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VA Survivors Pensions – Are You Eligible?

A Veteran’s Administration Survivors Pension is an indispensable benefit to receive.  If you think you are eligible, to be sure you know how to determine your eligibility and how to make a claim.

This pension offers monthly payments to qualified surviving spouses and unmarried dependent children of wartime Veterans who meet certain income and net worth limits set by Congress.

The two questions below will help you determine if you are eligible, how to apply and what to expect.

1 – Am I eligible for a VA Survivor Pension as a surviving spouse?

If you have not remarried after the Veteran’s death, and if the deceased Veteran didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge and their service meets at least one of the requirements listed below, you may be eligible for this benefit.

At least one of the following must be true. The Veteran:

  • Entered active duty on or before September 7, 1980, and served at least 90 days on active military service, with at least 1 day during a covered wartime period, or
  • Entered active duty after September 7, 1980, and served at least 24 months or the full period for which they were called or ordered to active duty (with some exceptions), with at least 1 day during a covered wartime period, or
  • Was an officer and started on active duty after October 16, 1981, and hadn’t previously served on active duty for at least 24 months

And  the following must be true for you: Your yearly family income and net worth meet certain limits set by Congress. Your net worth equals the value of everything you own (except your house, your car, and most home furnishings), minus any debt you owe.

2 – Am I eligible for a VA Survivor Pension as the child of a deceased wartime Veteran?

If you’re unmarried and you meet at least one of the requirements listed below, you may be eligible for this benefit.

At least one of these must be true:

  • You’re under age 18, or
  • You’re under age 23 and attending a VA-approved school, or
  • You’re unable to care for yourself due to a disability that happened before age 18
  • What wartime periods do you recognize for pension benefits?

Under current law, the VA recognizes these wartime periods to decide eligibility for pension benefits:

  • Mexican Border period (May 9, 1916, to April 5, 1917, for Veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders, or in adjacent waters)
  • World War I (April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918)
  • World War II (December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946)
  • Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955)
  • Vietnam War era (February 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975 for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served outside of the Republic of Vietnam.)
  • Gulf War (August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)

You can apply in any of these three ways:

  1. By mail.  Fill out an Application for DIC, Death Pension, and/or Accrued Benefits (VA Form 21-534EZ).
    Download VA Form 21-534EZ (PDF) by clicking here.  Mail it to the pension management center (PMC) for your state.
    Find your PMC by clicking here.
  2. In person: Bring your application to a VA regional office near you. Click here to Find a VA regional office near you
  3. With the help of a trained professional: Work with a trained professional called an accredited representative to get help applying for VA survivors pension benefits. Click here if you wish to get help filing your claim

How long does it take the VA to make a decision?

It depends. The VA processes Survivor Pension claims in the order they are received, unless a claim requires priority processing.

More information for survivors:

VA Survivors Pension rates

View pension rates for surviving spouses and children.

VA dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC)

Learn about getting VA disability benefits for a surviving spouse or a dependent child or parent.

DIC benefit rates for surviving spouses and children

Learn the current DIC benefit rates for spouses and children.

DIC benefits for surviving parents

Learn the current DIC benefit rates for surviving parents.

If you need legal advice in managing an estate, trust, other elder law issue or veteran’s benefits, the Law Office of Scott C. Painter can help. We specialize in elder law issues ranging from nursing home planning, guardianship, wills, trusts, estates, veteran’s benefits, and other related legal matters. Attorney Scott Painter is CELA® certified under the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF).

A call to us is free, and the best advice is to act now to educate yourself about your options. Waiting to seek legal counsel may limit your options and be costly. Call now for your free consultation 610-378-5140 or visit for more information.