Collecting VA benefits


If a surviving spouse is holding themselves out to be married even though they aren’t and the are living with the person (cohabitating) are they supposed to be collecting VA benefits? It appears the surviving spouse is not eligible to collect benefits if they are married.

I found that they can have their benefits reinstated if they no longer “live” with the person. I just can’t find where it states they cannot receive benefits while living with or holding themselves out to be married. Do you know the answer to this? I looked on the Dept VA web site and couldn’t find.

Am I correct by reading this that the suriving spouse is eligible to receive benefits again once they stop living with the person?

§3.55 Reinstatement of benefits eligibility based upon terminated marital relationships.§3.55 Reinstatement of benefits eligibility based upon terminated marital relationships.

(6) On or after October 1, 1998, the fact that a surviving spouse has lived with another person and has held himself or herself out openly to the public as the spouse of such other person will not bar the furnishing of dependency and indemnity compensation to the surviving spouse if he or she ceases living with such other person and holding himself or herself out openly to the public as such other person’s spouse. (Authority: 38 U.S.C. 1311(e)) [/b]


I read the code as you do, that the benefits resume upon the end of cohabitation.


Do you know where I could look to find where it says that the surviving spouse cannot collect benefits while living or cohabitating with someone and what the penalty is for doing so? Thank you.


I presume it would be in the US Code.


North Carolina does not recognize common law marriages but it states in the paragraph below that the VA can deny benefits if the person is holding themselves out to be married even though the state doesn’t recognize common law marriages. Is there a way to find out if the VA prosecutes a person for this conduct? I tried contacting the VA but can’t get anyone on the phone that is a lawyer that can answer the question.

Veteran’s Administration
c. Common Law Marriage Distinguished. In a state which recognizes common law marriages (paragraph 12.04), conduct which would warrant an inference of remarriage under 38 CFR 3.50(b) will probably also suffice to establish a common law marriage under state law. The inference of remarriage concept in 38 CFR 3.50(b) enables VA to deny payment of surviving spouse benefits in states where the claimant is living as the spouse of another person but is not legally married because the state does not recognize common law marriages.


There would not be a prosecution, but a denial of benefits. My reading of the code is that payments can be withheld in the event of a cohabitation situation.


Let me clarify, she has been collecting these benefits for 9 years now. Wouldn’t the government want to get restitution for all the money she basically stole because she has been holding herself out as the wife of another and collecting the benefits (both VA and SS)? Isn’t that fraud and theft of government property? Lying to a government agency? Something?


I do not know how the government would approach this.