Cindy Speaker: Good afternoon, and welcome to our broadcast today. My name is Cindy Speaker. I have with me as my guest attorney Nathan Guin of Gardberg and Kemmerly Attorneys of Law. Nathan, how are you doing?
Nathan Guin: I’m doing very well, Cindy. Thank you for having me. I appreciate you having me on.
Cindy Speaker: Always a pleasure. Appreciate that. I know you have some good information for us about veterans today, and our topic is DIC benefits, so why don’t you start off by telling us what DIC benefits are relative to veterans?
Nathan Guin: DIC benefits are actually not benefits for veterans at all. They’re benefits for survivors of veterans. If you’re a qualified surviving spouse and, in some cases but much more rare cases, if you have a qualified surviving child or surviving parent in even more rare circumstances, they may be entitled to benefits after the veteran’s passing if that veteran had a service connected cause of death or if they had a total rating for a period of 10 years prior to their passing, then they’d be presumed to have a service connected cause of death. These are benefits that can be given to the widows or widowers and survivors of veterans, and for additional compensation to help them out after the veteran’s passed away.
Cindy Speaker: Okay, and you said to the widows and survivors. Do the benefits extend to children? Who is exactly eligible for these?
Nathan Guin: In rare cases they extend to children, and then sometimes parents, but they’re very rare cases where a child would be a surviving child. For instance, if there’s a child who became handicapped and he was totally disabled before they became the age of 18, then that could be a surviving child that’ll qualify for DIC benefits, but the majority of the people you’re going to see are widows or widowers. Primarily widows, really, who have had their spouse pass away. A lot of times now with the Vietnam era veterans, it could be from a heart condition, it could be secondary to agent orange exposure, or just really any number of different things, but that’s one of the more prominent ones we see. If that is listed as the primary or the contributory cause of death and it’s a service connected disability, then you can apply for DIC benefits.
Only, there’s a few exceptions. There are a few rules that surviving spouses have to, a few requirements they have to meet. They have to be married for at least a year prior to the veteran’s death, so if it’s a month or two before, sometimes they’ll make an exception, but generally it’s a one year rule. You have to be living together, you have to have continuous cohabitation, as they say, so you have to be living with each other. It also most notably is if you remarry after your husband or your wife passes away, then that extinguishes your ability to receive DIC benefits. In that regard it’s, I guess alimony from how I understand it. If you get remarried, then the alimony stops. If you get remarried, the DIC benefits, you would no longer be eligible for those.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. Okay, so it would stop immediately if you remarry.
Nathan Guin: Well, you have to notify them of your remarriage, and then, yeah. Otherwise, you’d get into an overpayment situation, so yes. You want to notify them so that it does stop immediately, so they don’t come looking for money that they paid you by accident.
Cindy Speaker: Right, right. It’s hard to pay it back, so don’t want to get it and, like you said, you don’t want to get into that situation.
Nathan Guin: Absolutely, yeah. Exactly.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah. When should the person, when should the widow apply for benefits?
Nathan Guin: The best thing to do, really, you can apply at any time. There’s no time limit in terms of … There’s no expiration date where if it’s two years after, year after, what have you, that you can’t apply. You can apply at any time for the DIC benefits. Now, to maximize your benefit, the benefit to the widow or widower, if you do apply within one year of the veteran’s death, then you will get an effective date, which is the first day of the month following their death. If they passed away, let’s say in April 15th, and you apply within the year and you are granted, then your effective date for the payment would be May of that same year, so it’d be the month following. The earlier that you apply for it and, I know it’s easy, probably for when you get everyone’s affairs in order, a lot of times things go by the wayside, but if you do get it done within a year, then you’re going to be helping yourself out in terms of maximizing your benefits through VA.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. What if it’s beyond that one year?
Nathan Guin: If it’s beyond that one year, then it’ll just be, the application at that point. [crosstalk 00:04:51] Under VA laws, yeah, well it may be a couple months. Let’s say it takes four or five months to process the processing, then that could be a few months of back pay, but it wouldn’t go back to the day of death of the veteran. It would be limited to whenever your claim is put in.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. Tell us about the appeal’s process. The same as most appeals process for disability?
Nathan Guin: Yeah, that’s the great thing about it. DIC is the same as any other, really as any other VA disability benefit or any other claims. If you put in your claim and, if you’re familiar with the appeals process from when your husband or wife was alive before their passing, when they dealt with VA stuff, if you’re familiar with that then you’ll be familiar with the appeals process going forward with DIC benefits. It’s all exactly the same forms, the same process, so it’s nothing that’s unfamiliar. The only thing that’s different would be the application you’d have to submit is a different form. The typical applications, but everything else would be the same.
Cindy Speaker: Nathan, you help veterans with these types of things, so how can someone reach out to you if they would like some assistance?
