Benefits Legally Available to Spouses and Children of Veterans With Disabilities
If you are a veteran with a permanent and total disability, your spouse and children may be able to receive certain types of health care and educational benefits. (These benefits also are usually available for spouses and children of deceased veterans.) The disability must be related to your service and receive a disability rating of 100 percent, as well as being permanent, such that the VA does not expect it to improve. You can easily find the percentage of your disability rating, and you may be able to determine whether the disability is permanent from the VA decision letter. If it mentions that you have no future exams or even states that your dependents are eligible, this indicates that your disability is permanent. If you do have future exams or treatments scheduled, the disability probably is not permanent.
Be sure to send an employment questionnaire to the VA every year to maintain a TDIU rating.
Sometimes a disability rating is based not on the Schedule for Rating Disabilities but on a system called Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU). Regardless of whether future exams are scheduled, a TDIU disability rating may not be permanent. You will need to ask the VA directly to deem your disability permanent, attaching medical evidence that suggests that the condition will not improve. You should send an employment questionnaire to your VA Regional Office each year to make sure that your TDIU rating remains in effect.
Health Care Benefits
Spouses and children of disabled veterans may be eligible for benefits through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). A spouse will be eligible as long as they are married to the veteran, while children under 18 will be eligible automatically. A child under 23 also may be eligible if they are unmarried and attending school full-time. Stepchildren will need to live in the veteran’s home to receive benefits.
A child who does not meet the requirements above still may be eligible if they become permanently incapable of supporting themselves before turning 18. The VA defines this status as a “helpless child.”
Spouses and children of disabled veterans may receive up to three years and nine months of educational benefits through the Dependents’ Educational Assistance program in the VA. You can use these benefits for any educational degree or certificate, as well as for a vocational training program or apprenticeship. Only a spouse can use the benefits for a correspondence course. The VA also offers free educational and vocational counseling to help you choose a career path.
A spouse can use these benefits for 10 years after the start of their eligibility, and sometimes they can use them for 20 years if the veteran received a permanent and total disability rating within three years after leaving the service. A child can use these benefits between 18 and 26 in most cases, but sometimes their eligibility will last for a longer period. However, a child who is also on active duty in the military cannot claim these benefits during that time. They can claim benefits after they leave active duty unless they received a dishonorable discharge. Their time period for eligibility will be adjusted for the time on active duty, but it probably will not continue after they turn 31.
You will need to verify that the program that you are attending or planning to attend is eligible for these benefits. Then, you will submit the application for benefits to the VA Regional Office in the state of the educational institution. The institution may need to complete a form as well if you are already enrolled.