How To Apply For VA Benefits For Spouses & Dependents

Learn more on VA benefits for spouses and dependents through Tricare, CHAMPVA and other programs. Check your eligibility requirements and apply now.

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Being a family member or a spouse of a veteran can require significant sacrifice, whether they’re on active duty, retired, or deceased. Therefore, The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides several types of benefits for veterans and their family members or dependents. The VA is a government organization that provides care for more than nine million US veterans each year through the VA. Health Administration.1,2

As one of the largest healthcare systems in the country, the VA Health Administration offers its services through thousands of facilities and outpatient centers across the US. Different VA benefits are provided for spouses and dependents of veterans. Those benefits can range from mental and physical care to disability payments if specific VA eligibility requirements are met. Under established conditions, they may also include substance abuse treatment and potential co-occurring mental health disorder treatment.3

What Are VA Benefits?

VA benefits represent a package of medical and other types of assistance available to veterans as well as spouses, children, or other dependents, caregivers, and survivors of military veterans. Medical benefits include primary and specialist care, prevention, diagnostics, and various outpatient services. Aside from medical, other types of benefits are also an option for many veterans and their families, depending on their qualifications.4

Since the US Department of Veterans Affairs aims to help veterans and their families, VA benefits can also include additional services required for healthy, productive lives. Aside from health care, The VA benefits may consist of employment, compensation, education, home loans, insurance, pension, vocational rehabilitation, as well as burial and memorial benefits for those deemed eligible.5

VA benefits available to eligible veterans’ spouses and dependents include:2

VA Healthcare Benefits

These types of benefits provide healthcare services to family members of active duty, retired, or deceased veterans. VA health benefits are for veterans only, while TRICARE and CHAMPVA benefits are for active-duty members, veterans, and their families. Enrollment for either type is required. There are several diverse types of programs to qualify for:3,6, 7

  • TRICARE is a government-run healthcare program offering comprehensive coverage to active duty or retired veterans and their family members registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). There are several TRICARE plans with varying degrees of coverage. They provide compensation for various healthcare services, like dental and prescription medication coverage, including substance use disorder rehabilitation. Enrollment fees, deductibles, and cost-sharing requirements will vary based on selected plans.
  • CHAMPVA (Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs) is a health benefits program for current spouses of veterans with disabilities or surviving spouses of deceased service members who died in the line of duty. If the spouse qualifies, this program will share the costs of certain healthcare services, medication, or other supplies. Mental health and substance abuse are among the covered services.
  • PCAFC (The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers) offers services and support to veterans’ family caregivers. One of the main VA Benefits eligibility requirements is that the veteran was injured in the line of duty.

VA Education and Training Benefits 

These benefits help pay for school or job training through the so-called Chapter 35 (Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance Program). It applies to children and spouses of service members who died in the line of duty, those missing in action, captured, or being getting treated for service-related permanent or total disability.8

VA Employment Benefits 

Eligible family members can get free educational and career counseling. These VA benefits are available to a dependent spouse or a child of a service member, as well as a veteran with a service-connected disability. These benefits are obtained through Chapter 36 (Personalized Career Planning and Guidance).9

VA Survivor Benefits 

Survivor benefits include survivors’ pension, compensation for surviving spouse and dependents or surviving parent. The pension consists of monthly payments to eligible family members and unmarried dependent children. Congress sets income and net worth limits determining eligibility for this type of financial support.10

VA Death Benefits for Spouses

Death benefits include burial and memorial items. VA provides guidance on planning a burial in a VA cemetery. The surviving family members can also apply for financial help for burial costs and request memorial items to honor the deceased veteran. Another potential benefit is grief counseling and support.11

What Are VA Benefits For Spouses?

Spouses of veterans can receive various VA benefits if they meet determined eligibility criteria. Available services can include comprehensive healthcare coverage, mental health and substance abuse treatment services, grief counseling, financial support, education, or professional guidance. Several categories determine the type of benefits and coverage veterans’ spouses are eligible for.3

Spouses of disabled veterans are eligible for CHAMPVA benefits. This federal healthcare benefit shares the costs of selected healthcare services or supplies. The program provides these VA benefits to spouses of permanently disabled veterans if they’re married to each other.12

Surviving spouses are partners married to a veteran at the time of the veteran’s death. The benefits they’re eligible for are the same ones that spouses of living veterans can receive, except for the VA employment benefits. In addition, they can apply for survivor‘s pension benefits, burial in a VA national cemetery, including financial help to cover the cost of burial, and grief counseling. Surviving spouses can also apply for home loan programs and financial counseling.2

Divorced spouses of military veterans could still be eligible for some of the benefits even after divorce, but only under certain circumstances. According to Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), a former spouse can also be designated as a beneficiary unless they remarry before the age of 55. After that, eligibility for healthcare plans is determined according to one of these two rules:13

  • The 20/20/20 rule (20 years of marriage, 20 years of military service, and 20 years of overlap of at least 20 years allow the divorced spouse to continue having medical coverage.
  • The 20/20/15 rule is similar to the previous one, except if the marriage and veteran’s military service overlap is only 15 years, the former spouse can receive only up to a year of TRICARE benefits.
  • CHCBP Continued Health Care Benefit program is for spouses divorced from veterans who don’t qualify according to the two previous rules. This healthcare program is temporary, and they can apply within 60 days after losing military benefits because of divorce. They can keep the coverage for up to 36 months.14

Who Is Eligible for VA Benefits?

