Add/Remove Dependents on VA BenefitsUpdated: March 30, 2021
VA compensation benefits are paid to veterans who have made health claims, have been evaluated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and are determined to have medical issues that require compensation.
Veterans who receive VA compensation payments for service-connected medical issues may be awarded a disability rating of 10%, 20%, 30%, or higher all the way to a rating of 100% service-connected disability.
Those awarded a disability percentage are paid monthly by the VA and receive a set amount each payment with yearly cost-of-living increases (budget approval issues may apply for the cost-of-living increase depending on circumstances). The disability payment is made to the account of the veteran’s choice.
In some cases the veteran is authorized to add a dependent, which may make the veteran eligible for additional payments from the VA to help support that dependent. This benefit is not available to all, but it is a valuable one for those who qualify.
Who The VA Says Is Eligible to Add A Dependent
All who apply for VA compensation should add a dependent at the time of their initial claim to see if they qualify. Those who are VA-rated with a 30% disability rating would be eligible for consideration for extra funds from the VA. The determination would be made after the disability rating is set by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
What to Do If You Didn’t Add a Dependent at The Time of Your Original VA Claim
The VA official site says if you did not have a dependent to add or did not add an existing dependent, you should do so as soon as you know you have a 30% disability rating or higher.
In some cases, the VA says, “we will only pay back benefits to the date you started your new dependency claim.” Once you begin the application for the added benefits, you will have a full year from the time the application is started to complete the claim.
Who The VA Considers to Be A Dependent for This Process
Dependent status for this application process is considered to be one of the following:
- A spouse you are legally married to (including spouses in same-sex marriages)
- The spouse in a common-law marriage
- Children who are unmarried and either under the age of 18, attending school full-time between the ages of 18 and 23, or children who were seriously disabled prior to their 18th birthday
- Parents in your direct care that meet certain need-based requirements.
Some outdated online resources may claim that same-sex couples or common-law couples are not eligible, but this is not true according to documents retrieved from the VA official site.
There is a very important caveat here. Veterans are permitted to add parents and common-law spouses. But they are NOT permitted to use the VA eBenefits portal to do so and must submit paper forms. In such cases it may be wise to consider using a Veteran Service Organization (VSO) to assist you in filing your claim.
How Adding A Dependent Works
The fastest way to add a dependent is to do so online at the VA eBenefits site. You will need to have or create an account there to do so.
You can also apply using the following paper forms:
- Adding spouses and children: VA Form 21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents If a dependent child is over the age of 18 and attending school full time, you are required to file the additional VA Form 21-674: Request for Approval of School Attendance
- Adding a parent as a dependent requires you to submit VA Form 21P-509, Statement of Dependency of Parent(s)
- When you have completed the required paperwork, send it by regular mail to the VA claim intake center for processing.
- This VA claims process may be accomplished with the assistance of any approved Veterans Service Organization.
For Dual-Military Couples
When both spouses are veterans, both may claim the same dependent. The VA rules in this area state the spouses may also claim one another if they both meet the 30% disability rating requirement.
The VA rules for this procedure state, “claiming a dependent spouse who is also a Veteran will take longer for VA to process. You should still submit your claim online through eBenefits to get the fastest decision possible. Filing online will also ensure you get paid back to the date you submitted your claim, if awarded.”
What to Do If You Need to Remove A Dependent Instead of Adding One
There are many reasons why you may need to remove a dependent from your VA claim rather than add one to it. Divorce, a death in the family, or other circumstances may led to this. The fastest way to do so is by using the VA eBenefits portal (see link above).
The VA official site reminds users that it takes longer to process a claim to remove a dependent child than it would for a dependent spouse. But the process is considerably slower using a paper form.
Those who experience a divorce should submit claims to remove the spouse as soon as possible. If the VA makes a determination that a veteran continued to be paid for a spouse or dependent child that should be removed, the VA will require those funds be repaid to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Those who have qualifying dependent children added to their benefits do not need to worry about submitting a claim to remove a dependent who has an upcoming birthday that will make them ineligible for future VA claims payments.
The VA official site says the agency will track the claim based on the child’s date of birth. When the child turns 18, they will be automatically removed unless they are attending school full time or otherwise continue to meet VA criteria for keeping them added to your claim.
How to Remove A Dependent Using Paper Forms
At the time of this writing, the VA official site page on dependency claims does not include instructions for changing status using paper forms. You may be able to accomplish the status change by calling the VA directly at 1-800-827-1000.
One reason the VA may not require you to use a paper form is that removing a dependent is much easier than adding one. There are no requirements for further development of a claim where a dependent is being removed than to inform the Department of Veterans Affairs.
According to the VA official site, “If you get divorced, you’ll want to notify us right away. You don’t need to send or upload supporting documents to eBenefits in this case.”
Removing a dependent child is more complex and may require the use of the same VA form you used to submit the original claim, VA Form 21-686c Declaration of Status of Dependents. Call the VA directly at the number given above to get assistance with filling out this form or contact a VSO to help you.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News