VA OCONUS Connection- Special Edition

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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

VA OCONUS Connection

Spring 2021

Pittsburgh VA Regional Office Director's Corner

Jennifer Vandermolen

This is the first VA OCONUS Connection Special Edition.  During this year, we intend to publish special editions that focus on specific benefits available to Veterans and their families.  This edition’s focus is on survivor benefits.  Many Veterans ask us, “Is my spouse eligible for benefits after I die?”  I wanted to share some of the basic information about VA Survivor benefits to help you and your family better plan for the future.  VA can assist with any questions you may have now or in the future.   If you would like to set up an appointment to speak with a VA representative, please contact us at: OMSCGER1.VBAVACO@VA.GOV

Planning Your Legacy

VA has benefits designed to aid you and your family in preparing for the future.  The information provided below can help guide you and your loved ones as you plan and ensure your survivors are aware of the benefits available to them. 

The following benefits are available to Veterans and their families:

  • Pre-Need Eligibility for National Cemetery Burial or Memorialization
    VA provides for a final resting place for eligible Veterans, spouses, and their eligible dependents, as well as a headstone or marker, a flag to drape the casket and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.
  • Memorial or Burial Flags
    A United States flag is provided, at no cost, to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased Veteran who served honorably in the U. S. Armed Forces. U.S. Post Offices are the primary issuing point for burial flags. Each family of a decedent is entitled to one flag.
  • Government Headstones or Markers
    VA can provide a single headstone, columbarium niche cover, or a flat marker for a Veteran’s final resting place (private, state or national cemeteries).
  • Cemetery Medallions
    VA can provide a medallion for use on a headstone or other memorial in a private cemetery to signify a decedent’s status as Veteran. Multiple sizes are available.
  • Presidential Memorial Certificates
    VA can provide a Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC) to the family of the deceased Veteran. A PMC is an engraved paper certificate signed by the current President.
  • Burial Benefits and Burial Automatic Payments
    Burial benefits are paid to a spouse, designated family member, or executor to partially offset the cost of burial expenses, plot costs, and transportation costs for a Veteran’s remains. These benefits are paid at different rates based on whether the Veteran’s death was service-connected or non-service connected.  If the Veteran was receiving VA benefits prior to passing and had a spouse of record, these benefits will usually be paid automatically to that spouse. However, additional funds may be paid, or payment made to another party, if an application is completed. Additional benefits, including a plot or interment allowance and transportation allowance, may also be payable. An application for non-service-connected burial benefits must be submitted within two years from the date of death. There is no time limit for a service-connected death.
    • Eligible Veterans, as well as their qualifying spouses, children, and parents may receive burial in a national cemetery.   Visit for more information on eligibility and requirements. 
  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
    Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a monthly tax-free benefit provided to an eligible surviving spouse, dependent child(ren), and/or parent(s) of a Servicemember who died while on active duty, active duty for training, inactive duty training, or to survivors of Veterans who died from a service-connected disability(ies).   DIC benefits paid to surviving spouses and children are not income based. Parents DIC is an income-based benefit for parents who were financially dependent on a Servicemember or Veteran who died
    from a service-related cause.
    • For DIC, VA needs evidence showing the following:
      •  the cause of death (listed on death certificate or a doctor’s statement), and 
      • that the cause of death was related to, or hastened by, a service-connected (SC) condition, or
      • related to a disease or injury that existed during active military service.
  • Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program
    The Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program offers education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of Veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition or of Servicemembers who died during active military service or Veterans who died as a result of a service-related condition.
    • Educational & Vocational Counseling is available to help decide how best to use VA dependents' educational assistance benefits.  VA can also provide assessment and rehabilitation planning for dependents with disabilities to help identify the resources needed to achieve a successful outcome. 
  • Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship
    Provides children with financial support for tuition and fees, books and supplies, and housing. You may be eligible for up to 36 months of Fry Scholarship benefits if you are the child of a Servicemember who died during active duty after September 10, 2001. You must use your benefits between your 18th and 33rd birthdays. You may still be eligible if you are married. The 15-year time limitation for using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits is eliminated for qualifying dependents (Fry children who became eligible on or after January 1, 2013 and all Fry spouses).
  • Survivors' Pension
    A tax-free monetary benefit payment to a low-income, un-remarried surviving spouse and/or eligible unmarried child(ren) of a deceased wartime Veteran, whose death is not service-related. Certain deductible expenses, such an unreimbursed medical expense, may be used to reduce the survivor’s countable income.
  • Special Monthly Pension Benefits
    Certain survivors who are eligible for VA pension benefits and require the aid and attendance of another person, or are housebound, may be eligible for additional monetary payment. These benefits are in addition to monthly pension, and they are not paid without eligibility to Pension.
  • The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
    A benefit that provides reimbursement for some medical expenses to certain surviving spouses or children of deceased Veterans, or spouses or children of Veterans with permanent and total service-connected disabilities who are not eligible for TRICARE.
  • Home Loans
    VA can help eligible unmarried surviving spouses (or those remarried after reaching age 57) become homeowners. This benefit may be used to help you buy, build, refinance, repair, and retain, a home for your own personal occupancy. You must be in receipt of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and the surviving spouse of a Veteran who died: a) on active or select reserve service, b) from a service-connected cause, or c) was rated totally disabled for a certain period of time preceding death. Other surviving spouses, include: a) spouse of a Servicemember missing in action or a prisoner of war, and b) spouse of a certain totally disabled Veteran whose disability may not have been the cause of death. For more information, call 1-877-827-3702.
  • Veterans Month of Death Benefits
    If a Veteran who is receiving VA compensation or pension benefits passes away, their last month of benefits can be paid to their surviving spouse. This payment is usually automatic, but if it is not received, it can be claimed via a phone call to 1-800-827-1000 or 412-395-6272. 
  • VA Life Insurance
    As part of our mission to serve Servicemembers, Veterans, and their families, VA provides valuable life insurance benefits to give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your family is protected. VA’s life insurance programs were developed to provide financial security for your family given the extraordinary risks involved in military service. VA has several different insurance programs. To get the insurance benefits you've earned, explore your options, manage your policy, update your life insurance beneficiary designation(s), or file claims, visit:
  • Beneficiary Financial Counseling Service is a personalized service offered to beneficiaries of SGLI and VGLI VA Life Insurance policies that can help you make smart financial decisions.  Services include, but are not limited to, budgeting assistance, debt reduction assistance, and college/retirement planning. 
  • Civil Service Preference is a hiring preference for jobs within the Federal government.  An unmarried surviving spouse of certain deceased Veterans may also qualify.  VA provides an eligibility certification upon request. 

