Disability Rates of Veterans with Dependents

September 16, 2020

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(This article first appeared in the September/October 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

Although most veterans are aware that they are entitled to compensation for their service-connected disability, many are unaware that the amount of compensation increases based on their marital status and number of qualifying dependents. If you have a 30 percent or higher disability rating from Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), you can add your dependents to your disability compensation and be eligible for a higher disability payment.

Dependents you can add to your benefits compensation include:

  • A spouse (including common-law marriages);
  • Children (including biological children, step children, and adopted children) 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, whose income and net worth are below the limit set by law.

If you haven’t submitted a claim for disability compensation yet, you can add your dependent(s) as part of the claim application process. If VA rates your disability at 30 percent or higher, your dependent(s) will automatically be factored into your award. If you have a 10 to 20 percent disability rating, you will not receive a higher rate – even if you have a dependent spouse, child, or parent.

If you have already submitted your claim and have received a 30 percent or higher disability rating, the fastest way to add a dependent is online through eBenefits (ebenefits.va.gov).

Currently, you cannot add parents or spouses through common law marriages as dependents through eBenefits. To add a parent as a dependent, you must fill out VA Form 21-509, Statement of Dependency of Parent(s). To add a spouse from a common-law marriage as a dependent, you must fill out VA Form 21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents.

Disability Rates of Veterans with Dependents

VA may pay you back to the date of your marriage or the birth of your child if you had already received your 30 percent or higher disability rating at that point and:

  • Notified VA within one year of the date the dependency arose, and
  • Responded within one year to VA’s request for any additional information needed to confirm your dependent(s).

If it has been longer than a year since your marriage and/ or birth of your child, VA may only pay you back to the date you submitted your dependency claim or, in some cases, only up to one year before you submitted your dependency claim.

VA will track your child’s age based on the date of birth you provide when filing your dependency claim. When your child turns 18, they will be removed from your disability compensation if they are not attending school. If your child is turning 18 and will still be in school (either high school or college), you can update their school information in eBenefits. Simply log into your eBenefits account, click “Add or Remove Dependents” under the “Apply” section on the home page, and select “Update Dependents.”

Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of- Living Adjustment Act of 2020 (H.R. 6168)

On May 28, the House of Representatives passed a cost-of-living (COLA) increase for veterans’ benefits in 2021, so long as Social Security and COLA increase as well. This bill directs the VA to increase, as of December 1, 2020, the rates of VA disability, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for certain veterans with disabilities, and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation for surviving spouses and children.

While Social Security benefits are automatically adjusted annually to keep pace with inflation, Congress must pass legislation every year to provide a COLA for veterans and surviving family members receiving these types of compensation from VA.

As this issue goes to press, H.R. 6168 has moved to the Senate’s Committee on Veterans Affairs, which must pass the bill before it can move to the Senate floor for a vote.

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