The cornerstone of VA assistance is Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), a monthly, tax-free cash payment of $1,437.66 (base rate) for eligible surviving spouses, children, and dependent parents. Since being established nearly 30 years ago, DIC has seen minimal increases. As a result, rates have failed to keep up with the cost of living and fallen short of what other federal employees’ survivors receive. In addition, many veterans pass away from non-service-connected conditions before meeting the DIC eligibility period, which leaves their families with nothing.
Congress needs to pass H.R. 3402/S. 976, the Caring for Survivors Act of 2021, which would raise the monthly amount of DIC to 55 percent of the rate of monthly compensation received by a totally disabled veteran. It also seeks to expand eligibility for DIC by replacing the current 10-year rule with a graduated scale of benefits that provides 50 percent of the full benefit beginning at five years and gradually reaches the full benefit level at ten years after determination of disability.