For more detailed information regarding the topics addressed above, please visit:

  Summary of VA Dependents' and Survivors' Benefits

What to Do, and When…

Preparing for the passing of a loved one, or even oneself, can be a difficult and confusing time. The following informs you of what you may need to do, and when, to ensure your survivors have the information and documents needed to obtain the benefits for which they may be entitled.

For the Veteran, when discussing your final wishes with your loved ones:

  • Discuss your military service and any VA disability rating information with your
    family and if possible, locate copies of your military separation document(s), such as your DD214.
    • Use VA-Form 21-686C to document you and your spouse’s marital histories. This information may be needed if your spouse applies for VA benefits after your passing.
  • Discuss your final wishes regarding your remains. If you wish to be buried in a national cemetery after your passing, consider applying now for pre-need burial eligibility.
  • Be sure to complete and annually review your life insurance beneficiary designation(s), which will make it much easier to file a claim and receive benefits quickly.

For the Veteran’s family, as the Veteran is approaching end of life:

  • Speak to the Veteran’s doctor about how to obtain copies of medical records before and after the Veteran’s passing, in case they may be needed in the future.
  • Discuss with the Veteran where and when they have received treatment for any medical conditions which you believe may have been incurred in, or exacerbated by, their military service.
  • If you believe the Veteran may be entering into their period of final illness, begin keeping a record of any medical expenses related to that final illness.
  • If the Veteran wishes to be interred in a national cemetery, locate their pre-need burial approval (if they applied), or clarify their wishes as to where they would like to be interred.

For the Veteran’s parents, spouse, or dependent children, after the Veteran’s passing:

  • Consider if you wish to apply for VA Survivors Pension or DIC.
  • If the Veteran had a VA Life Insurance policy, or other policy, prepare and submit a claim with required supporting documentation.
  • If you have a medical condition, disease, or injury which necessitates the aid and attendance of another person in performing your activities of daily life, or are housebound, have your physician complete a statement outlining your medical condition.
  • If you believe the Veteran’s death was related to a condition incurred during military service, or exacerbated by military service, obtain copies of any private medical records from the Veteran’s physician (VA hospital records and military medical records can be obtained by VA). 

How to Apply for Survivor Benefits

When applying for benefits there are basic forms that must be completed.  The Survivors and Burial Benefits Kit contains a list of the forms required to apply for the various VA benefits, as well as what additional documents may be required to show eligibility.  This kit is an excellent source of pre-need planning information and record storage for Veterans and their families.

Planning Your Legacy: Survivors and Burial Benefits Kit

The Germany BDD Office also offers Overseas Casualty Assistance for active duty and overseas retiree deaths.  For assistance, please contact the Germany BDD office:

VA Welcome Kit

Whether you’re just getting out of the service or you’ve been a civilian for years now, the VA Welcome Kit can help guide you to the benefits and services you’ve earned.

