How to Add Dependents to VA Benefits?
Veterans who have filed health-care claims and have been evaluated by the Department of Veterans Affairs as having medical issues that necessitate compensation can be paid monthly benefit compensation from the VA, considering the disability percentage they’ve been awarded. In individual cases, a veteran can also be authorized to add a dependent to their disability compensation.
Essentially, adding dependents to your Veterans Affairs benefits implies that you may be eligible for a higher disability payment, also known as a “benefit rate.” This additional payment will be extremely valuable for those who have dependents they need to support on a regular basis, but it’s not available for all veterans.
Join us as we go through all the essential information about being eligible for adding dependents, qualifying for being a dependent, and the whole process of adding dependents to your VA benefits – only then will you know what to expect.
In order to claim a dependent, you should be eligible for it. What makes a veteran eligible? If you have a 30% or higher disability rating from the VA, you are eligible for consideration for extra funds from the VA, meaning that you can add dependents to your disability compensation benefits.
You get the decision after your disability rating is set by the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, you can also try to add a dependent at the time of the initial claim when applying for VA compensation to see if you qualify for a higher disability payment.
Now, before you claim anyone to add to your VA benefits, you should know who you can claim in the first place. Here is a list of people who can be considered dependents and added to your benefits compensation:
- a spouse (both common-law and same-sex marriages included),
- children (biological, adopted, and stepchildren included) who are unmarried AND either under the age of 18, between the ages of 18-23 and enrolled in school full time, or who were seriously disabled before the age of 18,
- parents in your direct care whose income and net worth are below the limit set by the law.
If you came across information that common-law marriages and same-sex marriages are not eligible, you should know it’s outdated. After June 26, 2015 when the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal across the country, your spouse can be eligible for various VA benefits if the VA recognizes your marriage as valid.
You can find more information about benefits for which LGBT service members may designate a beneficiary at the VA official page. Furthermore, Veterans whose claims were previously denied based on prior state bans on same-sex marriage can now re-apply for benefits.
If it’s a dual-military couple, meaning that both spouses are veterans, each of them can claim the same dependent, e.g., their joint child. The VA rules also state that such spouses can also claim one another if each of them meets the 30% disability rating requirement.
If you have not submitted your claim for disability compensation yet, you can add your dependent(s) as a part of your initial claim application. Those with VA-rated 30% disability rating will have their dependent(s) automatically added to the benefits compensation.
However, if you’re already being paid disability compensation but haven’t claimed any dependent(s), you have two options – either to add them online through eBenefits or file a paper claim. The former is a much more convenient and faster way – it only takes 48 hours for VA to make a decision on your electronic dependency claim.
To file a claim online, you only need to log into your Premium eBenefits account, and follow a few simple steps:
- Go to the “Apply” page.
- Choose “Compensation” in the pop-up menu.
- Click on the “Add or Remove Dependent” page.
- File your electronic claim!
Now, it’s important to note that parents and common-law spouses cannot be added to your benefits online through the VA eBenefits portal. Instead, veterans must submit paper forms in such cases.
In order to add a parent as a dependent, you must fill out VA Form 21-509, Statement of Dependency of Parent(s). When it comes to claiming a spouse from a common-law marriage as a dependent, you must fill out VA Form 21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents.
If you feel that you need help with filling out the dependency claim, you can consider turning to one of the accredited Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), like The American Legion or Disabled American Veterans, who can provide advice or submit a claim (both electronic and paper forms) on your behalf.
While adding a dependent to your VA benefits may seem like a lot of hassle, it’s actually not that time-consuming. Especially, if you know exactly that you’re eligible for doing so and that your dependent(s) are qualified for these benefits as well. Hopefully, our concise guide gave exhaustive answers to these two questions.
Furthermore, if you choose to claim your dependent(s) through an online portal, you’ll save yourself and the VA alike a lot of time. Besides, if you don’t want to spend any time on it at all, you can always take a shortcut and ask for help one of the VSOs that can take care of the paperwork.