If you have been married to or in a de facto relationship with a member of the Australian Defence Force that has died during or as a result of active service, you may be eligible for a DVA war widows pension.
As a widowed partner, income support available through the DVA can support you to maintain your lifestyle and provide for any dependants. There is much to navigate regarding these payments and how to best achieve financial security following the death of a partner, something the experts at National Service Financial can help with.
What Is A DVA War Widows Pension?
By definition, a DVA war widows pension is a compensation payment made to widowed partners of Veterans who have died while in active wartime service or other eligible defence services.
Who Is Eligible For A DVA War Widows Pension?
As per the DVA, a widow or widower is eligible to claim this pension if they were legally married to or in a de facto relationship with an Australian defence force Veteran immediately prior to their death. They cannot have remarried or begun a de facto relationship with anyone else prior to the Veterans death.
In some instances, your status as a recognised partner of a Veteran will grant you automatic access to this payment. This most often occurs when the Veteran was a former prisoner of war or already receiving a DVA payment including:
- The Extreme Disablement Adjustment
- The Disability Compensation Payment at the Special Rate
- The Disability Compensation Payment at the Intermediate Rate
- The Disability Compensation Payment at the Temporary Special Rate
- The Disability Compensation Payment at an increased rate for specific conditions such as being blind in one eye or being an amputee
Should a Veteran not have been receiving these payments prior to their death, a separate application will need to be lodged for this pension by the war widow or widower.
Even if treatment was being sought for a recognised illness or injury that led to the death of a Veteran, a partner will still need to formally apply for the pension if the above payments were not payable at the time of death.
How Is an Application Assessed?
Claim processing can take upwards of two months. The more complex the case is the longer it will take. Supporting documentation will be required including medical records, service history, proof of partnership, nursing home records and even coroners’ reports.
Benefits will be unavailable during this assessment period but may be paid in arrears once eligibility has been determined and approval granted.
Is The War Widow Pension Means Tested?
No, DVA payments made to a war widow and any dependants are not means tested. Income and assets tests will apply to any income support supplement (ISS) a war widow may receive, but not to the DVA war widows pension.
How Much Will I Receive?
The maximum rate of pension for war widows is $1044.30 per fortnight (as at December 2022) this is inclusive of the energy supplement. Pension amounts are reviewed annually and adjusted to accommodate the increasing costs of living.
Can A War Widow Also Receive An Income Support Supplement?
Yes, in addition to your DVA war widows pension you may also be eligible to receive an Income Support Supplement (ISS). This payment will require an assessment of your income and assets to determine eligibility as well as the rate at which it will be paid if granted.
“The ISS is considered to be a type of pension and is designed to deliver an additional source of regular income for a widow or widower.”
For the purposes of determining your ISS, your DVA war widows pension is counted as income, this means that should you also earn an income elsewhere, you may exceed the allowable income limit for the ISS payment. As of December 2022:
- the singles income limit is $1,595.60 per fortnight
- the couples limit is $2,150.40 per fortnight, combined
Should you exceed these limits, your ISS payment will be affected and a lesser amount will be paid. To maintain the higher rate, you will need to limit your additional earnings and not increase your assets.
What Is An Additional Death Benefit
A lump sum payment may be payable to the widow or widower as well as separate lump sum payments for each dependant child of the deceased Veteran. For children aged under 18 this lump sum will be paid directly to their legal guardian for the maintenance and benefit of the child. You can learn more about this tax-free lump sum payment here.
Other Available Benefits For War Widows
Alongside the DVA War Widows Pension and ISS, there are several other benefits and services aimed at reducing the financial burden of losing a partner.
Assistance With Funeral Costs
Following the passing of a Veteran whose death is accepted as war-caused, a funeral benefit may be payable. This is a once-off bereavement payment that is non-taxable and designed to cover not only funeral costs but to support the widow or widower to manage financially until their eligibility for a war widow pension can be determined.
Veteran Gold Card
Any individual receiving a war widow’s pension is also entitled to a Veteran Gold Card. This card provides recipients of the pension access to a range of healthcare-related services across Australia. This also allows access to these services for any dependants, helping to reduce the financial burden of medical care.
Payable each fortnight or quarterly, the energy supplement is payable to eligible DVA pensioners, anyone who receives a compensation payment from the DVA and those receiving benefits under the DVA Education Schemes.
If you are eligible, the supplement will be automatically included as part of your pension payments. This payment is also tax-free.
The Education Scheme exists to help children of Veterans achieve their full potential through education or career training. This is done through the provision of financial assistance, special assistance and guidance counselling services.
How Is It Paid?
The way in which a partner will receive their DVA War Widows Pension will vary depending on which Act the payment is being made under. There are three main Acts that cover how DVA war widows’ pensions are paid, these are:
- Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA);
- Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA) and the Defence Act 1903; and
- Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA).
Under the VEA, the pension is paid each fortnight for the life of the recipient. Under the DRCA, a tax-free lump sum will be shared between dependants and finally, under the MRCA, a tax-free fortnightly payment will be received and will continue for life. The MRCA also allows for partners to elect to convert 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% of the payment to an age-based lump sum.
As a new widow or widower confronted with not only the loss of a loved one but also a huge shift in your finances, it can be incredibly overwhelming. As you can see, there are several types of payments and benefits available. Knowing how to best organise your finances to make the most of these and ensure your financial security is essential. Particularly if you have dependants to provide for.
Under the DRCA and MRCA, there is some provision for compensated financial advice for those receiving the DVA war widows pension. This is most often linked to the decision to receive a lump sum payment rather than weekly or fortnightly payments or where investment advice is being sought. This is due to the potential liability surrounding lump sum payments and investments.
“Regardless of whether the DVA will compensate you for the costs of seeking financial advice, it is important to pursue this professional support.”
Doing so can help you avoid financial distress and ensure you are best positioned for a secure financial future.
There are many big decisions you will need to make following the death of a partner and during this time, it can be easy to miss details or struggle to meet your financial obligations.
While in receipt of a DVA war widows pension, you are not entitled to an old age pension or any other social security pension from Services Australia. The only caveat to this is any child-related payment.
Receiving the DVA war widows pension and ISS can also impact your access to Family Tax Benefit and how this is paid.
National Service Financial – We’re Here To Help
Owned and operated by a former ADF member National Service Financial offer tailored financial advice to ADF members, Veterans and their families. Our unique understanding of DVA payments, how they’re calculated and paid and your obligations regarding them sets us apart from other financial planning institutions.
We ensure all our clients are offered proper support and guidance as well as being provided with essential information regarding their entitlements and how to best manage them.
“The death of a partner is an already challenging time and one that need not be overshadowed by financial worries.”
All of our clients are treated with the utmost compassion and respect. We have a genuine desire to help all ADF members, Veterans and in particular war widows to best navigate their finances and prepare for a financially secure future for themselves and their children.
To experience the National Service Financial difference, contact our team today at (02) 4347 9444.