A spouse who has not remarried or an unmarried child of a deceased wartime military veteran is eligible for a death pension administered by the VA. The death pension is needs-based and entitled only to dependents with an annual income below a yearly limit set by law.
VA death pensions are eligible for dependents who meet the following criteria:
- The dependent is the unmarried spouse or unmarried child of a deceased veteran. Children must be under the age of 18, attending university and under the age of 23, or were unfit for self-support before the age of 18 to be eligible.
- The dependent has an annual countable income less than the limit set by law.
- The deceased veteran served at least one day of service during a period of war that includes:
- World War I: April 6, 1917, through July 2, 1982
- World War II: December 7, 1941, through December 31, 1946
- Korean conflict: June 27, 1950, through January 31, 1955
- Vietnamese War: February 28, 1961, through May 7, 1975, for service within Vietnam; August 5, 1964, through May 7, 1975, in all other cases
- Persian Gulf War: August 2, 1990, through a date yet to be determined
- The deceased veteran joined the military on or before September 7, 1980, and served active duty for at least 90 days. This applies to a veteran who joined the military after September 7, 1980, and served active duty for at least 24 months (for National Guard and Reserve members) for the full period called to active duty.
- The deceased veteran was discharged from the military with a characterization that the VA does not consider dishonorable.
Individuals are required to complete VA Form 21-534, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by Surviving Spouse or Child to apply for the VA death pension. Visit a VA regional office for a form or download a PDF at www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/vba-21-534-are.pdf.
After completing VA Form 21-534 and attaching available copies of dependency records like marriage or children’s birth certificates, individuals can mail it to the VA regional office accountable under the state they live.