Survivor Benefits and Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a terminal cancer with a life expectancy often less than a year after diagnosis. Families of individuals suffering from mesothelioma may want to consider how survivor benefits can assist them. Survivor benefits can provide financial and emotional support during an extremely difficult time for families.
Depending on eligibility, your family may be able to receive VA pensions or social security benefits after your loved one passes away. These benefits can cover education, healthcare, living expenses and more.
Patients suffering from mesothelioma can create a will or trust to divide the disbursal of these benefits after their passing.
What are Survivor Benefits?
Survivor benefits are benefits paid by the government to the surviving spouse or children of an individual who has passed away. Military veterans and individuals receiving social security may be eligible to leave survivor benefits to their families upon their passing.
Survivor benefits include:
- VA Survivors Pension
- Social Security Survivors Benefits
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Claims
- Aid and Attendance Claims
Each benefit has its own specific requirements. Some requirements are specific to the veteran, while some are specific to his or her spouse and children.
Although other benefits are usually provided after a veteran’s passing, Aid and Attendance claims can be paid for respite care at home or at an assisted living facility while the veteran is still alive. If a family member is the primary caregiver for a veteran living with mesothelioma, respite care can provide short-term relief.
Types of Survivor Benefits
The families of veterans and social security recipients may be eligible for several types of survivor benefits.
These benefits include:
Social Security Survivors Benefits
Family members may be eligible to receive monthly benefits from the Social Security Administration if their family member worked long enough under social security to qualify.
The Social Security Administration also offers a one-time death benefit payment of $255, which can be paid to the surviving spouse or children of the deceased.
VA Survivors Pension
The VA Survivors Pension provides the spouse or children of a deceased veteran with a monthly benefit.
Eligibility for the pension and specific benefit rates are based on meeting certain requirements which are set by the VA and Congress. For example, dishonorably discharged veterans are not eligible.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Claims
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a tax-free benefit. It is offered to the spouse or dependents of a veteran who died during their service or because of an injury that was service-related.
There is a necessary evidence requirement for DIC claims. The surviving spouse or children must provide military records that show the veteran died from a disease or illness related to their service.
A veteran who died of a disease not related to service may still be eligible, as long as they were receiving—or were entitled to receive—VA compensation for a service-related disability for 10 years prior to their death.
The disability must be deemed by the VA to be totally disabling. Since the VA considers mesothelioma totally disabling, it would fall in this category.
Aid and Attendance Claims
Aid and Attendance is a benefit paid to veterans who require the help of a professional caregiver at home or at an assisted living facility. This benefit is often used to hire a respite care professional.
Survivor Benefits and Veterans
The families of deceased veterans may be eligible for monetary assistance, family benefits or counseling services.
Monetary assistance programs include death gratuity, family survivor’s group life insurance and the survivor benefit plan. Family benefits include survivor health and dental benefits and surviving spouse and family education benefits.
VA Survivors Pension
The VA Survivors Pension is sometimes called the Death Pension. It is a tax-free benefit paid to the spouse and children of a deceased veteran. The pension has strict eligibility requirements that are set by the VA, while the rates paid out are set by Congress.
VA Survivors Pension Eligibility
There are eligibility requirements for the deceased veteran and their surviving family members.
To receive the benefit, the family must meet the following requirements:
- The veteran was not dishonorably discharged
- If the veteran began active duty on or before September 7, 1980, they must have served at least 90 days of active duty, with at least 1 of the days falling in a wartime period
- If the veteran began active duty after September 7, 1980, they must have served for 24 months of active duty service or have completed their full period of active duty, with at least 1 of the days falling in a war time period
- A surviving spouse cannot receive the benefit if remarried
- Surviving children cannot receive the benefit if married
- Surviving children must be under the age of 18 to receive the benefit; if they are in school, they can receive the benefit from 18 to 23 years of age
- Annual family income must be below the Maximum Annual Pension Rate (MAPR) amount, which is determined by Congress
VA Survivors Pension Rates
The VA evaluates the surviving family’s annual income, which must be lower than the amount set by Congress. This number has changed over time, but as of December 1, 2020, the MAPR for those without any dependent children is $9,344.
Any surviving spouse with an annual income over this number will not be eligible to receive the benefit. There is also a net worth limit, which is currently $130,773.
The Survivors Pension amount can be calculated by subtracting annual income from MAPR. For example, if a surviving spouse has an annual income of $7,344, they would subtract that number from the MAPR of $9,344. The difference is $2,000.
This amount would be paid in monthly installments. Social security income is not included in the calculation of income.
How to Receive Survivor Benefits
Survivor benefits offered by the government can provide financial and emotional relief after the passing of a loved one due to a mesothelioma-related illness. Unfortunately, many of these benefits go unclaimed.
It is critical to review each of these benefits and your family’s eligibility. You can visit a VA facility to discuss your family’s benefit eligibility, including eligibility for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Claims and for Aid and Attendance Claims. The VA website has a search function for finding nearby VA locations.
The Social Security Administration also has an office locator available online. Individuals interested in determining eligibility for Social Security Survivor Benefits may want to visit a local office or contact the administration via phone or email.
Survivor Benefits Help Families Cope
Coping with the loss of a loved one due to mesothelioma is extremely difficult. Survivor benefits can significantly relieve financial burden during this stressful time. These benefits may help families to pay for education, healthcare, groceries and other living expenses.
Contacting the VA or the Social Security Administration directly can help your family determine eligibility for a particular benefit.