Many MOAA surviving spouses receive survivor benefits from DoD and the VA. Besides these benefits, state-level benefits are available to those who meet the criteria. State benefits are state-driven, unlike federal or VA benefits or entitlements.
Surviving spouses might not be aware of these state-level benefits because there is not a one-stop-shop website for military survivors.
Some states are more “military friendly” than others. The amount of benefits can vary from state to state; some offer as many as 60 and as few as 22 benefits to retired veterans, according to the Center for a New America Security (CNAS). The challenge is determining what benefits are passed on to the survivor after the veteran or servicemember dies. CNAS says military survivors receive less than 50% of what states offers to veterans.
To determine what state benefits are available to survivors, begin by looking at the individual state benefits for veterans using the CNAS benefit finder. Next, locate the state you are targeting and then search for the “Beneficiary” category. It is important to verify eligibility, as many of the webpages might be outdated.
Some state benefits include (but, again, vary from state to state):
- Academic scholarships
- Property tax exemption or reduction of property tax (For example: Military surviving spouses who receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation from the VA are eligible for up to a $45,000 deduction in the assessed value of their home for property tax purposes.)
- Survivor Benefit Plan tax exemption for state tax
- Free admission to national parks
- Free fishing and hunting license
Being aware of state-level benefits can also help surviving spouses determine whether they want to stay or relocate to optimize their benefits. Many independent variables need to be considered, such as cost of living and proximity to family support. Knowing the state-level benefits is a helpful tool in this decision-making process.