Based on where you are in life, your VA benefits and services can support you in different ways. Keep your welcome kit handy so you can turn to it throughout your life—like when it’s time to go to school, get a job, buy a house, get health care, retire, or make plans for your care as you age.

Feel free to share this guide with friends or family members who need help with their benefits too. Download your VA Welcome Kit and print out copies for yourself and others!

Upcoming Live Virtual Events

The Veterans Breakfast Club's live virtual Veterans storytelling programs bring together Veterans from across the nation and beyond.   This is a great opportunity to virtually connect with your fellow Veterans! Visit the link below for additional information and a schedule of their live virtual events!   

Veterans Breakfast Club

Additionally, a variety of virtual outreach events are being offered. To view the full list of virtual offerings, visit the below link:


Check Your Claim Status at VA.Gov

In November 2018, VA began migrating VA websites into a single, unified, Veteran-centric platform under a name Veterans recognize:  Many Veterans are likely familiar with eBenefits, which is still available during the migration to During this time, Veterans may utilize eBenefits or

VA is continuously updating and adding more functionality to the website. With just one click, you can access the most important information Veterans need and will have one location to securely log in to access personalized information.


  • The top navigation on every page will allow you to log into your existing accounts using your MyHealtheVet, DS Logon, or an credential. If you do not have an existing account, you can create one using, a secure VA approved identity credential.


  • redesigned the view of claim status to make the process simpler to follow, to easily identify information requested, and to allow users to quickly review the status of their claim. While it looks different than claim status in eBenefits, the information about your claim is accurate.
  • Although claim status functionality displays the information differently than eBenefits, both sites contain correct information. eBenefits displays an eight-step claim process, whereas displays the process in just five steps.


  • To contact the helpdesk, call 1-800-698-2411.


  • Modifications are underway to allow a compensation or pension award recipient to remove any dependent online and ensure such removal is effective within 60 days of the elected removal. 



Tele-counseling is another option for you to receive services. You may request tele-counseling for your initial appointment as well as follow up appointments throughout your participation in the Veteran Readiness and Employment (VRE) program.

This allows you to effectively communicate with your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) without meeting in person.   You will only need a webcam in your computer or mobile device to use this option. If you are interested in tele-counseling, please contact your VRC. Your VRC will work with you to schedule an appointment and will send a link for you to access the meeting.

Foreign Medical Program (FMP)

The Foreign Medical Program (FMP) is a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care benefits program for U.S. Veterans who are residing or traveling abroad and have VA-rated, service-connected disabilities. Under FMP, VA assumes payment responsibility for certain necessary health care services received in foreign countries and associated with the treatment of service-connected disabilities, or any disability associated with and held to be aggravating a service-connected condition. Additionally, VA may authorize necessary foreign medical services for any condition for a Veteran participating in the VA Vocational Rehabilitation Program (38 U.S.C. 31).

For more information, to include submitting claims for reimbursement, please visit here.

Veteran Crisis Line

Crisis feels different for everybody and can be caused by a wide range of situations before, during, or after military service.  The Military Crisis Line is staffed by caring, qualified responders from VA — some of whom have served in the military themselves.

Confidential support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year through the Military Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1), online chat and text (838255).

You can visit this link to see how Veterans, Service members or their loved ones can reach VCL from Europe, Korea and Afghanistan.

  • In Europe call 00800 1273 8255 or DSN 118 *
  • In Korea call 0808 555 118 or DSN 118
  • In Afghanistan call 00 1 800 273 8255 or DSN 111

* In Europe, toll-free service may not be available through all carriers or in all countries

Have Questions about your VA Benefits? 

We invite all Veterans, Service members, and dependents who would like to speak to a VA representative about VA benefits to send your contact information to the email address listed for your location to set up a virtual appointment with an Overseas Military Service Coordinator. 

Veterans residing in European countries: OMSCGER1.VBAVACO@VA.GOV

Veterans residing in Asian countries: OMSCJAPANOK.VBAVACO@VA.GOV

Help Us Spread the Word

Please encourage Veterans residing abroad with whom you come in contact to subscribe to “Veterans Abroad” to receive bulletins and information specific to Veterans residing abroad. 

Subscribe here

Feedback Requested

We’d love to hear your feedback regarding the VA OCONUS Connection!  We want to provide the information you need - please tell us what topics you would like addressed in the future.

*The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Veterans Affairs of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized VA activities, the Department does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. All links are provided with the intent of meeting the mission of the Department. Please let us know about existing external links which you believe are inappropriate and about specific additional external links which you believe ought to be included.