Veterans' Benefits:

Basing Survivors' Compensation on Veterans' Disability Is a Viable Option

HEHS-95-30: Published: Mar 6, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Program which provides income and benefits to surviving spouses of servicemembers who died or were disabled on active duty, focusing on: (1) the total amount of program benefits DIC recipients received in 1993; (2) the financial impact on surviving spouses when severely disabled veterans die; and (3) alternative ways to set DIC benefits.

GAO found that: (1) in 1993, the minimum DIC benefit equaled about 55 percent of the estimated median income of DIC recipients; (2) in 1993, surviving spouses received an average of $9,846 in DIC benefits; (3) spouses of deceased and disabled veterans often receive other benefits, including Social Security and DOD survivor benefits, but they receive significantly less VA support when severely disabled veterans die; (4) surviving spouses of disabled veterans receive about 50 percent less than their spouses' basic disability compensation; (5) although some veterans receive supplemental payments in addition to basic compensation because of multiple or severe disabilities, the reduction in DIC benefits for surviving spouses can be as much as 80 percent; (6) most of the alternative methods of setting DIC benefits would likely reduce benefits to all recipients or substantially increase federal outlays; (7) basing DIC benefits on the level of veterans' basic disability compensation would increase benefits for about two-thirds of DIC recipients without increasing program costs and ensure that VA support to spouses changes more proportionately when veterans die; and (8) Congress will need to make a policy decision if it intends to change the DIC payment structure.

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