Home  »  Military & Veteran Benefits   »   PACT Act: Expanded VA Benefits for Surviving Spouses, Dependents

PACT Act: Expanded VA Benefits for Surviving Spouses, Dependents

UPDATE April 29 2024: The Department of Veterans Affairs has revised its guidelines for healthcare access. Those who previoulsy did not qualify because of military discharges related to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, gender identity, those who were discharged with other-than-honorable characterizations due to combat trauma, being a victim of discrimination or military sexual assault, and a host of related issues are encouraged by the VA to apply again for benefits.

You may have expanded access to healthcare that wasn’t open to you before the VA publicized its final rule in April 2024. Learn more about the VA’s revised healthcare policies.

PACT Act Legislation Expands Healthcare

PACT Act legislation provides expanded VA benefits access for qualifying surviving spouses and dependents, including expanded possibilities under the VA program known as DIC, or VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.

Before the Act, it was harder to qualify for DIC, but now more survivors may have eligibility and should apply to the VA for it.

Spouses and children of service members who died on duty or from a service-connected medical issue may qualify for DIC and those expanded benefits if they meet VA criteria for doing so. What kind of benefits?

DIC Benefits For Qualifying Surviving Spouses, Dependents, and Parents

VA.gov says DIC benefits can include a monthly VA benefits payment “for the eligible surviving spouse, dependent children or parent(s) of the Veteran or service member IF Veteran or service member died in the line of duty or due to a service-related injury or illness.”

The amount of the monthly payment depends on when the veteran died and whether the applicant is a spouse, child, or parent of the veteran.

DIC is a required benefit in some instances where a surviving spouse wants to apply for a VA loan without the veteran, and qualifying survivors must apply for DIC at the same time as the VA loan if they aren’t drawing it already.

Related: VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

What is the PACT Act?

The Department of Veterans Affairs describes the PACT Act as legislation “that expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances.”

Those with qualifying medical conditions are approved for VA disability benefits without requiring further proof or supporting documentation, unlike some other conditions.

When the Act was passed, it was a major improvement in veteran benefits, but servicemembers aren’t the only ones affected by the legislation. PACT Act benefits are not automatic, must be applied for via the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the VA must approve claims before they can be paid.

Related: PACT Act and Your VA Benefits

Applying For A New Claim

A surviving spouse or dependent can file a new claim for PACT Act benefits using specific forms for dependents or spouses. In some cases surviving parents may also qualify for these benefits, but the form you must complete depends on your status as a dependent, spouse, or parent:

  • Surviving spouses can apply by mail, in person, or electronically using VA Form 21P-534EZ.
  • Surviving dependents can apply by mail, in person, or online using VA Form 21P-534EZ.
  • Surviving parents of a servicemember can apply using VA Form 21P-535.

What to Know About Previously Denied Claims

Did you apply for DIC in the past only to be denied? PACT Act changes make it easier to qualify for DIC benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs has promised on its official site to contact surviving parents, children, or spouses who were denied DIC in the past but who may qualify for it now.

However, you do not have to wait to reapply with the VA to submit a claim or request to review a prior claim.

Furthermore, the VA official site advises, “If VA owed the Veteran money or benefits they never received, survivors may also be eligible for a one-time accrued benefits payment.”

The VA asks survivors of veterans to review the updated VA guidelines for qualifying military service, service locations, medical conditions, and other issues related to the PACT Act before applying for benefits.

Read more: GI Bill Benefits Guide

About the author


Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.