A veteran’s monthly benefits stop once the veteran has died. When benefits are received after the death of the veteran, how much may the family keep?
Usually, benefit checks are received in arrears. That is, they are for the previous month. For example, if a regular monthly check is received in December, it’s probably for the month of November.
What if the veteran dies in November? May the family keep the November check that arrives in December?
According to the law, only the surviving spouse may keep the check that applies to the month in which the veteran’s death occurs. Otherwise, that check received in December must be returned, or repaid if cashed.
The U.S. Treasury will send the spouse or family member a so-called “Notice of Reclamation” when it determines that the spouse or family member has received too much in benefits. In addition, the Treasury may require the bank to allow Treasury to withdraw any excess payments from a joint bank account. If the surviving spouse isn’t cautious, bounced checks can result.
What if the U.S. Treasury mistakenly tries to reclaim an amount that the surviving spouse is legally entitled to? What should the spouse do in that case?
In that case, the surviving spouse should submit to the VA a Form 21-4138 (Statement in Support of Claim), explaining that the veteran was married and that the surviving spouse is legally entitled to keep the payment for the month of death according to 38 U.S.C. § 5310a) (the relevant law). (Sorry for citing the law, but it may help to point the VA to the right rule!)