Death Pension

The VA provides pensions to low-income surviving spouses and unmarried children of deceased veterans with wartime service. To be eligible, spouses must not have remarried and children must be under age 18, or under age 23 if attending a VA-approved school, or have become permanently incapable of self-support because of disability before age 18.

The veteran must have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions and must have had 90 days or more of active military service, at least one day of which was during a period of war, or a service-connected disability justifying discharge. Longer periods of service may be required for veterans who entered active duty on or after September 8, 1980, or October 16, 1981, if an officer. If the veteran died in service but not in the line of duty, the death pension may be payable if the veteran completed at least two years of honorable service.

To apply for a death pension, you must complete VA Form 21-534, Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by Surviving Spouse or Child. If available, attach copies of dependency records (i.e., marriage license & children's birth certificates). Submit the form to your nearest VA regional office.

Death Gratuity Payment

Military services provide a payment of $100,000, called a death gratuity, to the next of kin of service members who die while on active duty, or retirees who die within 120 days of retirement as a result of service-connected injury or illness. Parents, brothers or sisters may be provided the payment, if they were designated as next of kin by the deceased. The payment is made by the last military command of the deceased. If the beneficiary is not paid automatically, application may be made by contacting the casualty assistance officer for the veteran's branch of service.