RT Cunningham


Survivors Pension - U.S. Veterans Affairs - Death Pension

My wife, Josie, can draw a U.S. Veterans Affairs Survivors Pension benefit should I pass away before she’s old enough to draw a social security pension.

I’m naturally concerned about how Josie will survive without me until then. The survivors pension (also called a death pension) is a blessing. A monthly payment is a far better idea than a lump sum life insurance payment.

Those who haven’t served in the military may not like it, but the federal government is taking care of those who did.

Qualifying for the Survivors Pension

I joined the military before September 8, 1980 (in 1978). For me, the eligibility requirements are 90 days of active military service, with at least one day during a war-time period.

I served 20 years and five days on active duty and in the Gulf War (1990 and 1991) at a little over the halfway point. I have a Southwest Asia Service Medal with three service stars and two Kuwait Liberation Medals to show for it.

What about a Social Security Pension?

Both Josie and I are eligible to draw our pensions at the age of 62. My 62nd birthday will only be nine months before Josie’s 62nd birthday.

If something should happen to me during those nine months, she’ll be able to draw a social security pension based on my past earnings. When she turns 62, she’ll be able to switch to a pension based on her past earnings if it raises her monthly payments. I’m pretty sure my past earnings are a lot higher than hers.

She’ll get a constructive amount for her social security pension. Both of us will be several years unemployed.

How can Josie Apply for the Benefit?

If we’re in the United States, it’s just a matter of filling out a form and sending it to the right office. If we’re in the Philippines (which is more than likely), Josie will have to schedule an appointment at the U.S. Citizen Services at the United States Embassy in Manila.

Along with the form, Josie will have to give them a copy of our marriage certificate and a copy of the death certificate. According to the instructions, she doesn’t seem to need anything else and since I have a social security number, my military service can be easily verified.

To be safe, Josie should offer a copy of her birth certificate and a copy of my DD Form 214. That is, if I can find my DD Form 214. I haven’t looked at it in more than 18 years.

How much can Josie get?

According to the rate table, it’s $8,656 until the next increase. That’s about $721 a month. It’s not a lot but it’s better than nothing.

She can only receive the survivors pension until she’s eligible for her social security pension, which should be much higher.

When I told Josie about all this, she laughed at me. She expects me to be around until I’m way older than 62. Things happen and it’s not a laughing matter. Sure, I’m in relatively good health, but that can change quickly.

My father found out he had cancer about a year before he died from it. He was 85 when he died (I may have written 84 elsewhere).

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By RT Cunningham
May 4, 2017
Personal Finance