From The Mailbag: Financial Benefits for Widows of Veterans

Many readers write to me, looking for financial assistance for their elderly parents.  In particular, there are many questions about whether there are any financial benefits for widows of veterans.  Here is one such letter, liberally edited to remove personal information:

My Mom is 90 years old. She lives on Social Security and a small pension she receives from being a teacher.

The reason for writing this to you is that I recently saw a re-print of an article by Anne Thompson dated 2/26/07 where she talks about a little known benefit called the “Aid & Attendance Benefit”.  I believe it could help her stay in her home that my Dad built in the 60’s, help pay taxes, maintenance of the aging home, as well as allowing her to age in place.

It would be wonderful, if in any way possible, Mom could receive some compensation for my Dad’s contribution. To date, my Mom (90 years old) has NEVER received any compensation for the service Dad gave for his country.

Your help in this matter would be so appreciated.

This is a pretty typical question regarding the situation of a widow of a veteran who did not retire from the military.  As you know, retirement brings a different set of benefits and rules.  Here’s my reply; please comment if you have additional advice.

Wow!  You’ve asked a slightly complicated question, and many of the answers are based upon your parents’ individual situations.In short, Aid and Attendance is a supplementary benefit for housebound recipients of a Veterans Administration Survivor Pension.  Survivor Pensions are income-based pensions provided by the VA to survivors of veterans.  You can read about the eligibility guidelines in the links I’ve provided.  It is pretty straightforward, being based solely on income, with a small adjustment for medical expenses.

There is another VA survivors benefit called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).  It is designed for the survivors of veterans whose deaths were the direct result of their military service.  Without knowing your father’s medical history, I can not guess whether or not your mother might be eligible.  Most veterans whose survivors are eligible for DIC are receiving disability benefits at the time of their death.

The Veterans Administration website is very good.  It is well-organized and contains pretty much ever piece of information you could find necessary to see if your mother is eligible for any benefits.  In addition, you could contact the VA directly.  Other readers have had good success in obtaining assistance in determining benefits eligibility.

Hope that helps!


Another resource that I failed to mention is the services of a Veterans Service Officer.  These are professionals or volunteers who help veterans navigate the maze of benefits that may be available.  Veterans Service Officers can be found through veterans organizations such as the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars, or through your county or state.  An internet search for VSO or Veterans Service Officer and the name of your state and county should give you a place to start looking.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.

15 Comments on "From The Mailbag: Financial Benefits for Widows of Veterans"

  1. What was the status of the husband when he died? Was he receiving disability benefits from the VA? If he was, then see a service representative with a copy of his DD214, and see what they can find out for you.

  2. Anna M. Bucciarelli | July 23, 2013 at 6:20 am |

    Where is your reply? Somehow I simply cannot get it and would like to know your answer to the writer's question. It's an important inquiry and I've never heard of the program the letter writer refers to, "Aid and Attendance Benefit" and really want to know more.

  3. My Mom could use some help. She is 86 and never remarried. My Dad died when he was 64 years old. My Dad was in WW11..Army, served in Europe during War. My question is..Do we have to count Social Security Income ? She gets $ 1147.00 per month.

  4. Is the DIC benefit the only thing that a widow will receive with death related to the military service (Vietanam)? What about the survivor pension benefit.?
    Please send me info. on this for I am receiving DIC but what do I have to do
    about the pension? I can receive info by Email.

  5. nathan connor | June 18, 2014 at 1:54 pm |

    My mother is in her 70s may dad retired from the Air Force after 22 years in 1977 and was in Vietnam, he was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1982. My mother has tried to find out if she is entitled to any of the pension my dad was receiving or any other benefits since they were still married at the time of his death. She lives in a small town in WV and has basically had no help to see if she would qualify for anything, I think she has talked to a VA rep in town but they basically told her she was entitled to nothing and left it at that! Any helpful advice you could give would be greatly appreciated! Thank you

  6. I am 71, was married 6/1965-5/1985 to a WO4 who retired from active duty after 20 years of service. He retired in 1980 and we divorced in 1985. He died 6/1987 due to colon cancer. He remarried 3/1987…3 mo before he died. I have never remarried.
    I worked to provide for myself and our 2 children as I rec no benefits at divorce. I have worked and saved but never anticipated the high cost of healthcare.
    Am I entitled to any benefits whatsoever? I once phoned JAG to be told I was entired to THEATER!

  7. Correction to above…married 12/1965…not 6/1965

  8. james leno | July 20, 2014 at 4:07 pm |

    I am 100% service connected vietnam vet.. upon my death what benefits can my spouse receive?

  9. My mother is more then likely going to need to be put into a assisted care facility. She is now on medicare making $1100.00 a month. She was married to a veteran of 22 years for about four years and has not remarried. Is she able to get any type of medical or monetary assistance from the VA ?

  10. I have been married to a Vietnam veteran since 1970 he passed away in 2009 from aortic abdominal anerusym (rupturedI I fought to get his claim through a good 6 years he got it December and passed away in January 09 I have been fighting since that day for widows pension. They took everything away when he passed that we had just got through, So I had to start all over, I s there a good thing to come of this??

  11. My Mother is in her mid 70's and is obviously very confused about benefits that would make her life so much . My Father, who was a Korean War Veteran passed away about 2 1/2 years ago. Mom has received only her Social Security since 3/11 and a pension that my Father had through the Plumbers Union (which apparently only covers $3000 in prescription medication). My Mother does not have Medicare Part D and has reached the point where she needs to pay everything out of pocket (which she is not able to do). She has told me that gasoline is so expensive that she is no longer able to leave her house. Additionally, I fear that she is not eating very much because "food is costly". Her current weight is about 20-30 pounds less than it was a few months ago. If her private insurance will not pay for her medication, I am afraid that she will not order the meds that she needs. I am hoping that she will be able to get some kind of a deductible through the VA. My Dad NEVER used any of his GI Bill.

  12. Was married to a USMC officer who retired after 22 yrs., and passed away in 2007 from Agent Orange related cancers. He was also stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1975-1979 AND I worked on the base hospital as a Civil Service employee— we were both exposed to the toxic water there and I immediately began to have some of the symptoms now identified.
    I receive his VA disability pension, my Social Security, and Disability, it's jut not enough. In the 7 years since he's passed, Ive sold almost everything including our wedding rings to keep the house. Are there any other benefits that I might be eligible for especially since two recent diagnosis make daily life often impossible OR anything for my exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune when my health began to decline. THANK YOU for all your HELP !!!!

  13. I am a widow of the Vietnam war, I remarried and he passed away 17 years ago. I was told I could re-enstate my monthly income from my husband who passed in Vietnam, is that true? Also are there any benefits I'm entitled too? My second husband was also a veteran . Thankyou

  14. Mary Haywood | February 18, 2015 at 1:58 pm |

    I was married to a Veteran for 8 months, we liived together for 5 years. I am trying to prove that his cancer was caused by asbestos while in the Air Force. Because we were married less than year, I may not be able to collect any financial rewards. As NC is not a common law state.

  15. Mary Haywood | February 18, 2015 at 2:10 pm |

    I was married to a Veteran for 8 months but lived together for 5 years before he died. WouId I be able to claim award if ganted by the VA proving Asbestos caused his cancer. As NC is not a common law state.

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