Hands on Crutches


Central Coast Law July 1, 2019

A VA Pension claim, for the most part, does not die with the claimant. After many years of being viewed as discouraging the pursuit of pension claims by surviving family members, the VA published a rule that allows eligible surviving family members to do exactly that. The rule went into effect on October 6th, 2014.

Who Are The Eligible Surviving Family Members?

The rule published by the VA provides a list of those eligible to file on behalf of the claimant. The following are qualified to complete the filing of the claim upon the death of the Veteran.

  • The Veteran’s Dependent Child or Children In Equal Share

  • The Veteran’s Surviving Spouse

  • The Veteran’s Dependent Parents

Out of the eligible class, only one individual is permitted to serve at one time. The remaining section of the rule also provides a list of the people that may serve upon the death of the individual that is filing on behalf of the veteran.

What Are The Time Limits For Filing A Substitution Claim & Initial Showing?

The individual should file the claim within a year of the death of the claimant, and it should be in writing. Claims can be filed using VA Form 21-087, which is designated specifically as “Request for Substitution of Claimant Upon Death of Claimant.”

The person that files the claim needs to show that he or she is eligible to be a substitute for the claimant. The VA should then approve the substitution claim.

What If The Veteran Has No Eligible Family Members?

If no dependent parent, dependent child, or surviving spouse are available, a substitution claim cannot be filed. The only other option available is to file a claim for accrued benefits for reimbursement.

Accrued Benefits

Class of persons eligible to serve as a substitute claimant, such as the dependent parent, dependent child, or surviving spouse, usually receive the accrued benefits. However, there are significant differences between substitution and accrued benefits. For the eligible individuals to avail of the benefit, there should be sufficient information in the file at the time of the death of the claimant.

New claimants must meet the following requirements except for the claim for reimbursement of final expenses:

  • The evidence contained in the file shows that the deceased was entitled to benefits.

  • The new claimant has submitted an application for the accrued benefits within a year of the death of the claimant.

  • When the original claimant died, the claim for VA benefits was pending, or benefits were awarded but not paid at death, or an existing decision or rating shows the entitlement.

  • One of the approved family members is the accrued benefits claimant.

Substitution has an advantage over accrued benefits since it allows a pending claim even in the early stages to be completed by a substitute claimant. Substitution is also permitted if an appeal has already been filed but has not been decided. Unfortunately, the replacement for the deceased claimant has to be an eligible family member.