VA Health Benefits for Military Spouses & Dependents
Are you the spouse or child of a veteran? If so, you may already be familiar with some VA benefits, but did you know that children and legally married spouses of veterans may also be entitled to certain VA benefits?
You may not be required to have any military service to apply for some VA benefits. Some of these are related to the death of the service member, such as VA burial benefits and what the VA terms “survivor compensation.”
Other benefits may be offered to those providing care for a veteran. Some are offered to all qualifying spouses or children; others may be need-specific such as VA options for those formally acting as caregivers, whether related or not.
Military Spouses’ and Dependents’ VA Healthcare Options
Military spouses are likely already familiar with military benefits such as TRICARE, the military’s comprehensive health coverage program managed by the Department of Defense.
But did you know that you may qualify for TRICARE if you’re a family member of a retired or deceased service member, or a Medal of Honor awardee? The Department of Veterans Affairs encourages all who may be eligible to apply in addition to requesting any applicable benefits through the VA.
Not all dependents and spouses can qualify for TRICARE on their own. For example, if you are the spouse of a military member who has separated, but not retired from the military, you would not be eligible to apply. But if you are the spouse of a military member who qualified for and received a military pension, you may be eligible. Other restrictions may apply.
Dependent children of service members who have died on active duty or who have retired may qualify depending on circumstances. Age and marital status may be a factor in determining eligibility.
Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
The spouse and children of veterans with VA-rated disabilities and those whose parent or spouse died in the line of duty may qualify for CHAMPVA. This cost-sharing program distributes the payment of your medical care between you and the Department of Veterans Affairs. If you do not qualify for TRICARE, consider this option as a dependent or spouse.
You may qualify for CHAMPVA if any of the following applies, starting with a requirement that you were not eligible for TRICARE:
The applicant is:
- the spouse or child of a Veteran who’s been VA-rated permanently and totally disabled for a service-connected disability or;
- a surviving spouse or child of a Veteran who died from a VA-rated service-connected disability, or;
- a surviving spouse or child of a Veteran who was at the time of death rated permanently and totally disabled from a service-connected disability, or;
- a surviving spouse or child of a service member who died in the line of duty, and not due to misconduct.
If you qualify for CHAMPVA, you may also be eligible for certain pharmacy benefits including the VA Meds By Mail program. Program requirements are subject to change, contact the VCA directly to learn what the most current benefits and requirements are for these options.
It pays to start early, and if you are applying from an overseas location be sure to build in extra time for processing and other details. Not all VA healthcare benefits are available in all VA locations, check with a VA Regional Office to learn what you may need to travel for and what may be offered in your area.
The VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers
Spouses and children who need support and services while caring for an injured veteran family member should explore this program. You may be entitled to financial help, health insurance, counseling, training, and respite care. Eligibility depends on meeting all the requirements below:
- must be at least 18 years old
- is a child, stepchild, extended family member, or spouse of a qualifying veteran
- must live full-time with the veteran or must be willing to do so
The veteran must
- have a VA disability rating of 70% or higher
- have been caused on or after September 11, 2001, or on/before May 7, 1975
- have a military discharge
- must require a minimum of 6 months of continuous, in-person care services
“Care services” in this context means everyday health, personal needs, and safety. The caregiver and the veteran must apply for this benefit together.
When you are approved for this program, you may be eligible to receive caregiver training for qualifying primary and secondary care providers, mental health counseling, and even financial assistance for travel and lodging when providing care.
The veteran can name one primary caregiver and two secondary care providers. If you are approved as a care provider, you may be entitled to a monthly payment, access to care through CHAMPVA, and you may also qualify to get a month of respite care services.
The Camp Lejeune Family Member Program
If you lived at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune for 30 consecutive days or more between 1953 and 1987, you may qualify for the Camp Lejeune Family Member program. Why? You “may have had contact with contaminants in the drinking water there,” according to the VA official site. The contaminants you may have been exposed to are known to contribute to “certain diseases later on,” according to the VA.
If you have been diagnosed with any of the following, contact the VA immediately to learn how to apply for this vital program:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia
- “Other” myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Renal toxicity
- Hepatic steatosis
When applying for this program, you will need to provide certain documentation, including:
- A document proving your relationship to the veteran who served on active duty for at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune. This can be a marriage certificate, birth certificate for dependents, etc.)
- A bill, tax record, lease agreement, or other paperwork proving you lived at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 days from August 1953 through December 1987.
- Medical records that show you have a qualifying condition like those listed above.
You may need to file a VA claim for disability compensation in association with these conditions, and filing that claim will require evidence. You should count on needing to gather any military medical records plus any information you can get from civilian care, out-of-network care, etc. Any supporting documentation from family and friends, such as letters explaining how your condition has affected your ability to live, work, and enjoy your life.
The VA Children of Women Vietnam Veterans Health Care Benefits Program
Are you the biological child of a woman Vietnam War Veteran? If you have been diagnosed with certain birth defects, you may qualify for VA health care benefits that can help you pay for any services you need related to birth defects or “related medical conditions.” To qualify, VA rules say you must have been “conceived after the date the Veteran entered the Republic of Vietnam (period beginning Feb. 28, 1961, and ending May 7, 1975), and who have one of the covered birth defects as determined by the VBA”
To apply, mail a completed Application for Benefits For Certain Children of Vietnam Veterans With Disabilities, VA Form 21-0304, along with your supporting medical evidence (see above), to the address listed on the form. If you qualify, the Department of Veterans Affairs notifies the VA Office of Community Care, and your enrollment in the programs from there is “automatic,” according to the VA official site.
These are not the only benefits available. Contact the Department Of Veterans Affairs for more information on what you may be entitled to based on your qualifications.
To learn more about TRICARE and other benefits, healthcare, loans, and more. We recommend reviewing our comprehensive Spouse & Dependents’ Military Benefits Guide. You can find information about coverage, eligibility, and more in the guide.
About the author
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.