Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Suicides and VA Survivor Benefits Tricky Outcome

VETERANS VOICE: Suicide can affect VA survivor benefits
The Leaf Chronicle
Sandy Britt
January 5, 2016
However, to be awarded DIC for a mental health-related suicide, the veteran must have filed a claim and been granted service-connected disability compensation. If no claim was ever filed, survivors will not qualify for DIC.
Sandy Britt is a Montgomery County Veterans
Service Officer.(Photo: Submitted)

Today’s veterans, family members and health care providers are keenly aware of posttraumatic stress disorder and the importance for veterans suffering from it to seek help. Unfortunately, many veterans suffer in silence, which not only hurts them, but their families as well, and in ways they may not realize. According to a recent RAND Corporation study, 50 percent of those with PTSD don’t seek treatment, and of those who do, only half get “minimally adequate treatment.” This is disturbing, considering the rates of suicide among veterans.

One of the touchiest subjects to discuss with veterans and their families is the risk of suicide and its potential financial impact, to say nothing of the emotional toll such an act takes on family members. No one wants to think of financial matters when it comes to a suicide that may never happen, but it’s important for all involved to understand the effect of suicide on VA survivor benefits.

VA provides Dependency and Indemnity (DIC) to surviving spouses and/or minor children of a veteran who dies on active duty or of a service-connected disability. In most cases, dependents are eligible even if the veteran never filed for the service-connected condition, with the exception of suicide.

For example, Vietnam veterans are entitled to service-connected disability compensation for a variety of diseases presumed by VA to be related to exposure to Agent Orange if they are diagnosed any time in their life. If they die of a “presumptive” condition (such as lung cancer) but never filed a claim for it, the surviving spouse can still be awarded DIC benefits.
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