Veterans' Legal Aid | Helping those who fought for our freedom.

Surviving Spouse Eligibility

Surviving Spouses (widows) of veterans who served at least 90 days active duty military, naval, or air service, with at least one of those days during wartime, may be eligible for Aid and Attendance benefits if they later develop require the aid and attendance of another person to assist with activities of daily life (e.g. cannot get dressed, eat, bathe, etc. without help).

These benefits are earned through the veteran’s active duty service to the country.

A surviving spouse may be eligible* for Aid and Attendance benefits if all of the following criteria are met:

  • The veteran was not dishonorably discharged from the military
    • This means that the veteran may be ineligible if discharged for being AWOL, a consciencious objector, etc.
  • The veteran served at least 90 days of active duty
  •  At least one day of active duty occurred during any of the following periods of war:
    • WWI
    • WWII
    • Korean Conflict
    • Vietnam Era
    • Persian Gulf War (from August 1990 to the present; includes current Iraq war and Afghanistan veterans)
  • Limited income and assets
  • High medical expenses (out-of-pocket care expenses are almost equal to surviving spouse’s income)
  • The surviving spouse is over 65 years-old or 100% permanently and totally disabled
    • Disability can include any of the following:
      • Spouse is a patient in a nursing home for long-term care, or
      • Commissioner of Social Security determines that spouse is disabled, or
      • Spouse is unemployable as a result of his/her disability, and this is reasonably certain to continue for the remainder of his/her life
      • Spouse suffers from “any disease or disorder determined by the VA to be of such a nature . . . that [the person] suffering from that disease or disorder [is] permanently and totally disabled.”
    • A surviving spouse who is over the age of 65 does not need to prove that he or she is disabled, but must show that he or she is in need of aid and attendance (normally through a signed physician statement)
    • Married to the veteran when the veteran died (not divorced)
    • Living with the veteran at the time of death (exceptions include one party living in a nursing home, or living apart for military reasons)