DIC/COVID and Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the world, and it has affected many veterans who have honorably served their country. If a veteran has died of COVID-19 and suffered from service-connected mental health issues like PTSD or anxiety prior to their death, their surviving family members may be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits.

How Does COVID-19 Affect Mental Health?

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in millions of deaths and serious illnesses. It also negatively impacted the mental health of millions of others who had to contend with social isolation, economic uncertainty, and a lack of access to resources. Research published in the National Library of Medicine found that some people were under intense physical and psychological pressure from the pandemic. At the same time, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sought emergency funding to address mental and substance abuse disorders during the pandemic and funding shortages to provide these needed resources.

Research by Columbia University cites findings of paranoia, depression, and suicide among some COVID-19 patients. Columbia University also reported findings of increased inflammation in the brains of people who die by suicide and the need to further research into the connection between COVID-19-related inflammation and suicidal thinking and other psychiatric effects. Research in the National Library of Medicine opined that extensive stressors were likely to emerge during the pandemic or become worsened. 

Another study published in the National Library of Medicine found that mental health symptoms in COVID-19 patients were higher than expected, and a post-COVID mental health syndrome could develop. Researchers also found that a significant increase in symptoms of psychiatric disorders continued to persist well after the onset of COVID-19.

What Are Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Benefits?

DIC benefits are paid to eligible survivors of military service members who have died from a service-related injury or disease. The benefit is tax-free and is paid to the surviving spouse, children, and/or parents of the deceased veteran. To be eligible for DIC benefits, the veteran must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

Applying for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Benefits

To apply for DIC benefits, the surviving family members should complete VA Form 21-534EZ, “Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and/or Accrued Benefits.” The form is available online on the VA’s website or can be obtained by contacting the VA directly.

The VA will review the application and determine if the veteran’s death was related to their service-connected mental health issues and COVID-19. The VA may request additional information or evidence to support the claim, such as medical records, death certificates, and service records. It is essential to provide as much information as possible to support the claim and ensure it is processed as quickly as possible.

If the VA approves the DIC claim, the surviving family members will receive a monthly benefit payment. If the VA denies this claim, the attorneys at Disability Law Group can help!  We specialize in connecting COVID-19 and mental health issues and can help you immediately.

Contact an Experienced VA Benefits Lawyer for Help with Your Claim 

In conclusion, if a veteran has died of COVID-19 and suffered from service-connected mental health issues prior to their death, their surviving family members may be eligible for DIC benefits. It is important to contact an experienced attorney, such as those at Disability Law Group, to help get the benefits you deserve.

Author: Erika A. Riggs

Attorney Erika A. Riggs, a partner at Disability Law Group, is a renowned legal advocate and community leader. A graduate of Wayne State University Law School, Erika co-founded The 313 Project, a non-profit providing scholarships and pro-bono legal advice for at-risk youth. She actively contributes to community well-being as a board member and community activist, spearheading pro bono events and volunteer initiatives. Erika specializes in Social Security Disability and Veterans’ disability benefits. Recognized for her outstanding contributions, Erika has received accolades such as the ‘Oakland Together 40 Under 40’ Class of 2023, 2022 ABA On the Rise Top 40 Young Lawyer award, eight consecutive Avvo’s Client Choice awards, and the esteemed 2023 Rising Star award for the sixth consecutive year by Super Lawyers (extended to less than 2.5% of attorneys practicing in Michigan). Her multifaceted achievements showcase her commitment to excellence, community service, and advocacy for those in need.