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On June 30 it will be two years since I lost my husband of 44 years to an Agent Orange connected disability and I’m finally able to see some blue sky again. My husband was rated 90%, P&T, paid at the 100% rate. Losing a spouse is such an emotionally devastating and life-altering experience, I thought I would post some suggestions and things I learned along my journey, maybe they can help others in the same position.
-Know where your spouse keeps his DD214 and VA claims information and documents, hopefully it’s all in a file. If not, offer to organize one for him.
-You can be mentally prepared to lose a spouse but I don’t believe you can ever be emotionally prepared. I knew my husband’s health was deteriorating rapidly the last year of his life and actually told a friend the day before he died that I thought he didn’t have much time left. But his death was still a terrible emotional shock and loss.
-I recommend this strongly for everyone. If at all possible try to stick as much money as you can aside, you never know when you might need it. My husband had his first heart attack when he was 42. So at the age of 39 I knew the odds were high that I would be a widow at some point in my life. I was was able to save several thousand dollars over the course of several years. I never told my husband about the money, I don’t regret not telling him and I was most certainly thankful I had done so when he died.
-Even though the grief was almost crippling, there was still the nagging thought in the back of my mind, wondering if I would have enough money to live. And I felt guilty about these mercenary thoughts. I later discovered from talking to other widows that this is a completely normal thing and nothing to feel guilty about. I suggest everyone sit down and try to figure out what your income and bills will be if your spouse dies tomorrow. If the figures don't work out, make changes sooner rather than later. If you have a financial advisor, use him.
-If your spouse has online accounts, know where the passwords are.
-If you have a local or County Veterans Services Office don’t hesitate to use it. They filed for my DIC, VA life insurance and burial benefits for me. They were competent and comforting at a time when my brain wasn’t working properly. Things to take with you: death certificate, spouse’s C-file number and DD214, marriage license, bills from the funeral home and, if veteran was not buried in a National cemetery, bill for the cemetery plot.
-If you have a VA e-benefits account I suggest you not even look at it after you file for your benefits. My account listed an estimate of 10 months to process my claim and that only added to my stress level. In reality I had a deposit for life insurance in about 12 days and burial benefits in about 3 weeks. I got my first DIC payment with retro in 10 weeks.
- Be aware that soon after the death of your spouse, the VA will remove any compensation paid for that month from the bank account it was deposited in. Shortly after that you will receive a check for the same amount made out to you. I’m guessing this is in case the veteran had a separate bank account from his spouse, I know several couples who do have their own accounts. I received the benefit check from the VA promptly, I think it was within 10 days of my notifying them of his death.
-You will be making calls for several weeks to various places but I suggest that you or a family member make these calls ASAP: VA, Social Security, employer/ former employer of decedent if they were receiving any sort of benefits or compensation from them, and any other life insurance companies.
-You may be eligible for a survivor’s benefit through Social Security, contact your nearest office to find out more info.
-Seek out sources of support. I was extremely fortunate to have a close friend whose husband had died of a chronic illness 2 years before mine did. She was and remains an invaluable source of information and support for me. It was she who suggested before my husband died that I pick out pictures and mementos to be displayed at the funeral home and hide them away, that it would be easier than doing it right after his death. I did, and was grateful later on. Don’t hesitate to talk to a professional if you need to. I silently lurked on this board for months after my husband’s death, taking comfort from reading the posts of others who had gone through the same thing.
-Don’t make any hasty decisions after losing your spouse, you might make them based on emotion and not logic. I decided I would not make any important decisions that I did not absolutely have to make for at least a year. I know a lady who thought she could no longer bear to live in the house she and her husband had owned for 30 years and sold it within a few months of his death. She still regrets her decision.
Grief is a journey and a process, things do get better and more tolerable with time. There are good people here to help and answer your questions. If anyone has other suggestions, please add. God bless.