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Family, Dependents and Survivors

It is not only veterans who serve their country. Your spouse, children and parents also sacrifice greatly to keep this nation safe and strong, and their service is recognized and appreciated.

Additional benefits may be available to you if you are the spouse, dependent or family member of a veteran who died or was seriously in the line of duty. These benefits may help you get an education or training for a new career, or they may provide supplementary income or necessary health care.

Resources and Information

Explore below for more information about the benefits and resources you may have earned as a spouse, child or parent of a veteran or service member.

Health Care

The Patient Advocacy Program is for all veterans and their families who receive care at Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities and clinics.  The federal VA wants to be sure that you have someone to go to with your concerns in a timely manner and to help you receive care.

If you need help getting care or getting your problems resolved, talk to the Patient Advocate at your nearest VA Medical Center.

For more information: Federal VA: Patient Advocacy Program

For the purpose of disability compensation, there are specific health conditions, even if they were not incurred or aggravated during military service, that the federal VA presumes to be service-connected because of the unique nature of certain veterans’ military service. These are called presumptive health conditions.

Note: The VA will also consider other conditions not listed, if supported by medical or scientific evidence. To be eligible for disability compensation, the VA must be able to establish that it is at least as likely as not that a veteran’s disease was caused by their military service. Working with a veteran service officer will help you determine if your health condition meets any of the qualifying presumptive health conditions.

For more information: Federal VA: Presumptive Health Conditions

1-877-WAR VETS (1.877.927.8387) is an around the clock confidential call center where combat Veterans and their families can call to talk about their military experience or any other issue they are facing in their readjustment to civilian life. The staff is comprised of combat Veterans from several eras as well as family members of combat Veterans. The service is free for combat Veterans and their families so they may find resources they need at their nearest Vet Center.

For more information: visit the Federal VA: Vet Centers​ webpage or call 1-877-WAR VETS.

Services provided at Vet Centers include bereavement and readjustment counseling to individuals, groups, couples, and families.

If you served in a combat zone and received a campaign ribbon, you and your family are eligible for Vet Center services.  In addition, parents, siblings, spouses and children of any active duty service member who dies while on active duty are eligible for bereavement counseling services.

For more information: Find a Vet Center​ or visit the Federal VA: Vet Centers​ webpage

The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text.

Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.

For more information: Federal VA: Veterans Crisis Line or call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1

For more information: Healthcare

Education

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial support for education and housing to honorably discharged veterans with at least 90 days of aggregate service on or after September 11, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. This benefit provides up to 36 months of education benefits; generally benefits are payable for 15 years following your release from active duty.

Who qualifies?

You qualify for this benefit if you:

  • Served at least 90 days aggregate service on Title 10 Active Duty or Title 32 Active Guard Reserve Duty on or after September 11, 2001 or;
  • Were discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days; and
  • Received an honorable discharge.
  • Maintain enrollment at more than half-time in a VA-approved training program. Programs include undergraduate or graduate degrees, vocational training, licensing and certification exams, in addition to others.

What’s included?

  • Full tuition and fees paid directly to your school (you must be an in-state student attending a public institution).
  • If you attend a private or foreign school, tuition & fees are capped at the national maximum rate of $18,077.50.
  • A Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) equal to the active duty Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for an E-5 with dependents. Click here to determine your MHA.
  • If you are attending solely by distance learning, you will receive one half of the BAH national average.
  • MHA is not payable to individuals on active duty or those enrolled at half-time or less.
  • An annual books and supplies stipend of $1,000.
  • A one-time rural benefit payment.
  • Transferability of benefits to dependents and spouses of veterans with six years of active duty service.

For more information: Federal VA: Post-9/11 GI Bill

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The Pat Tillman Foundation’s Tillman Military Scholars program is another great resource for removing financial barriers to higher education.

Each year, this program awards a select number of scholarships to veterans across the country to cover not only direct study-related expenses such as tuition and fees, but also other needs, including housing and child care. Both veterans and their spouses are eligible to apply.

For more information:  contact your campus veteran services office or visit Tillman Military Scholarship​

This federal VA program provides education and job training to aid your transition back into the civilian workforce. It applies to veterans in general, but also has specific provisions for disabled veterans and their family members.

Find out more: Federal VA: Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services​

Attending college in Oregon is now more affordable for some recently-relocated veterans thanks to an Oregon law eliminating out-of-state education costs. Oregon House Bill 2158, signed into law in the summer of 2013, states that if you are a veteran of the armed forces pursuing undergraduate studies at a public institution in Oregon, you will pay tuition rates and fees no greater than the Oregon resident rate — even if you are not yet considered a permanent resident of the state.

These savings also apply to veterans’ dependents using transferred benefits, as well as orphans of veterans who died on active duty.

Note: Certain online-only programs may be excluded from this program.

This benefit does not apply to graduate students or active duty military members or their dependents.

For Graduate Students

Similar to the above program, HB 4021, signed into law in the spring of 2014, reduces out-of-state tuition costs for nonresident veterans attending graduate school in Oregon.

Under this program, qualified student-veterans will have their nonresident tuition reduced after all other VA benefits and Gift Aid (grants and fee remissions) have been deducted. Loans received through financial aid do not fall into this category.

For more information: contact the veterans’ service office or financial aid office at your local institution.

