Under newly released guidelines, surviving parents or spouses of 100% service-connected disabled veterans who lost their lives after contracting COVID-19 now have easier access to an annuity benefit from the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) that could provide up to $2,000 per year.
COVID-19 has taken the lives of more than 10,000 people in Massachusetts and caused massive disruptions in the lives of countless others. Many veterans face a greater risk of serious complications from COVID-19 because of disabilities connected to their military service. DVS estimates that approximately 1,300 veterans who call the Commonwealth home have lost their lives to COVID-19, and many more veterans have had their health and well-being compromised by the pandemic.
Recognizing the unique risks that veterans face from COVID-19, DVS recently announced that it is making it easier for survivors of veterans with service-connected disabilities to show their eligibility for the annuity benefit.
About the annuity benefit
Under the DVS annuity program, eligible veterans or their surviving family members can receive a payment of $2,000 per year.
Veterans with disabilities rated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as 100% service-connected are eligible for the program. Parents and spouses of a veteran who has died as a result of a 100% service-connected disability are also eligible.
The annuity benefit is paid in two installments of $1,000—one in August and one in February. To be eligible to receive the August payment, an applicant must be approved by June 30 of the given year. To be eligible for the February payment, an applicant must be approved by December 31 of the prior year.
New pathway to eligibility
Because of the pandemic’s disproportionate effects on disabled veterans, DVS issued new guidelines in August 2020 that allow survivors of a veteran who was 100% service-connected disabled and had COVID-19 to show they are eligible for this benefit.
The surviving parents or spouse of a 100% service-connected disabled veteran who had COVID-19 should obtain a doctor’s letter stating that the veteran had COVID-19 and that the veteran’s case “outcome … may have been exacerbated by the veteran’s service-connected disability.” If the doctor’s letter includes this information and the applicant meets all other eligibility requirements, DVS has indicated that it will approve the application.
This new pathway is an important change because it makes it easier for survivors to show they are eligible for the annuity in circumstances where the veteran was 100% service-connected at the time of death and also had COVID-19. In effect, if a veteran’s medical provider indicates that veteran’s COVID-19 health outcome may be related to the veteran’s 100% service-connected disability or disabilities, DVS has indicated it will assume that there is a sufficient link to establish eligibility for the survivor(s).
Overall, the DVS annuity program is intended to recognize the service that veterans have provided to the nation and the sacrifices made by their families. The DVS annuity is an important source of support to surviving parents and spouses of those who have worn the uniform.
We encourage survivors of veterans with a 100% service-connected disability who passed away after contracting COVID-19 to apply for this benefit if the survivor believes they may be eligible. We also encourage veterans and survivors to apply for a DVS annuity if they believe they may be entitled to the annuity based on any of the other eligibility categories. Anyone who applies for the DVS annuity and is denied has the right to appeal.
How to apply
More information about the DVS annuity program is available here: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/annuity.
To apply, you will need to complete an application form, IRS W-9 form, and electronic funds transfer form. On the electronic funds transfer form, applicants should provide their Social Security Number on the “Tax Identification Number” line.
Applicants will need to attach the following documents:
- Certificate of Discharge or Release from Active Service (Member 4 DD Form 214 w/Character of Services)
- VA Rating Decision
- Death Certificate or Casualty Report of Deceased Veteran
If completing a parent application, please also attach the deceased veteran’s birth certificate.
If completing a spouse application, please also attach the deceased veteran’s marriage certificate and VA DIC Rating Decision.
Applicants should email the completed forms to VetsAnnuity@MassMail.State.MA.US.
DVS prefers to receive applications by email, but applicants who do not have access to email can also send the forms to this address:
Department of Veterans’ Services
600 Washington St., 7th Floor
Boston, MA 02111
If you need help completing your application, please reach out to your local Veterans’ Service Officer (VSO). Each town and district in Massachusetts has a VSO who can help veterans and their families learn about and access benefits and other resources. Click here to find your VSO.
Other resources for veterans and their dependents
The pandemic has affected people who have served in the military and their families in numerous ways. Many people have lost jobs or other sources of income, or may have new expenses as a result of how COVID-19 has upended daily living and disrupted the financial stability of countless individuals and families.
Massachusetts provides cash assistance to eligible veterans, as well as their dependents and survivors, under a program called Chapter 115.
The Chapter 115 program offers monthly financial assistance to low-income veterans and their families, as well as one-time emergency funds. Veterans can help determine if they are eligible by using our online calculator.
The Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School is committed to advocating for veterans and their families and helping them access resources earned through military service, especially during this difficult time.