Medical Care for Veterans Spouses, Children, Family, or Other Dependents

Chelsy Meyer  | 

The VA is designed to offer assistance to military veterans with health care. The VA may have a focus on veterans, but there are some cases in which the VA can also help the family of a military veteran as well. Not only is family important, but having a healthy family is also key for the health and happiness of each military veteran. Though they may not have the financial ability to help every veteran’s family with health care, they do have some options available. Whether you’re a spouse, family member, or dependant, and the veteran in your life is disabled or has passed away, there could be health care options for you.

When Can Family Members Receive VA Care and Benefits?

TRICARE is a health benefit program for active military members, retired military members, and their families. In many cases, TRICARE will be the first eligibility for health care. Some of these options exist only if you are not eligible for TRICARE. Each military member or veteran’s situation is different, so it’s best to contact the VA about your specific case in order to get the best information possible to determine if you’re eligible for TRICARE or if you should look into these VA options and benefits as a family member.

  • If you are the spouse or dependant of a veteran who is totally disabled due to a service-connected disability: The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Veterans Administration (CHAMPVA) offers this health care benefits program to give more health care options to military families. In this case, if you are the dependant or spouse of a veteran completely disabled in service, you’re eligible for CHAMPVA as long as you are not eligible for TRICARE.
  • If you are the spouse or dependant of a veteran who has died as a result of a service-connected condition, or a veteran who was permanently disabled due to service at the time of death: This indicates that whether the veteran in your life passed due to complications from their service-connected total disability or not, you’re still eligible for CHAMPVA benefits, as long as you’re not eligible for TRICARE.
  • If you are the family caregiver to a disabled veteran with a service-connected disability: If you’re the primary family caregiver of a veteran that meets the requirements, you may be eligible for CHAMPVA benefits as well. Just as long as you don’t already have health coverage including private health insurance, TRICARE, Medicare, or Medicaid.
  • If you are the child born of a woman who is a Vietnam Veteran and was born with birth defects: The Children of Women Vietnam Veterans Program (CWVV) is a program designed to give medical reimbursement tied to birth defects to biological children of women who served in Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975. This health care isn’t comprehensive, but does offer some assistance in specific incidents.
  • If you are a child born of a woman who served in Korea or Vietnam and was born with Spina Bifida: Similar to CWVV, this program offers medical reimbursement tied to Spina Bifida to biological children of women who served in Vietnam or Korea. Unlike CWVV, this coverage is comprehensive.
  • If you are a family member of a veteran stationed at Camp Lejeune: The Camp Lejeune Family Member Program (CLFM) is a program that gives health care to veterans who served at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 and their families. Generally, this health coverage is a reimbursement and isn’t comprehensive. Eligibility is also dependant on 15 specified illnesses or conditions.

Health Care Coverage for Survivors

When an active military member, retiree, or veteran passes away, there may still be options for their families in terms of health care. Though each situation is different, the VA tries to make sure a military member’s family has some help and still has medical coverage in case the worse happens.

  • TRICARE: If you’re a family member of a veteran who was receiving TRICARE before their time of death, you may still be eligible for TRICARE coverage. Active duty TRICARE sponsors will still cover spouses until they remarry and will still cover children until they age out or get married for three years after the TRICARE sponsor’s death.
  • CHAMPVA: CHAMPVA, as outlined above, is an option for military families whose family member didn’t have TRICARE and suffered from a service-connected disability.
  • Other Benefits: Though there may not be many different options for health care for the survivors of a veteran’s death, there are other benefits that may helpful in terms of financial hardship so that health care may be more affordable. The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program, Parents Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (parents’ DIC) program, Survivors’ Pension, and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA) are just a few programs designed to help surviving family members once their veteran dies. They also offer many other services such as home loan eligibility, educational counseling, and financial counseling. Though these are not health care options, they do help to make health care coverage possible through other types of compensation.

Resources for Dependents of Non-Disabled Veterans

The VA understands the importance in aiding the family of a veteran with health care services. However, with so many veterans in need of medical care, their focus has to stay with offering a majority of their funding toward their care. For that reason, there are not many options for the dependants of non-disabled veterans. TRICARE is really the only option for health care for the families of veterans. And in most cases, TRICARE is only for the family of a military retiree or, not just any veteran. CHAMPVA, caregiver plans, and medical care for very specific situations like Spina Bifida are available, but again, they have eligibility requirements that don’t lend themselves to the average dependant of a non-disabled veteran.

The spouses and dependents of veterans without disabilities or other service-related injuries are going to have to plan to purchase private health insurance, or opt into employer-sponsored coverage where available. The specific options depend on the state, but they are all private and more or less conventional health insurance.

Medical care for veterans spouses, children, family, or other dependants can be available in certain circumstances. Unfortunately for the average family of a military veteran, medical care will still have to be obtained privately or through their employers. For some families of disabled veterans or veterans who have passed away, there may be some options available. Though each case has specific eligibility requirements, it’s helpful for families to understand that there may be options available to them.

For more tips and guides, visit our military support resource center.


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Chelsy is a writer from Montana who now lives in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She enjoys talk radio, cold coffee, and playing Frisbee with her dog, Titan. Follow Chelsy on Twitter @Chelsy5

This post was updated December 8, 2017. It was originally published November 28, 2017.