This program offers education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition or of veterans who died while on active duty or as a result of a service-related condition.

Benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. If you are a spouse, you may take a correspondence course. Remedial, deficiency, and refresher courses may be approved under certain circumstances.

Find more information: Federal VA: Survivors' and Dependents' Education Assistance Program (DEA)​

For more information: Education

Burial

Families of eligible deceased veterans may receive a burial allowance from the federal VA to help cover the cost of burial and funeral expenses. These are paid at a flat rate, and the amount depends on certain factors, including whether your loved one's death was considered service-connected or not, or if he or she was being hospitalized by the VA at the time of death.

Reimbursements are generally categorized as two types of payments: burial (or cremation) and funeral expense allowance, and plot interment allowance.

To file for reimbursement of burial expenses, an Application of Burial Allowance form must be submitted to the federal VA. You must also provide a certified copy of the veteran’s death certificate and proof of the veteran’s military service (Form DD 214), as well as itemized invoices or receipts of the funeral and burial expenses.

For more information: Federal VA: Burial Benefits​

If you or your loved one served honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces, the federal VA will furnish, at no cost, a United States flag for funeral and memorialization purposes. The flag is provided to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran during funeral services, after which it may be kept or donated by the veteran’s next of kin.

All veterans who received an honorable discharge from their military service are eligible to receive a burial flag at no cost. Veterans who received any discharge other than dishonorable may also qualify if the nature of their service meets certain conditions.

How to obtain a burial flag:

When burial is in a national, state or post cemetery, a burial flag will automatically be provided by the facility. When burial is in a private cemetery, the funeral director will help you with the process of applying for and obtaining a burial flag from the closest issuing point (typically, a U.S. post office).

For more information: National Cemetery Administration: Burial Flags

For Veterans Buried in Private Cemeteries

The federal VA will provide a headstone or marker for the unmarked grave of any eligible veteran in any cemetery around the world, regardless of his or her date of death.

For veterans whose graves are already marked, the VA may also provide a headstone to supplement the existing marker or a bronze medallion (see below) to be affixed to the privately purchased headstone. The veteran must have died on or after Nov. 1, 1990, to be eligible.

The headstone or marker is provided by the VA at no charge, but the arrangements and any fees associated with placing it in a private cemetery will be the responsibility of the applicant.

For Veterans Buried in National, State or Military Cemeteries

When a veteran, spouse or dependent is buried in a national, state or military cemetery, a headstone or marker will be provided by cemetery officials based on inscription information provided by the next of kin or authorized representative.

Spouses and dependents are not eligible for a government-furnished headstone or marker unless they are buried in a national, state or military cemetery.

For more information: National Cemetery Administration: Headstones, Markers, and Medallions

If your loved one is interred with a non-government headstone, you can still memorialize their military service with a bronze medallion. These are provided, upon request, by the federal VA to be affixed to an existing privately purchased headstone or marker to signify your loved one's status as a veteran.

If requested, the medallion is furnished in lieu of — but not in addition to — a traditional government headstone or marker for veterans that died on or after Nov. 1, 1990, and whose grave is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker.

For more information: National Cemetery Administration: Headstones, Markers and Medallions

Military veterans have the option to be buried at sea. These ceremonies are performed aboard U.S. Navy vessels while the ship is deployed and, because of this, family members are not allowed to be present. The commanding officer of the ship assigned to perform the ceremony will notify the family of the date, time, and longitude and latitude once the committal service has been completed.

For the purposes of the ceremony, the deceased veteran’s remains can be housed either in a traditional funeral casket or in a cremation urn or temporary container. A burial flag is required for all committal services performed aboard U.S. Naval vessels, regardless of the type of container used.

Eligibility

Those eligible for burial at sea include active duty members of the uniformed services (regardless of branch); retirees and veterans who were honorably discharged; U.S. civilian marine personnel of the Military Sealift Command; and dependent family members of active duty personnel, military retirees, or veterans.

How to apply

The federal VA National Cemetery Administration does not handle applications for burial at sea. Requests must be submitted directly to the U.S. Navy Mortuary Branch.

For more information: U.S. Navy Mortuary Services

Eligible veterans are entitled, by law, to dignified military funeral honors in recognition of their service to their country. These ceremonies are provided free of charge and include, at a minimum, the presence of no less than two uniformed service members folding and presenting the United States flag to the next of kin and the playing of "Taps."

Eligibility

Those eligible for military funeral honors include any active duty or Selected Reserve service members, as well as any veterans who served on active duty or in the Selected Reserve and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. More information about eligibility can be found on the Military Funeral Honors website.

How to apply

To request military funeral honors, contact your local funeral director, who will then contact the appropriate military service to arrange for the funeral honors detail.

For more information: National Cemetery Administration: Military Funeral Honors

Certain veterans buried in a national cemetery may also be eligible to have, upon a request, a Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC) presented to their next of kin. A PMC is an engraved paper certificate, bearing the signature of the current president of the United States, expressing the country's grateful recognition of the departed veteran's service to the country.

For more information: National Cemetery Administration: Headstones, Markers and Medallions

For more information: Burial


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Did you know?

The VA paid an estimated $447 million in dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) to veterans' surviving spouses, children and parents in 2014.
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