April 17, 2023

Veterans Benefits Upon Death of Claimant

If a veteran dies before a decision is issued in his or her claim or appeal, an eligible survivor may continue the veteran's claim as a substitute party. If the VA grants the substitution, then the substitute party will receive any benefits that were owed to the deceased veteran at the time of his or her death. These are called accrued benefits.

A surviving spouse or dependent child can file a substitute claim to seek accrued benefits under 38 C.F.R. SS 5121A.

However, a surviving spouse or dependent child can only receive accrued benefits when there is a pending or approved claim for disability benefits or Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) pending at the time of the veteran's death.

This rule was carefully crafted to balance the need for simple procedures and VA's interest in identifying the pending claim or appeal in which the surviving spouse seeks to substitute with the surviving spouse's desire to pursue traditional accrued benefits under rules that have been in place since before World War II.

The Substitution Process

To request substitution, a surviving spouse or dependent child must complete VA form 21-0847, Request for Substitution of Claimant Upon Death of Claimant, and file it with the claim or appeal number, Social Security Number, or appeal number of the deceased veteran. In the case of a claim for DIC, the substitute must also provide a copy of the DIC application.


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