The spouse and dependents of a deceased veteran can apply for Veterans Administration survivor benefits, which are separate from social security survivor benefits for children. Beneficiaries can go to the VA website and apply online. Once approved, the VA provides pensions, education and health care benefits. The VA loan guarantee program can help a beneficiary purchase a home or refinance an existing loan. Surviving spouses and their dependents are not taxed on these benefits. Unless they remarry, surviving spouses are entitled to receive pension and health care benefits for the remainder of their lives. This death benefit isn't taxable.
VA survivor benefits are not taxable.
Low-Income Survivor Pension
The VA offers a tax-free pension to low-income un-remarried surviving spouses and their children. To qualify, the deceased veteran must have wartime service. The family’s annual income must be below the limit set by Congress. At the time of publication, the income limit for a surviving spouse with no dependent children is $8,830. The income limit for a surviving spouse with one dependent is $11,557. The pension amount is the difference between the family’s annual income and the congressional limit. A surviving spouse with one dependent and an annual income of $6,000 receives an annual pension of $5,557 ($11,557 minus $6,000.)
Home Loan Benefits
A surviving spouse can apply for a VA certificate of eligibility to obtain a VA home loan benefit. The VA home loan benefit does not provide cash payments or loans. It is a nontaxable benefit wherein the VA guarantees up to 25 percent of the loan amount. The VA caps the maximum loan amount based on the county and state in which the property is located. The VA will only guarantee 25 percent of the maximum amount. For example, a surviving spouse living in San Diego County, California, has a $500,000 county loan limit. The VA will guarantee 25 percent, or $125,000, of that amount.
Dependent Educational Assistance provides up to 45 months of tax-free education assistance for surviving spouses and their dependent children. For 2017, the monthly maximum benefit amount for a full-time student is $1,041, but beginning in October, 2018, the amount increases to $1,224. The surviving spouse has 10 years from the veteran’s date of death or VA eligibility approval to use the benefit. If the veteran was totally and permanently disabled, the surviving spouse has 20 years. A son or daughter can start using the educational benefit when they are 18 to 26 years old.
Health Care Benefits
Surviving spouses and their dependents can receive tax-free health care benefits by enrolling in the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Veterans Administration. To get CHAMPVA benefits, surviving spouses and dependent children must enroll in Medicare and cannot be eligible for TRICARE. CHAMPVA covers medically necessary procedures and preventive care. There is an annual $50 deductible capped at a $100 maximum per family. Beneficiaries have a small co-payment for the medical and health care they receive.
- Veterans Administration: How to Calculate Survivors Pension
- Veterans Administration: Home Loans: Certificate of Eligibility
- Veterans Administration: Survivors' and Dependents' - (DEA/Chapter 35) Increased Educational Benefit
- National Veterans Foundation: CHAMPVA — Civilian Health and Medical Program
Based in St. Petersburg, Fla., Karen Rogers covers the financial markets for several online publications. She received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of South Florida.