Due to the length of time that it can take the VA to process veterans’ claims, unfortunately sometimes a veteran may pass away while he has a claim pending. When this occurs, his survivors can seek his “accrued benefits” – any monthly benefit that was “due and unpaid” based on evidence in the veteran’s file at the time of his death. When a veteran dies, accrued benefits owed to the veteran are payable in full to the veteran’s surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, the accrued benefits will be paid to anyone also entitled to receive DIC. For veterans who died on or after October 10, 2008, the survivor can request substitution rather than accrued benefits.
Accrued benefits are different than death benefits, because they are benefits that were due to the veteran at the time of his death. If a veteran passes away with a pending claim or pending appeal before the VA, his survivor(s) can file an accrued benefits claim to obtain the benefits that would have been due to the veteran had his claim been decided while he was alive. Accrued benefits claims must be filed within one year of the individual veteran’s death. However, if the claim is denied, it can be re-opened at any time. If a family member files for DIC or death pension for a deceased veteran within one year of the veteran’s death, the VA must also consider that to be a claim for accrued benefits.