U.S. military veterans who are already approved for or already receiving disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs may also be eligible for additional benefits for their qualifying dependents. If you’re a disabled veteran and you think this might apply to your situation, keep reading – we’ll outline everything you need to know to decide whether applying for this additional benefit might be right for you.

5 Conditions for Adding a Dependent to Your VA Disability Benefits

There are several scenarios that allow you to add a dependent as a beneficiary to your VA disability benefit account, like the few we’ve listed below.

  1. You get married
  2. You have or adopt a child
  3. Your child is a full-time student between the ages of 18 and 23
  4. Your child becomes permanently disabled before age 18
  5. You become responsible for a dependent parent whose income falls below a certain threshold

For VA disability benefit purposes, a spouse, a child, or a parent in some circumstances can be considered a dependent. If you are qualified for VA disability pay with at least a 30% VA disability rating, it is possible to add dependents to your VA benefits at basically any time. The VA recognizes that your circumstances may change over time, so it allows you to qualify for a higher benefit level if you take on additional financial responsibility for others.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the eligibility circumstances that might lead to your adding a dependent to your VA disability compensation.

1. You Get Married

Gaining a spouse is a perfect time to add a dependent to your VA disability benefits. While the VA also recognizes common law marriages, the marriage ceremony represents a life-changing event that immediately changes your financial situation. It’s also important to note that the VA recognizes same-sex marriage.

2. You Have a Baby or Adopt a Child

For any eligible child living in your household that you take financial responsibility for, you can receive dependent benefits – as long as that child is under 18 years old. This includes any biological children you may have, along with any children you adopt.

3. Your Child is a Full-Time Student Between the Ages of 18 and 23

Once any unmarried children in your household turn 18, you can continue to receive additional VA disability compensation for them if they are enrolled as a full-time student in an institution of higher education. These VA benefits can continue until the unmarried child turns 23.

4. Your Child Becomes Permanently Disabled Before Age 18

No matter the child’s age, you also can continue to collect VA disability compensation if the eligible child became permanently disabled before turning 18. You will need to submit appropriate medical documentation to that effect in order to be approved.

5. You Become Responsible For a Dependent Parent Whose Income Falls Below a Certain Threshold

Many children reach a point where they take on financial responsibility for aging parents. If this is the case for you, and if your parent’s combined income and net worth are below a certain level, you may be able to add your parent to your VA disability benefits as a dependent. To qualify, you must be responsible for the direct care of your dependent parents.

How Do I Add a Dependent?

Of course, the best and easiest time to add a dependent to your VA disability benefits is when you’re first completing your benefit application. At that time, you can submit a VA claim for added compensation for a dependent simultaneously with your original VA disability benefit claim. As long as your disability rating is at least 30%, the VA automatically will consider your concurrent claim for dependent VA benefits.

But if you didn’t add any eligible dependents to your benefit claim when you originally submitted, it’s not too late. You can easily add a dependent to your VA disability claim through the VA’s eBenefits website. It’s fast and easy, and it’s the way the VA encourages veterans to adjust their claims applications. Some veterans could receive a decision in as little as 48 hours, thanks to the VA’s automated system.

If you don’t already have an eBenefits account, you’ll need to create one. Then simply log into eBenefits and choose "Add or Remove Dependent" under the Apply section. Please note that at this time, the VA will not allow you to add parents or spouses through common law marriages through the eBenefits system.

Depending on the circumstances leading to your adding dependents, you’ll need to also submit the appropriate forms and backup documentation. For example, if you’re adding a disabled child as a dependent, you’ll need to submit all appropriate medical documentation to support this dependency claim. If you’re adding a dependent student age 18-23, you’ll need to submit a Request for Approval of School Attendance (VA Form 21-674) along with your benefit application. If you’re adding dependent parents to your VA disability benefits, you will also need to include a Statement of Dependency of Parent(s) (VA Form 21P-509).

Frequently Asked Questions

To help you with the process, we’ve outlined a few of the most commonly asked questions about adding dependents to your VA disability benefits.

