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How to Add Dependents to Your Veteran Benefits

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Changes in marital status, family size, and other factors are common, but when veterans need to add or remove someone from their VA benefits, there is a specific procedure that must be followed. Adding a new child, a new spouse or a parent who has come to depend on you financially to your military benefits is a process that requires an application and approval.

That’s why if you are a retired or separated military member with a spouse or dependents, you should know about VA Form 21-686c, the application used to add or remove dependents from your benefits.

You can use VA Form 21-686c to add those you financially support including unmarried dependent children under 18, adult children between 18 and 23 who are in school, and you can use it for a dependent parent as well as a spouse.

Why VA Form 21-686c Is Necessary

When you join the military you have the opportunity to add your dependents and spouse to the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System or DEERS. Being listed in DEERS means your dependents and spouse are eligible for military benefits such as TRICARE, etc.

When you leave military service and file a claim with the VA for service-connected medical issues, you also have the ability to add your dependents to the claim–the Department of Veterans Affairs offers added consideration for veterans with dependents and a VA disability rating of 30% or higher.

But many people experience changes in family size along the way, and if you have a VA rating of 30% or more and you get married, divorced, had a child, or other factors you will need to complete and submit VA Form 21-686c to add or remove a dependent.

When To Use VA Form 21-686c

There are times when using this form is not appropriate. For example, you should not complete this form to add a dependent child who is older than 23, married, or not relying on you for financial support. You should not fill out this form for someone the VA does not consider a qualifying dependent or spouse. Who does the VA consider a qualified dependent?

  • Spouses
  • Unmarried children (biological or otherwise) under the age of 18 or who are 18 to 23 years old and attending school full-time.
  • A disabled adult child who experienced the disability before age 18.
  • Dependent parents who live with you and rely on you for support. Need-based guidelines may apply.

It is important to note that in typical cases, the VA does not make a distinction between a biological child, adopted child, foster child, etc. The same is true for biological parents, stepparents, foster parents, etc. The key is that the dependent relies on you financially for support.

What VA Form 21-686c Does

By filling out the form you are providing information to the Department of Veterans Affairs about the dependent you wish to add or remove from your VA benefits. In some cases, this is a grim task, as when reporting the death of a dependent or spouse. In others, it’s to claim benefits for a new addition to the family through birth, adoption, or other means. Sometimes it’s to add a parent or parents that have come to depend on you financially and live with you in your home.

This form is required in certain cases–the death of a dependent or spouse, after a dependent child reaches age 24 or gets married, basically any time the VA needs to stop paying a benefit because the recipient has died or no longer qualifies.

Failure to report such changes may result in being overpaid by the VA and the Department of Veterans Affairs will seek to recoup such payments once discovered. That’s something veterans should avoid by reporting the changes as soon as possible.

Completing Form 21-686c

You will need a variety of information depending on the circumstances of your application. It is best to review the application form, gather the information and documents you need, and submit it after filling out the form as completely as possible. Omitting information required on the form typically results in a slower process for that application.

You should always submit copies of your important documents, never originals. You may need copies of birth or death certificates, proof of military service, divorce decrees and other official documents.

In cases where you must add or remove a dependent child, the usual details are required including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Name
  • Social Security Number
  • Date and place of birth
  • Name and address of those the child lives with if not residing with you.

You may be required to fill this form out when a dependent child gets married since a married dependent no longer qualifies for certain VA benefits. Basically, you should consider Form 21-686c whenever you have a change in family status that could affect a VA benefit.

In cases where you wish to add a parent, you will also need information about the parent’s net worth, any assets or property, and any income where applicable. You will also need to list all in your household who depend on you financially.

Complete the form and mail it to the address listed at the bottom of page two, or complete it online and submit it electronically through the VA official site.