated. “If it is only listed as COVID-19, then nothing can be done for the spouse.”
Spouses are urged to closely review paperwork associated with the deceased’s passing, particularly the death certificate, and speak with professionals if they see an issue with the certificate.
“All retirees should ensure that their loved ones know that you can have more than one contributing factor on causes listed on a death certificate,” Alers said. “During these unknown times we must be extra keen and aware of all paperwork. It will impact the lives of those that remain behind... Spouses should be prepared to look at and review the death certificate to fix it (after first review) rather than taking it home and sending it through all these channels before you hear that Veterans Affairs does not connect it as service related.”
For more information about the VA’s approach to COVID-19, visit https://www.va.gov/coronavirus-veteran-frequently-asked-questions/.