M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart III, Chapter 5, Section G


Establishing a Stepchild as a Veteran’s Child for VA Purposes



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42. Establishing a Stepchild as a Veteran’s Child for VA Purposes




Introduction

This topic contains information about establishing a stepchild as a Veteran’s child for VA purposes, including


  • definition of stepchild

  • requirement that the stepchild be a member of the Veteran’s household

  • overview of the process for establishing a stepchild as a Veteran’s child

  • requesting evidence to establish a stepchild as the child of a Veteran

  • effect of a Veteran’s separation from his/her spouse on entitlement to death benefits

  • termination of a Veteran’s marriage to his/her stepchild’s parent before VA grants benefits

  • effect of separation or termination of a Veteran’s marriage on a stepchild’s status

  • action to take when a stepchild’s biological or adoptive parent dies or separates from or terminates his/her marriage with the Veteran

  • handling a Veteran’s response to the notice of proposed adverse action, and

  • action to take if a Veteran does not respond to the notice of adverse action.



Change Date

September 19, 2014



a. Definition: Stepchild

According to 38 CFR 3.57(b), the term “stepchild” refers to the legitimate or illegitimate child of a Veteran’s spouse. It also refers to the child of a surviving spouse whose marriage to a Veteran VA has deemed valid.
References: For more information on deemed-valid marriages, see M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.E.26.

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42. Establishing a Stepchild as a Veteran’s Child for VA Purposes, Continued


b. Requirement That the Stepchild Be a Member of the Veteran’s Household

Under 38 CFR 3.57(a)(1), a stepchild must be or must have been “in the Veteran’s household” in order for VA to recognize the stepchild as the Veteran’s child.


  • If the Veteran is still living, the stepchild must be a member of the Veteran’s household.

  • If the Veteran is deceased, the stepchild must have been a member of the Veteran’s household at the time of the Veteran’s death.


Exception: VA considers a stepchild a member of the Veteran’s household if they live apart


  • for medical reasons

  • to attend school, or

  • to fulfill a military service obligation.


Note: VA considers a stepchild to be a member of a Veteran’s household if the stepchild is in the Veteran’s “constructive custody.” A stepchild is in the Veteran’s constructive custody if he/she is

  • separated from the Veteran for the reasons stated in the prior paragraph, or

  • receiving (or was receiving at the time of the Veteran’s death) at least half of his/her support from the Veteran.


Important: The awarding of legal custody to someone other than the Veteran does not affect the stepchild’s status as a child of the Veteran as long as the child is actually a member of the Veteran’s household.

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42. Establishing a Stepchild as a Veteran’s Child for VA Purposes, Continued


c. Overview of the Process for Establishing a Stepchild as a Veteran’s Child

The table below provides a general overview of the process for establishing a stepchild as a Veteran’s child for VA purposes. The remaining blocks within this topic contain the details for completing this process.





Stage

Description

1

Follow the instructions in M21-1MR, Part III, Subpart iii, 5.B.5 and 6 for establishing the Veteran’s marriage to the stepchild’s biological or adoptive parent.

2

Establish the stepchild’s relationship to the biological or adoptive parent to whom the Veteran is/was married.

3

If the Veteran is


  • still living, establish that the child is a member of the Veteran’s household, or

  • deceased, establish that the child was a member of the Veteran’s household at the time of the Veteran’s death.




Reference: For more information on establishing a stepchild as a Veteran’s child for VA purposes, see 38 CFR 3.210(d).



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