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Do We Lose Benefits When Veteran Dies While Claim is Pending?

This is a common enough scenario, especially when it seems that the VA is taking longer to process claims than ever before.  As with most VA questions, however, the answer is not a simple yes or no.  It depends on the facts of the particular situation.   But first let’s review.

 Specifically, we are talking about a specific VA program (of which there are many) called Aid and Attendance.  This is a non-service connected pension available to wartime veterans and their spouses who are deemed disabled and in need of aid and attendance.  The disability stems not from a service related injury but typically from declining health caused by the aging process.  Veterans and their surviving spouses can qualify for as much as $1949 per month of income to help pay the costs of that care.

 But, as most applicants are elderly, and the application process can take months, some die while their claims are “pending”.  VA regulations provide that certain “qualified” persons can continue on with the application.  Those persons include the veteran’s spouse and the veteran’s children.  However, not all spouses or all children are “qualified”.

 The spouse must have been married to the veteran at the time of the veteran’s death and lived with the veteran continuously from the date of marriage to the date of death and has not remarried.  The child must be under age 18 or one who became permanently incapable of self-support before reaching 18 or who is not yet 23 and pursuing a course of instruction at an approved educational institution.  In each case that qualified member can be substituted for the veteran and complete the VA claim.

 And what if you don’t fall into any of the above situations? Then the claims dies with the veteran.  However, any person who paid for the veteran/claimant’s last illness and burial expenses may file for accrued benefits to be reimbursed for those out of pocket costs.  If, for example, the veteran was single and a child was paying for care at home or at an assisted living facility or nursing home, as long as the expenses can be linked to the last illness the child can seek reimbursement from the VA.  For many families  that can mean recouping as much as $10,000 in VA benefits on an application that may have been pending for 6 months before the parent died.