Nathan Guin: They can either give us a call at 251-343-1111, or they can go to www.gardberglaw.com. That’s G-A-R-D-B-E-R-G law.com. There’s a contact us tab there. They can send us an email with their questions or concerns, and we’ll be able to get back to them and help them in any way that we can.
Cindy Speaker: That’s great. We often, before we go here, we often talk about the fact that so much of this is so complex that I can’t help but think that it’s just, this is not common knowledge to a veteran. It just seems like it makes sense to reach out to an attorney for advice on these types of things. They may not even know about benefits that they could possibly be due. Do you find that to be the case?
Nathan Guin: Absolutely. Well, you know, that is the case sometimes even with typical disability benefits. A lot of times veterans are unaware of the benefits they can apply for, and especially yeah, they may even know about disability benefits, but a lot of people don’t know about DIC benefits and aren’t really familiar with it, so hopefully this recording will find a lot of people who need the information who would be able to reach out and get the right information now, because it’s definitely a program that I think is underutilized, and definitely not known about enough among the community that needs to know about it.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah, yeah. If you’re a veteran and you’re watching today, I really think it makes sense. Give Nathan a call, find out what benefits you may potentially have coming to you, because there may be things that you don’t know about, and I believe if they reach out to you, Nathan, there’s no actual upfront costs. Is that correct?
Nathan Guin: No, there’s no upfront costs, really. For the whole thing, it’s all on contingency fees, which is just a really fancy way of saying if you don’t win then we don’t win. You don’t owe us anything, all of our payment comes from VA. If we win then we get something, if we don’t then it’s nothing out of your pocket. No harm, no foul.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah, yeah. I know that you guys are absolutely committed to helping veterans. I just want to say a second about some of the charity events, some of the causes you support. I know you’re big on awareness for PTSD for veterans, curbing PTSD, suicide, helping some of these vets to come home and have so many wounds that are not always just physical.
Nathan Guin: Absolutely, yeah, and we’re actually, we’re teaming up with a great organization that’s called Fight Oar Die, O-A-R. It’s a team of all veterans, all Americans that are actually going to be rowing across the Atlantic to help raise awareness for PTSD and suicide in veterans, and hoping to get some good information out there, and hopefully getting the awareness out there so that veterans stop feeling like that’s the only way out, and that that’s their only option. Hopefully getting them the help that they need, and letting them know really that mental health is important, and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of to need help for, and that’s really what we’re trying to do here, and what they’re trying to do with Fight Oar Die. Yeah, they’re really trying to raise awareness for that, and it’s a great, great organization. Find them on Facebook, it’s Fight Oar Die, O-A-R is the oar, since they’re rowing across the Atlantic. They have a super cool boat.
Cindy Speaker: Oh, that’s neat.
Nathan Guin: -With the shark mouth on it and everything, too. It’s really, really cool. It’s one of the project that we’re really excited about, and we’re really thrilled to be affiliated with.
Cindy Speaker: That’s great. And you have someone in your office that is related to one of these guys that’s going to do this, correct?
Nathan Guin: Yeah, about to say, yeah, our accountant is related to Bryant Knight, who really seems to be the leader of the pack, is my understanding. He’s from Mobile, and they’re down here training right now. We’re actually doing a meet and greet with them coming up pretty soon, so we’re excited about that. We’ll get some more information, get to see them train, and look at their digs on the boat because they just got it down here from Colorado. A lot of exciting stuff going on, and definitely [inaudible 00:10:01] very, very proud of him. We are, too. It’s a really, really cool thing that they’re doing.
Cindy Speaker: That is cool. They’re actually going to be training in the Mobile area for a period of time?
Nathan Guin: Yeah, they’re already down here. They’ve been training separately where they’ve been living, and now they’re down here, they’re rowing in the bay, and doing everything. They’re headquartered down here for I think about a month or so, maybe, and then of they go. They’re in some intense training right now, and so we’re happy to have them down here in the Mobile Bay area, and hopefully they’re having a good time. I know a lot of them, they haven’t had any gumbo before, some of the guys. I think that Scott introduced them to gumbo, so we’ll see how that went, but we’re very happy to have them down here.
Cindy Speaker: That’s great, that’s great. Well Nathan, thanks for all you guys do.
Nathan Guin: Absolutely. It’s our pleasure, and again, everyone if you all need anything, just reach out to us at 251-343-1111 or www.GardbergLaw.com, and we’ll be more than happy to reach out back to you, and help you in any way that we can.
Cindy Speaker: Very good. You can also reach out right on this page. You can post comments, questions. We’ll make sure they get answered for you. Thanks everybody for joining us today. When you get a chance, check out Fight Oar Die. You want to check out their training. Up here we go and see the football players train. You get a chance to go see these guys train, and they’re really big heroes.
Nathan Guin: Yeah, absolutely. It’s pretty cool. I’m really excited about it. We’re going to get to go down there in a couple days, and check them out. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Cindy Speaker: That’s awesome. Thanks everybody. Bye.