How Do I Know if I’m Eligible to Add a Dependent to My Claim?

If you are approved for VA disability compensation with at least a 30% disability rating, you will be able to add eligible dependents to your benefit claim, which means that you also are eligible for a higher disability payment.

What if I Need Help with My Claim?

If you need help, you’re certainly not alone. Many veterans find the VA disability claims process complex and overwhelming. To help you navigate the process, you have a couple of different options. First, you can work with a Veterans Service Officer, who is trained and certified in the VA benefit claims process. Or, you can work with a trusted and qualified veterans disability attorney. A lawyer can evaluate the strength of your dependency claim and help guide your application through the full process, including appeals if that becomes necessary.

What If I’ve Already Submitted My Claim, But Don’t Yet Have An Answer?

Even if you’ve already submitted your VA claim, you can still add dependents through the eBenefits system. As long as your disability is rated at least 30%, your dependent application will automatically be considered.

Will I Be Paid Back to the Date When My Spouse and I Married?

Possibly – that all depends on how quickly after your marriage that you file your claim. If, before your marriage, you were already rated at least 30% for your disability rating, and you file to add your spouse within one year of your marriage, your chances are good to be paid back to the date of your marriage. You must be available to respond to any questions the VA sends your way while your claim is being reviewed.

How Do I Know Whether I’m Already Receiving Dependent Benefits?

You can easily check on the details of your VA disability benefits through the eBenefits system. Simply log into your eBenefits account and check Dependents under the My Profile section. If you see your dependents listed, that means you should already be receiving military dependent benefits on their behalf. If they are not listed, you can go ahead and file a claim to begin receiving VA benefits for them.

When Will I Start Receiving Payment If My Claim for Dependent Disability Compensation Is Approved?

According to the VA, you can expect to begin receiving payments within two weeks of a decision being reached about your claim.

What If My Spouse is Also a Veteran With a 30% or Higher Disability Rating?

If this is the case, then you and your spouse can both claim each other as a dependent, and you can both claim your children as dependents. Just know that this kind of claim takes a bit longer for the VA to process, so you should submit your claim online if at all possible for a quicker decision.

Can I File a Claim for Dependent Benefits By Mail?

Yes, absolutely. While the VA strongly encourages veterans to apply online, simply because of ease of use and the streamlined response time, you can submit paper forms to add dependents to your VA disability benefits.

To add a child or spouse, you can mail in VA Form 21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents. To add a full-time student dependent, age 18-23, you should submit VA Form 21-674: Request for Approval of School Attendance in addition to VA Form 21-686c, Declaration of Status of Dependents. To add dependent parents, the VA requires you to submit VA Form 21P-509, Statement of Dependency of Parent(s). All forms can be mailed to the VA’s claims processing center for review.

What If I Need to Remove a Dependent?

There are many life events that may also lead to needing to remove a dependent from your VA disability benefits. You can also remove dependents quickly and easily through your eBenefits account. If you get divorced and need to remove a spouse, it’s best to submit that as early in the process as possible. If the VA determines that you have been receiving payments for a spouse that is no longer considered a dependent, you will have to return those funds. If you don’t have an eBenefits amount or the means to set up one, you can also call the VA directly to get help with removing your dependent.

It may take the VA a bit longer to remove a child from your account than a spouse, but submitting your information online is the fastest way to remove a dependent. Please note that you do not have to manually remove a dependent child once he turns 18 – the VA automatically tracks the ages of your child dependents based on the birth date in your paperwork.

Unless you apply to keep a dependent child on your account because she’s a full-time student, the VA will automatically remove that dependent at age 18. If you need to extend your child’s VA benefits while he is a full-time student, you can do so through eBenefits – simply select Update Dependents after choosing Add or Remove Dependents within the Apply section.

Adding a Dependent

Adding dependents to your VA disability compensation can help make managing the financial aspects of caring for a dependent much easier. If you believe you qualify for dependent benefits, make sure to visit with a VSO or a qualified veterans disability attorney. Either one can help walk through the merits of your claim and guide you through what often is a complex and laborious process.