Specific eligibility criteria need to be met to be eligible for VA benefits. The most general requirements include:15

  • Having served in US armed forces without receiving a dishonorable discharge.
  • Two continuous years of active duty or the entire period for which they were called.
  • If the veteran was discharged because of the service-related disability or worsening caused by service.

Spouses can enroll in the case of a Qualifying Life Event (QLE) or during the annual Open Season. Regarding eligibility criteria for veterans’ spouses, getting married is considered a QLE. This means that spouses can receive VA benefits immediately after getting married. Still, they need to apply for coverage within 90 days.16

Veterans’ spouses qualify either for TRICARE or CHAMPVA health insurance. However, even though they’re immediate, eligible spouses still need to enroll. This means applying for VA benefits by submitting a form and proof of other health insurance if they have any.16

If the spouse is to be eligible for CHAMPVA, they cannot be eligible for TRICARE. CHAMPVA provides coverage to widow(er) or spouse, as well as children of a veteran who:17

  • Was rated entirely and permanently disabled as a result of their military service.
  • Died of a service-connected disability.
  • Died during active duty and their wife and dependents are not eligible for TRICARE benefits.

Does VA Spouse Benefits Cover Drug And Alcohol Rehab?

There are many reasons why military veterans turn to excessive alcohol or drug use. One of the most common ones is the chronic pain that almost a third of them live with. Those are elevated-risk situations for prescription opioid painkillers abuse which can easily lead to dependence in many cases. Most of those cases involve unresolved trauma or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that hasn’t been adequately treated.18, 19

Mental health issues paired with addiction may lead to other unhealthy behavior patterns and disturbing home life. In these cases, the whole family suffers the consequences of addiction. It’s not uncommon for this type of trauma and related behavior to be transferred down to the next generation or cause relationship issues because of anxiety, depression, or PTSD.20

Therefore, VA benefits cover medically necessary, effective, and evidence-based rehabilitation treatment, which may include:21

  • Medically monitored detoxification treatment.
  • Inpatient, residential, or live-in treatment programs
  • Outpatient care
  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOP)
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHP)
  • Aftercare programs
  • Return to work settings
  • Veterans’ crisis line
  • Pharmacotherapy (FDA-approved medication).

If you’re looking for accurate information about the most reliable substance abuse treatment providers, you can reach out to one of the free 24-hour helplines. American Addiction Centers (AAC) offer effective and individually tailored treatment options in top-notch facilities across the nation. AAC’s admissions navigators are there to provide support and guidance. They can verify your insurance benefits, explain the details of the admission process and direct you to local detox facilities.

Do VA Health Benefits Cover Mental Health Treatment?

Since mental health issues are tightly intertwined with substance abuse, the best addiction treatment practice always addresses both problems simultaneously. One cannot be treated if the other is disregarded. Therefore, VA health benefits do provide coverage for mental health services, including co-occurring conditions.22

Veterans commonly struggle with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health conditions that may cause an attempt to self-medicate by misusing alcohol or drugs. Addressing these mental health issues in counseling or therapy aims to help them practice and learn healthier coping mechanisms.23

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires the coverage of mental health conditions, which ensures that all insurance companies and organizations provide coverage for essential health benefits. That includes SUD and mental health treatment, and one of the ways to get coverage for SUD recovery is through TriWest insurance.24

Can You Lose VA Benefits for Drugs?

The short answer is no; you can rest assured that you won’t lose benefits because of substance use. Turning to alcohol and drugs is, unfortunately, a common occurrence among both veterans and their spouses in an attempt to cope.25

The only condition that could cause the loss of benefits is if the substance or alcohol use caused the disability of the veteran and their spouse in the first place or if they were involved in willful misconduct. However, even if that happens, the veteran will still be eligible to claim compensation or receive a pension for disability related to factors other than the misconduct in question.26

How To Apply for VA Benefits for Spouses?

Spouses and dependents of military veterans can apply for VA benefits in one of the following ways:27

  • If the veteran is already receiving VA benefits and has a disability rating of a minimum of 30%, all dependents will automatically be considered for benefits.
  • If the veteran is applying for the first time, they can submit a request for their dependents at the same time.

When it comes to veterans’ spouses, applying for benefits depends on the type of program they’re eligible for. If they’re seeking substance abuse treatment, the first step is applying for VA healthcare benefits. After enrollment in the VA healthcare system, the spouses have two options: TRICARE and CHAMPVA. Tricare application needs to be submitted within 90 days of marriage or during the TRICARE fall open season. After that, it’s possible to purchase TRICARE premium plans at any time.16

As for the CHAMPVA applications, it requires submitting the following:28

Frequently Asked Questions